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Seattle: 1942

"Seattle 1942" is the notation on this latest Kodachrome from photographer-hotrodder Don Cox. At opposite ends of the architectural spectrum we have the Smith Tower, completed in 1914, and the Ace Hotel, one of which both of which still stand. View full size.

"Seattle 1942" is the notation on this latest Kodachrome from photographer-hotrodder Don Cox. At opposite ends of the architectural spectrum we have the Smith Tower, completed in 1914, and the Ace Hotel, one of which both of which still stand. View full size.


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There's quite a roof-top view from the Smith Tower.

The Smith Tower facility was a long time customer of mine (performing water treatment management) with its cooling towers and HVAC systems. Two interesting experiences that I'll always remember.

1. While dealing with their equipment, I had parked my New Beetle (aka Bug) in the alley behind the building. On the other side of the alley was a building used by an organization that housed the homeless. Apparently some of the residents were on the rooftop, taking a break (?) from some kitchen duties and thought it might be fun to squash "a bug", all from the rooftop. When I came out to get into my car, I found the windshield smashed. They had dropped a 5 gallon bucket of French Onion Soup from the rooftop (5-6+)? stories up, filling the inside of my car with a lovely aroma, but a terrible mess.

2. The other experience was the demolition of the Seattle Kingdome. The Smith Tower was on the edge of the Exclusion Zone and the Chief Engineer had invited my wife and I to an early Sunday morning visit to the rooftop for viewing the implosion of the Kingdome (March 19, 1998). This was the largest building ever demolished by implosion up to that time. We were standing on the rooftop and there were video cameras behind us and everybody was waiting for the countdown.
Needless to say, it was impressive. That evening, after returning home, I was watching the evening news and realized that the cameras were from NBC, as I could rear the comments of spectators as the explosion happened; and the conversations were EXACTLY what was said on the rooftop, earlier that morning.

That said, if you're ever near the Smith Tower in Seattle, it's worth a trip just to see the decorative elevators with the polish brass, maybe they're still providing the elevator operators, I'm not sure.

Lovely building, read up on it, it's worth your while.

Smith Tower Penthouse

Pioneer Square Fish Frye

Not only has the rather squatty and unlovely Ace Hotel building managed to make it 117 years, but so has the former Frye Hotel in my hometown, rising in the vintage photo behind the Ace and kitty corner from the Smith Tower. Both hotels predate the Smith, which itself was once the tallest building West of the Mississippi River, dominating the local skyline (and countless postcards) for 46 years until the building of the Space Needle. While the Ace is now the Union Gospel Men's Shelter, the Frye has been converted to high quality low-income housing (with a waiting list) for nearly 25 years.

Top of the tower rooms

I'm always fascinated by these old skyscrapers and the attic-spaces or top floor architecture. Did they hide secret owner penthouse bachelor pads? Or merely old elevator equipment or water tanks? Someone needs to write a book about these attic floors on old buildings.

New Trolley Coaches for Seattle

Seattle shut down their streetcar system in 1941, and replaced it with an extensive electric trolleybus system. There are two of these new vehicles visible heading north on 2nd Avenue. Some 1940 trolleys ran in regular service for 38 years. Several generations of trolleybuses have served Seattle since then, and a modern fleet operates to this day along with four other USA Cities. Several of these original 1940s trolleys have been preserved as part of a museum fleet.

Not Toys R Us

It's difficult to tell exactly where that sign is, due to extreme foreshortening, but I found Otto's Meat Market in the 1940 City Directory, online at the Seattle Public Library. It's listed under Dreschel Otto meats, at 315. The sign appears to be in front of that one, so: 301 Betty's Coffee Shop, 309 Furuya M Co, 313 Masin Eman 2nd hard goods (predecessor of Masin's Furniture?). There are addresses in the previous block (221, 223-25) but they are vacant in 1940. There are no businesses ending in "us" anywhere on the block that I can find.

[Or is it the YS in a second "Betty's" sign? - Dave]

Is that you, Geoffrey?

Looks like a Toys "R" Us sign -- Geoffrey and all -- sticking out about halfway down the street, on the left. But Toys "R" Us wasn't founded until many years later ... 1957, to be exact, as a toy store. Geoffrey made his debut in the 1950s as well. So it is clear that what I am seeing is something else, but the similarity to the Toys "R" Us font and logo is uncanny. Anyone?

Both Are Still Standing

The Smith Tower is obviously still there, but so is the building that was the Ace Hotel. It's now part of the Union Gospel Mission and stands on the pointed plot where the 2nd Avenue Extension and Third Avenue meet.

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