Happy spring! I can’t believe it has been almost four months since the last post! I apologize if I left anybody hanging, and hope to get back to regular updates.
For many living north of Seattle, Highway 2 is the main pathway to summer recreation at places like Leavenworth, Chelan, and Spokane. During the winter, it can also serve as the pathway to skiing at Stevens Pass.
Check out this 1950s postcard of the Skykomish River and Cascade Mountains, taken from the side of Highway 2.
Originating in Everett, Washington, Highway 2 stretches from Puget Sound to Lake Huron to a total of 2,571 miles. In Washington State, it spans Everett to Spokane.
Like many Washington highways, Highway 2 followed the path of old wagon roads, which eventually became the earliest highways. In 1909, the state began maintaining the section of road from Peshastin to Spokane, calling it State Road 7. Eight years later, this section of road was renamed State Road 2. Stevens Pass Highway, connecting Everett to Leavenworth, opened in 1925 and was named State Road 15 six years later.
A section of US Highway 2 spanning from Idaho to Michigan with a few Washington stretches existed as early as 1926, when the United States Highway System was adopted. The route from Peshastin to Spokane was renamed US 10, and the route from Spokane to Newport was named US 195.
In 1937, Washington Primary and Secondary State Highway System was adopted, causing State Road 15, US 10, and US 195 to be rechristened as Primary State Highways (PSH). PSH 15 connected Everett to Peshastin, PSH 2 from Peshastin to Spokane, and PSH 6 from Spokane to the Washington-Idaho state line. In January 1946, the American Association of State Highway Officials vetoed a proposition to extend US 2 from Idaho to Everett. The proposition resurfaced at a meeting in December of the same year and was approved.
Starting in January 1963, the Washington State Highway System began renumbering all state highways. The names Interstate, US Route, and State Route replaced all Primary and Secondary Highways.
Highway 2 as we know it today was a result of decades of re-routing starting in the in hopes of easing traffic, beginning in the late 1960s. Within the past decade, the highway has made plans to reshape and widen the route in hopes of making it safer.
I can’t believe how quickly the time has flown since the last post! I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas!
Exactly one week ago, the seasons officially changed over to winter and the weather has definitely been living up to the season! With the recent snow, winter weather warnings, and plain coldness, who else is ready for summer?
In just a matter of months, we’ll once again be able to don our t-shirts and wander through places like Riverside State Park, shown here in this early 1960s postcard.
The Bowl and Pitcher are basalt formations rising from the Spokane River. Located in Spokane’s Riverside State Park, the hike to see them is a mere 2.1 miles roundtrip. The area surrounding the bowl and pitcher was given to the state in 1933 for use as a park. The park was developed from 1933-1936 by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). Also included in the park is a one of Spokane County’s oldest cabins, built in 1810.
Back in the 1960s, somebody used this card as scratch paper for University Realty. Anybody know what area the SK prefix (752) came from and what it stood for?
Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you have all had a day of rest, family, and delicious food! In case you are still hungry, feast your eyes on this 1950s menu from Busch’s Drive-In!
There is very little information to be found about Busch’s. Located at the intersection of 38th Street and South Tacoma Way, the building was originally a Triple XXX Root Beer. Owned by Frank Kruger, it opened in October 1936 after Kruger’s success with a smaller Triple XXX in Tacoma. Only seven years later, Kruger sold the restaurant to Bill and Thelma Busch who re-branded it, removed the rooftop barrels, and erected a huge neon sign.
Offering both dine-in and carhop service, Busch’s remained in business through at least the 1960s. A popular hangout for local youths, the restaurant sponsored local baseball teams and put floats in local parades.
One of this menu’s previous owners dined at Busch’s September 9, 1950 with Dorothy Nylin, Dave N, and Gil J. Apparently, it was a night to remember! That, and the Clubhouse sandwich!
The menu is quite extensive, especially in the realm of beverages and sundaes. Not only did Busch’s offer coffee, but also Sanka (instant decaf), and Postum (a roasted-grain coffee substitute). Fresh fruit flavors were plentiful, including date milkshakes. With the detailed item descriptions, it wouldn’t be hard to recreate a piece of Busch’s in your own kitchen.
Busch’s still stands today off at 3505 South Tacoma Way. Since 2008, it has operated as a kitchen and bathroom showroom called “Water Concepts.”
What are you waiting for? Go whip up a Pineapple-Orange Delight or Dusty Road Sundae and enjoy the rest of your holiday!
Welcome back to a new month and a new category! I spent last weekend in Chelan, Washington at an event that uniquely celebrates the state’s long love affair with hydroplane racing. For today’s post, I thought I would share the event with you as the first post in a fourth category: Events.
For the last 8 years, the City of Chelan, Kent’s Hydroplane & Raceboat Museum, and many other sponsors have hosted a weekend of vintage cars, boats, and hydroplanes in early October. Dubbed “Mahogany and Merlot“, it’s a chance to check out vintage watercraft and support local wineries.
Saturday was scheduled to be a full day of hydroplane action and classic car and boat shows, but strong winds kept the hydros in the pits. As consolation, access to the pits was open to all at no charge. This allowed us to get up close and personal with all of the hydroplanes in attendance: Unlimited, Limited mid-size, and the smallest Limiteds.
We also stood face-to-face with this interesting old building. Anybody know what it was used for back in its day?
Despite the disappointing weather, the Antique & Classic Boat Society put on a neat display of beautifully-restored boats dating back as far as the 1920s. Spectators could vote for their favorite boat at a nearby table.
Up in the parking lot, a small group of classic cars had parked, including this unique convertible hardtop, the Ford Galaxie Skyliner:
Sunday morning brought beautiful, windless weather and breakfast at a Chelan landmark with a great neon sign.
The Apple Cup Cafe opened the same year as the Chelan hydroplane races it was named for. For more information on the Apple Cup races, please visit my post here.
Down at the lake, most of the historic boats had already departed and the first of the Unlimited hydros were going into the water. Several wouldn’t start. Many coughed and sputtered. Some had to be towed back from the far end of the course, but eventually all Unlimiteds in attendance made at least one lap. The following hydroplanes made an appearance:
Miss Wahoo made her debut in 1956 and took second place in the first Apple Cup race. She won several races in the late 50s and took fifth place in the final Apple Cup before rolling over during the 1960 Seafair Trophy Race. Bill Boeing, the boat’s owner, had Miss Wahoo repaired, but retired her at the end of the year. In 1963, she was sold and won her first three races under the new name of Miss Exide. She was sold once more, renamed Miss Budweiser, and destroyed in a 1966 collision.
Miss Wahoo was built from the same plans as Miss Thriftway, Shanty-I, and Miss Spokane. The Hydroplane and Raceboat Museum in Kent used the original plans to build a Miss Thriftway replica. When Bill Boeing’s son saw it, he lamented that Miss Wahoo no longer existed. The museum responded by building this life-sized replica, who debuted at the Seafair Chevrolet Cup alongside U-787 Salute to Seafair.
This pepperoni-powered hydro started out as 1960 Miss Lumberville from Detroit, Michigan. She has been restored and repainted to look like the 1975 Oh Boy Oberto, the first hydroplane Oberto sponsored. This particular hydro starred in the 2005 film Madison.
Ole Bardahl, owner of Bardahl Manufacturing Co., sponsored the U-4 hydroplane in 1957. He loved it so much, that he commissioned his own hydroplane, built the following year. Dubbed “The Green Dragon”, Miss Bardahl made her debut at the Apple Cup with Chelan native Norm Evans at the wheel and took first place. She won several more races, encouraging Bardahl to upgrade her engine. An accident and unlucky year in 1959 was not enough to stop Miss Bardahl from coming back for one more successful year. Bardahl replaced her with a new model in 1962.
Breathless III never actually existed, but is rather a work-in progress by Mitch Evans, the son of famed hydroplane racer Norm Evans. The end goal is to re-create the 1954 splendor of “Birch & Blue, 22”, the original Breathless.
This Pay n’ Pak hydroplane has been lauded as one of the most successful hydroplanes in the history of hydroplane racing. It was the first sccessful hydroplane of the “pickle-fork” design, which was the trailblazer for the look of modern hydroplanes. Known as the “Winged Wonder”, it was the first hydroplane to use aluminum honeycomb building materials and a horizontal stabilizer.
After three very successful years, it raced as Atlas Van Lines for one year, again as Pay n’ Pak, and then as Miss Madison. In all, the 1973 Pay n’ Pak raced for 14 years before retirement. It spent some time in a warehouse before its sale to the Hydroplane and Raceboat museum, who restored it.
Although posters for the event advertised hydroplane races, there were no actual races. Rather, the historic hydros took out passengers for paid rides. The Limited hydroplanes simulated a race, and two outboard racing boats from the 1910s jetted around the course.
If you love vintage hydroplanes, mark your calendars for next October! You’ll be glad you did.
While the air is starting to hold faint traces of autumn, it’s still summer! We have one more week to enjoy barbeques, sandals, and vacations! It’s not too late to go out and find something like this:
This 1950s/early 60s postcard shows a lovely apple orchard with mountains and the Columbia River in the background. The photo was clearly taken from the side of a road, likely a highway. Maybe Alternate Highway 97 through Wenatchee, Entiat, and Chelan?
The back of the card acknowledges Washington’s bustling apple industry.
Welcome back for another look through an ARCO street map from 1967! If you missed part one, you can find it here.
1. Sick’s Stadium
Baseball fans across the US have surely heard of the Seattle Mariners. Local fans, of course, know that they play home games at Safeco Field. Long-time Mariner fans will likely remember when the M’s played at the long-gone Kingdome. But long before the Mariners debuted, Seattle had a minor league baseball team called The Seattle Rainiers.
They played at Sick’s Stadium.
Located in Rainier Valley at the intersection of McClelland Street and Rainier Avenue
(now Martin Luther King Jr. Way), Sick’s Stadium was built in 1938 for $350,000. The stadium was named in honor of Emil Sick, owner of both The Seattle Rainiers and the Rainier Brewing Company. In 1955, Fred Hutchinson (namesake of the Seattle cancer research center) became manager of the team, which had been the country’s most popular minor league baseball team based on game attendance. He left in 1956 to manage the St. Louis Cardinals, but returned three years later.
Televised baseball games caused attendance to drop, and Sick sold his team to the Boston Red Sox in 1961. He preserved ownership of the stadium. In November 1964, Sick and Hutchinson died within one day of each other. Ownership of the park transferred to Sick’s family, who chose to rename it Sicks’ Stadium, rather than the original Sick’s Stadium. The Red Sox sold the team to the California Angels, and the Rainiers were christened the Seattle Angels.
In 1967, Seattle was awarded a major league team… But only if they promised to build a bigger venue within three years. In 1969, voters passed a campaign for the Kingdome, but Sicks’ was expanded to serve as a temporary home until the Kingdome could be completed. The Seattle Pilots took debuted in the largely inadequate field.
Sick’s Stadium hosted not only baseball in the 1970s, but rock concerts and a wrestling match. It quickly fell into disrepair and was demolished in 1979, two years after the completion of the Kingdome.
Now, a Lowe’s Home Improvement store sits where Sick’s once was. The store has erected a commemorative plaque at the site of First Base.
2. Luther Burbank School for Boys
Located on Mercer Island, the Luther Burbank School for Boys actually closed in 1966, a year before the map is dated. The land originally belonged to Charles C. Calkins, who founded the community of East Seattle on the upper part of Mercer Island. He built an extravagant home for his family and an equally extravagant hotel, which guests accessed by a ride on Calkins’ steamboat.
The 1893 depression, the death of two of his children, and a house fire drove the Calkins Family from their homestead. Charles mortgaged off all he had and left the community.
In 1890, Seattle Mayor Cicero Newell and his wife opened a parental school for boys and girls at the intersection of East Union and 35th Street. Not long after the departure of the Calkins Family, Newell leased their hotel and moved the school. Neighbors were not particularly fond of the hotel’s new use, and Newell felt that the Calkins’ property would be better suited for his school.
In 1903, local school districts were authorized by the state to create truant schools, and the following year the Seattle School District bought the Calkins homestead property. While school buildings and dorms were going up, Newell moved 40 students (30 boys and 10 girls) to a tent on the new property. Newell served as superintendent of the new school until the completion of its first buildings.
William Baker ran the school for a short time before being replaced by teacher and house parent Willis Rand. Rand oversaw the school’s development for more than 35 years. A hospital, barn, and laundry facility were built on the site, as was a self-sufficient farm that students tended.
The Mercer Island Parental School began taking in “morally delinquent” youths, who were required to stay at the school until they were paroled. The average stay was nine months. As many of its students came from broken homes or alcoholic parents, the school provided its students with education, emotional development, and medical care.
The school’s horticultural department was excellent. After half a day in class, students would work on the farm, tending to orchards, livestock, and their own gardens. In 1928, all female students were moved to Martha Washington School. The school changed its name in 1931, both to eliminate the stigma of parental schools as homes to delinquents and to honor the famous botanist Luther Burbank.
Rand retired in 1942, and although the school and farm continued to operate, they slowly fell into disrepair. By the 1950s, the school was overcrowded, and the buildings inadequate. A 1957 state law change mandated that the state run all Parental schools. The Seattle School District leased the land to the state but continued to oversee operations at the school.
The state had to decide to rebuild the entire campus or build a new school on state-owned land and relocate. Mercer Island had become increasingly suburban, and many residents felt that a school for delinquents was not a fit for their community. The debate continued until 1963 when a new school was recommended to be built in Preston, Washington. Echo Glen School opened four years later to 83 students from Luther Burbank and Martha Washington Schools.
Even with the school gone, debate continued on what to do with the land. In 1968, the Forward Thrust bond designated it a park. The wooden buildings on the property were burned down in 1976, but the 1928 dormitory was restored and stands to this day.
3. Snippets of Seafair
Seafair has been an integral part of summers in Seattle since 1950, and it is so popular that a few of its landmarks were showcased on this map.
Perched on the southern tip of Green Lake, the Aqua Theatre was launched the same year as Seafair. Originally the home to the Aqua Follies, a group of performers who put on “swim-musicals”, the theatre also hosted musicals and concerts before it was mostly demolished in 1979.
The second piece of Seafair commemorated on this map is one that hasn’t changed: the Unlimited Hydroplane race course!
4. Sand Point
Now home to Seattle’s second-largest park, Sand Point Naval Air Station was an important military fixture from 1920 to 1970.
When the U.S. was entering World War I, the Navy asked Captain Luther E. Gregory to scope out a location for an aircraft base in the Puget Sound Reason. Gregory recommended Sand Point in Seattle, but the war ended before the Navy made their final decision. However, a group of veterans began lobbying the county to build an airport at Sand Point and the county began buying small farms on the site Gregory had recommended.
A groundbreaking ceremony was held June 19, 1920, and from there the development of Sand Point began.
An air strip was built and an Army hangar was brought in from California, but the station lacked funding and could not be officially accepted by the Navy without action from Congress. On the last day of January 1921, Congress approved Sand Point as the best location for the type of station the Navy desired. More than a year later, the Navy officially secured control of the land and funding from congress. The first permanent hangar was completed in 1923 and development continued through the 20s.
With the onslaught of the Depression brought a lack of funds. Despite this, the Sand Point runway was finally paved, and the New Deal groups like the Civilian Conservation Corps helped erect more structures.
After the outbreak of World War II, Congress allotted $4 million to the improvement of Sand Point (Naval Air Station Seattle). Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, Sand Point became an important hub for air traffic, plane repairs, and supplies. More than 8,000 people worked at Sand Point during the war, but by late 1945, employment dropped to 3,000.
The Navy announced that it would close Sand Point in 1950, but three months before its closure, the Korean War broke out and the station was needed once more. As it had in the years after the World War II, Sand Point was responsible for the repair and overhaul of aircraft. After the Korean Conflict ended, Sand Point resumed its regular purpose as a training base. As the naval base on Whidbey Island continued to develop, the need for Sand Point lessened. It closed in 1970.
Sand Point is now home to Magnuson Park, which features many of the station’s buildings from its early years of development.
I’m sure you know that today is Seafair Saturday. But did you know that fifty years ago today it was also Seafair Saturday?
Back in 1967, Seafair was a 12-day celebration featuring parades, sports tournaments, concerts, cultural celebrations, and, of course, hydroplane races. The festivities began on Friday, July 28th and concluded on Sunday, August 6th. In addition to all of the area festivals and tournaments, major events headlined each day:
July 28- Queen’s Coronation
July 29- Grande Parade – Bon Odori
July 30- Shilshole Seafair Fun Day – Fiesta Filipina – Bon Odori
July 31- Greenwood District Parade
August 1- Camera Day
August 2- Lake City “Gay Nineties” Festival Parade
August 3- Arrival of the Fleets – Kids’ Seafair Day
August 4- Capitol Hill District – Festival of Flags and Parade
August 5- Seafair Trophy Unlimited Hydroplane Race – Torchlight Parade
August 6- Gold Cup Unlimited Hydroplane Race
The schedule brochure flaunts Seattle’s designation as an “All-America City”, an honor it had been awarded just the year previous.
Some of you may remember last year, when I posted selections from the 1963 Seafair Trophy Race Booklet. In addition to the brochure excerpt above, I have selections from the 1967 Seafair Gold Cup Regatta Magazine!
This magazine, dated Sunday, August 6th for the Gold Cup Race, features advertisements, sponsor information, and a guide to the hydros and their drivers, Let’s take a look at 1967’s Unlimited roster:
In addition to the roster, the magazine provided spectators with their very own scorecard!
While the majority of the book is dedicated to the Unlimited Hydroplane races, several pages are dedicated to the Limited Hydroplanes which raced on Green Lake July 28th, 29th, and 30th.
The last page I’ll share with you is the last page in the booklet, featuring the Seafair royalty:
Whether you’re watching the festivities from Seattle or your living room, have a happy Seafair Weekend!
Before the days of smart phones, Google Maps, and even Map Quest, what did you consult when you were lost? A good, old-fashioned map, of course! Often tucked in a glove box or thrown across the backseat, a trusty map could turn a lost traveler into a confident driver. But what if you consulted a map from 50 years ago? What sorts of things might you find?
Let’s find out!
Distributed in 1967 by the Atlantic Richfield Company (also known as Arco), this map shows the greater Seattle area, from Tukwila to Edmonds, and West Seattle to Redmond. While many aspects of the roads and landmarks are the same, many aren’t. Part I will highlight a few spots around Seattle.
1. The Seattle Center
A mere five years after the World’s Fair for which it was built, the Seattle Center had changed, but not much. Many of the buildings still stood, although they had different purposes:
The building that had housed exhibits for India and Korea became Youth Recreation
Senior Citizens Activities occupied the building left behind by Africa, Thailand, the Philippines, and the UN
“Show Street” was completely dismantled
The United Arab Republic made way for a World’s Fair Museum
The US Science Pavilion was christened The Pacific Science Center
The Christian Pavilion gave way to the Nile Temple
Part of the Gayway gave way to Space Needle Parking
Even today, many of the Center’s trademark buildings still exist, although with different names. The Seattle Center is also significantly smaller, as pieces of it have slowly vanished over the years.
“Municipal Parking Garage” is now called “Mercer Street Garage”
“High School Memorial Stadium” has been shortened to simply “Memorial Stadium”
Space Needle parking? What Space Needle parking? Try looking under the EMP
“Food Circus” is now the plain old “Center House”
“Opera House” became “Marion Oliver McCaw Hall”
“Arena” or “Mercer Arena” was demolished earlier this year
The Sky Ride was moved to the Washington State Fairground decades ago
Each red box on the map represented an important structure. Here is a guide to all 44 spots:
Benjamin Franklin Hotel: Demolished in 1980 for an expansion of the Westin Hotel
Bon Marche: First sold in 1986, it changed its name to Macy’s in 2005
Canadian Pacific Dock: It once ferried people between Seattle and B.C. Now it’s gone
Central Bus Terminal: The site is under construction
Chamber of Commerce:This ornate structure now houses businesses 5a. City Hall
City Light Building: Now home to Expediors, a freight forwarding service
Continental Trailways Bus Depot: Now a parking garage
County Building: Now called King County Superior Court
Doctor’s Hospital: Now part of Virginia Mason Hospital
Federal Court Building: Today, it’s called US Appeals Court
Federal Office Building: The Unites States Post Office occupies this site today
Federal Reserve Bank: Current Home to the Washington Department of Licensing
Ferry Terminal: Also called the Colman Dock
Fireboats Station: Serving you since 1902. Serving you from this building since 1963
Frederick & Nelson: A new shopping center now occupies this lot
Harbor Patrol Station: The Harbor Patrol moved to Lake Union in the 1960s
King Street Station: Built in 1906, it was finally returned to its former glory in 2013
KOMO Radio and TV Stations: Some things never change
KTNT TV Studios: Present-day parking lot
Logan Building: This 10-story office building was built in 1959, renovated in 2009
Mayflower Hotel: Celebrating 90 years of operation in 2017
McDougall’s: This department store closed in 1966 and was demolished in 1971. It is now the site of a brick parking garage and Ludi’s Restaurant
New Washington Doric Hotel: Elvis stayed here while filming “It Happened at the World’s Fair” in 1962. Now home to many as the Josephinum Apartments
Norton Building: Built in 1959, this office building still stands
Old Armory: The armory stood from 1909-1968. The site is now retail and offices
Olympic Hotel: Open since 1924
Penney’s: After nearly 50 years of business, this location closed in the early 80s. The building was demolished, and replaced with the Newmark Tower a decade later
Pike Place Market: Thanks to preservation efforts in the 60s and 70s, the Market remains and is a hot tourist destination
Post Office: The post office still operates a branch at this location
Pubic Library and Civic Information Center: The 1960 library building on the old map was replaced in 2004
Public Safety Building: Now the home to Seattle Department of Neighborhoods, Seattle City Hall, Seattle City Council, and Einsten Bros. Bagels
Rhodes: This branch of “Seattle’s Home-Owned Department Store” was closed in 1968 and demolished in 2005 for the WaMu Center Bank Tower
Roosevelt Hotel: Hosting travelers since 1929
Seattle General Hospital: Originally a hospital and nursing school, it merged with Swedish Medical Center in 1978 and moved. This building seems to have been replaced
Seattle Park Department Administrative Building: Now called “Seattle Parks and Recreation Superintendent’s Office”
Seattle Post-Intelligencer Building: The Seattle P-I moved from this building in 1986 and became online-only in 2009. The City University of Seattle now occupies this building
Seattle Times Building: Now located in offices next-door, the Seattle Times sold their original building in 2013. Demolition started last year
Smith Tower: Built in 1914, it’s the city’s oldest skyscraper
Transit Service Office: Go to this location now and you’ll find a supermarket and a Starbuck’s
Union Station: Today, it’s the beautifully-restored headquarters of Sound Transit
Virginia Mason Hospital: Although much larger now, Virginia Mason still resides at this location
Washington Athletic Club: Built in 1930, the club became a city landmark in 2009
YMCA: 50 years later, this branch is still open
3. Museum of Science and Industry (MOHAI)
Planning a trip to MOHAI? Don’t use this map! If you do, you may find yourself near the University of Washington when you really need to be on the south end of Lake Union.
In 1967, MOHAI was situated in East Montlake Park off of East Park Drive. The museum opened in early 1952, displaying a collection of artifacts and photos that had been gathered since the 1910s by the local historical society.
The museum rapidly grew and expanded over the nest decade and a half, but when Highway 520 moved in, getting to the museum became more challenging. Voters who had once saved the museum from complete highway encirclement were upset by the heavy traffic through their once-quiet neighborhood and opposed subsequent museum expansion plans.
In the 1970s, MOHAI was plagued by unprofessional and unscrupulous employees. Artifacts were improperly handled, and some were even stolen. Employees who spoke up for the betterment of the museum were dismissed and/or publicly shamed. Staffing changes in the latter part of the decade pulled the museum out of the rubble, displaying more of its collections and shifting the focus of its exhibits back to local history.
In 2012, sixty years after the museum first opened, it relocated from Union Bay to Lake Union, setting up in the former Naval Reserve Training Center (also called Naval Reserve Armory).
The armory was built between 1941-1942 by the Works Progress Administration for $500,000. It operated as a naval training school during the second world war, but was decommissioned shortly thereafter. In 1946 it received renovation funding, in 1998 it was disestablished, and in 2009 it was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
Maybe I should have titled this post “Hurry Summer.”
Although people living in the Pacific Northwest may feel like we skipped over spring this year, today is the official first day of summer! I can’t think of a better way to celebrate than with an early 50s postcard of a southern Washington beach!
This picture appears to be taken someplace south of the city of Long Beach, maybe at the beach located at the end of Jetty Road, near Peacock Spit. As the caption states, it shows the estuary at the end of the Columbia River from the Washington side.
Peacock Spit was named after the USS Peacock, which crashed there during a storm in 1841 while trying to enter the Columbia River.
Here’s to a summer we can spend out on the beach with our woodies, horses, and picnic baskets!
People all over North America are familiar with Red Robin restaurants. Everybody knows about their big burgers, cartoon mascot, and secret French fry seasoning. But what many people don’t know is that the first Red Robin opened in Seattle.
The 1,200 square foot building, located by the south end of the University Bridge at 3272 Fuhrman Avenue East, was erected in 1916. In 1943, it opened as Sam’s Tavern.
Sam, the tavern’s owner and namesake, sang in a barbershop quartet. He loved the song “When the Red Red Robin” so much that he changed the same of his tavern to “Sam’s Red Robin.”
In 1969, Gerry Kingen, the son of local restaurant owners, bought the Red Robin Tavern. He continued to run the establishment in the same spirit as Sam, serving up booze, popcorn, and sandwiches to university students and local houseboat inhabitants.
Four years later, the Red Robin briefly closed for a remodel. In addition to building a deck on the back of the building, Kingen added burgers, fish & chips, and steak to the menu. Large wooden electrical cable spools with a layer of thick resin on top served as tables.
When the restaurant reopened, business tripled. In response to the success, Kingen opened another location in Northgate.
In 1979, two Red Robin regulars opened the first Red Robin franchise in Yakima, Washington, and the following year Red Robin opened a location in Oregon.
As for the building on Fuhrman Avenue? Sadly, unlike most locations posted here, the original Red Robin no longer stands. Only a few months after my February 2010 visit, this location closed, citing expensive maintenance. The 98-year-old building was demolished August 28, 2014.
Now an empty parking lot, the future of the site is uncertain. It appears that the most popular suggestion is to build multi-story apartments.
The demise of the building can actually be traced on Google Maps street view, which shows the slow regression from 2008 to 2015. The 2015 view shows the old flooring still in place, as well as the old sidewalk.
While the decor was fairly mainstream Red Robin when I dined there, the building had a character unique to this specific location. Wood-covered walls, stained glass, and the smallest bathrooms known to man were just some of the features that made this location a true dining experience despite the standard menu, furniture, and glass-covered sun room.
Interestingly, a new Sam’s Tavern has opened up in Seattle. With locations in Capitol Hill, South Lake Union, and Redmond, its about page credits Sam’s Red Robin as its predecessor.