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.
Today is Opening Day! With a noon cannon blast and the raising of the Montlake Bridge, boating season in Seattle will officially begin.
While Seattle has a long history of special maritime celebrations, it is believed that the first Opening Day Parade took place May 3, 1913. Seven years later, the parade and regatta moved to their present location at the Montlake Cut when their sponsor, The Seattle Yacht Club, moved to Portage Bay. It has been an annual event ever since, even during World War II.
The boating parade attracts thousands of visitors. While exact attendance numbers are unknown, it is estimated that as few as 4,500 and as many as 250,000 have lined the shores to eat picnics and watch the passing boats.
Originally, anybody who wanted to participate in the parade was welcome, but when numbers of entrants reached 1,000 in the mid-1970s, the Coast Guard intervened. Ever since, participants have been required to register, keeping the number of boats in the parade closer to 200.
In 1959, the theme “Hell’s a Poppin'” was selected, and the parade has been themed ever since. Other themes have included “The Ancient Mariner” and “Out of This World,” as well as this year’s theme, “Emerald City Aahs.”
Since 1986, rowing crews from the nearby University of Washington have participated in Windemere Cup races prior to the parade.
Please enjoy this 1960s-era postcard, and get out there to see those boats!
Fifty-five years ago today the Seattle World’s Fair opened. It was the first World’s Fair held in the U.S. since 1939, and only the third fair held after the end of World War II.
Seattle Councilman Al Rochester first proposed the idea for a Seattle World’s Fair in the early 50s. By January 1955, so much interest had been generated that the state legislature rounded up $5,000 for a group to study a fair’s feasibility. Smart advertising caused public interest to explode, and in 1957 Seattle voters passed a $7.5 million bond for the development of a Civic Center/fairground.
The goal was to host a fair in 1959 in honor of the 50 year anniversary of the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Expo, a fair hosted at the University of Washington to celebrate the first shipment of Klondike Gold Rush gold through Seattle. When it became apparent that the 1959 deadline was too ambitious, the fair was pushed back to 1962.
In addition to the funding from the citizens from Seattle and the state legislature, the federal government, local businesses, and civic boosters helped to fund the fair.
To commemorate the 55th anniversary of opening day, I have an envelope to share with you. Scroll down to check out what’s inside.
This packet, which contains two pieces of paper and a souvenir spoon, appears to have been sent to fair boosters as a thank-you gift.
The pink sheet reads as follows:
“Dear World’s Fair Booster… As a BONUS for your patience and public spirit, we are making available additional World’s Fair Souvenir Spoons at a cost of fifty cents (50c) per spoon. We now have a sufficient supply to make possible IMMEDIATE DELIVERY…on ANY NUMBER you order…IF YOU ORDER WITHIN THE NEXT THIRTY DAYS! This offer also includes World’s Fair literature and each spoon will be individually packaged. Have them sent to yourself or your friends. Send to: “Invitation Spoons” PO Box 919 Seattle 11, Washington”
The price of 50 cents is equivalent to about $4 today. As for the address “Seattle 11, Washington”, it made use of the postal district/zone numbers introduced in 1943. Zip codes were not introduced until 1963.
This second sheet is basically an advertisement, enticing the booster to attend the fair he/she helped make possible. Interestingly, it focuses on attractions that are now Seattle Center landmarks: The Science Pavilion (now Pacific Science Center); the Coliseum Century (now Key Arena); and Seattle’s most famous landmark, the Space Needle. The Monorail gets special attention, as does “The World of Entertainment”, which included Gracie Hansen’s “Paradise International.” The building that housed Gracie’s show is now a multipurpose building in Ravensdale, Washington.
On the flip-side of the advertising letter are paintings of what was to come. Check out the one of the monorail. It doesn’t look much like what Alweg actually built.
The metal spoon features an Space Needle-styled handle adorned with the words “Seattle World’s Fair ’62.” The spoon itself is engraved with the official ’62 World’s Fair logo.
After a long absence (sorry!), I’m back to present you with this 1960s postcard of Willo Vista Trailer Village in Kent, Washington.
There is really not much information available about Willo Vista. Located at 22000 84th Ave S, it is still in operation under the name Willo Vista RV Park.
While I’m not so sure advertising as “one of the Seattle area’s better parks” was going to draw in customers, mentioning its proximity to entertainment was probably a wise choice. Willo Vista was located 1.4 miles from El Rancho Drive-In, about 2 miles from downtown Kent, and a mere 0.6 miles from Kent Bowl.
Although the postcard lists all of the park’s amazing features (patios, play areas, etc.) Willo Vista now promotes itself as “No frills– Just a great place to stay!” An aerial view shows no signs of a playground or pool, although the sites do look like they may be a bit landscaped.
The house has been repainted and the trees have grown up, but not much has changed at Willo Vista over the past 50+ years. As for the sign on the house beckoning weary travelers? Not to worry, there is a newer sign right by the entrance to the driveway.
While it can make the morning commute an even bigger headache, this week’s sudden snowstorm has been a blessing to those hoping to hit the slopes this weekend. In honor of the beautiful yet sometimes pesky snow, take a look at Summit West circa 1962!
At a height of 3,865 feet, Summit West, also known simply as Snoqualmie, is the family and beginner ski slope at Snoqualmie Pass. Operated by the same company as Alpental, Summit East, and Summit Central, it features two quad chair lifts, one triple chair lift, four double chair lifts, two doube chair lifts, and one handle-tow lift.
Public use of the area dates back to 1933 when the City of Seattle operated a city ski park named Municipal Park. Seven years later locals objected, saying that Seattle was too far away from the area (about 46 miles) to claim it as a city park. The city relented and sold the park to Ski Lifts, Inc. who changed the park’s name to Snoqualmie Summit Ski Area. Shortly after, the new owners installed a rope-tow.
Although business was spotty during the war years, Webb Moffet, the owner of Ski Lifts Inc., focused on developing the area to attract more visitors. Nighttime skiing arrived in the late 1940s when Moffett installed gas station lights along the slopes to allow employees the chance to ski after hours. Soon paying guests were staying for nighttime skiing as well, making Snoqualmie the second place in the country to offer this type of skiing.
Snoqualmie Summit continued to grow throughout the 1950s. Thunderbird, the summit’s first chairlift, opened in 1954. Two years later, Thunderbird Restaurant opened at the top of the summit, offering skiers warm food and majestic mountain views. The completion of Skihaus, a restaurant, lodge, and gift shop, completed the Summit’s status as a wintertime tourist destination.
Ski Lifts, Inc. operated Summit West and its surrounding summits through 1998, when it sold to Booth Creek Ski Holdings, Inc. Thunderbird Restaurant closed in 1990, due at least partly to the lack of running water and indoor plumbing.
Although renovated and hardly recognizable if not for it’s sharply sloped roof, Skihaus still exists. Now Webb’s Restaurant, it continues to serve thousands of hungry skiers every season.
Merry Christmas! I hope you all have been having a wonderful holiday! As my gift to you, I present you with this 1960s view of Christmas Island.
In September 1941, Olympia resident Leonard Huber started working on a lighted Christmas display in hopes of winning a contest. The contest was later cancelled, but Huber completed the display at his Eastside Hill home and lit it up Sunday, December 21st, only two weeks after the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Over 5,000 people came by his house at the corner of Fairview Street and 11th Avenue that Sunday, and even more came through Monday morning. According to Huber, many people fell to their knees at the Nativity display complete with angels, shepherds, wisemen, and a church.
For the war years, the display remained dark, but it returned in December 1946, attracting more than 10,000 visitors in its first week before a fire caused by an overheated stove destroyed most of the display. Huber rebuilt it, and 1947 brought more than 45,000 visitors. Olympia’s one on-duty police officer took it upon himself to direct the holiday display traffic.
For the next three years, Huber relied on outside sources for funding the popular display, and the local police were proactive in safely routing the traffic generated. However, by 1950 neighbors and city leaders had enough and the display was moved to Tacoma’s Point Defiance Park. Throughout the 1950s, “Huber’s Sacred Scenes” would be displayed at the Duwamish Drive-In Theatre and at a North Seattle cemetery.
But in 1959, Huber’s display made a grand return to its hometown as the new Christmas Island. Funded by local businesses and assembled by the Army Corps of Engineers, Christmas island was a near-300-foot barge boasting a one-ton, 16-foot stainless steel cross in addition to a nativity scene and nearly 20,000 lights.
Christmas Island floated on Capitol Lake for only three years before burning down while in storage. Local organizations raised money to replace the display, but without the Army’s support, 1964’s Christmas Island was located on a solitary dock.
Christmas Island eventually returned to its floating state and lit up Capitol Lake every Christmas season until 1982 (with the exception of a stint in Boston Harbor in the mid-1970s).
In the 1980s, Huber was involved in an ownership lawsuit with the Island’s support organization and Christmas Island was moved to a stormwater pond behind the South Sound Mall Sears until the mid-90s. For the next few years, the Huber family displayed portions of the Island at Huber’s Gasthaus, an special event space.
The Olympia Metro Church displayed Christmas Island from 1998-2008, when the display was again put into storage.
In 2012, the Maytown Assembly of God brought Christmas Island out of storage and displayed most of it on church grounds. The church, located at 2920 Tierney St SW in Olympia, continues to host the display every year.
Drop by and see it if you have the chance! Merry Christmas!
What is that strange concrete structure perched on the south end of Seattle’s Green Lake? It’s a staircase, it’s a set of bleachers…It’s the Aqua Theatre!
Or, at least, what’s left of the Aqua Theatre.
Now just a shell of its former self, its hard to envision what the theatre looked like in its glory days. Today, it’s a popular spot for joggers, and the perfect bench for anybody wanting to rest a while and look out over Green Lake, but at its peak, it had the capacity to seat 5,582 people.
Built in a mere 67 days for the first-ever Seafair (1950), the 5,200-seat Aqua Theatre would become one of Seattle’s most popular outdoor performance venues. At a total cost of $247,000 (about $2,477,741.49 today), the Aqua Theatre was by no means a budget building, but for the next two decades its seats would often be filled to capacity for concerts, plays, and other performances.
Opening day for the Aqua Theatre was August 11, 1950 for what an advertisement described as a “flashy, splashy water spectacle”– The first-ever performance of The Aqua Follies–and it sold out. 5,200 people came to see a night of ballet, comedy, singing, dancing, and high-diving.
Aqua Follies performances (also called “Swim Musicals”) enjoyed immense success throughout the 1950s, as did other forms of entertainment. The Summer Opera Company produced “Music Under the Stars”, concert versions of operettas accompanied by ballet. Full-length plays and musicals including “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, “Oklahoma!”, and “The King and I” were also performed at the Aqua Theatre to the music of a floating orchestra.
To accommodate the popularity of the shows, 382 additional seats were added in 1960. Two years later, the World’s Fair brought visitors from around the globe to Seattle and the Aqua Theatre for an array of events from musicals to a jazz festival to performances by Bob Hope. The Aqua Follies performed for 21 nights, rather than the usual 13. But along with the visitors and the success, the World’s Fair also brought new, indoor performing spaces, such as the Coliseum (now Key Arena) that were fresh, comfortable, and out of the rain.
The Aqua Follies performed their last show in 1964, and the theatre began its descent into disuse and disrepair. It remained a venue for concerts, often catered toward the younger crowd. On August 8, 1966, The Northwest Battle of the Bands Championship was held at the theatre. For as little as $2 (about $15 today), a person could see Don & the Goodtimes, Merrilee & the Turnabouts, The Sonics, George Washington & the Cherrybombs, The Bumps, The Live Five, Jack Horner & the Famous Plums, Dusty Springfield, Sam Sham & the Pharaohs, and vote for a winner!
On May 11, 1969, the Aqua Theatre hosted Three Dog Night with opening acts Spring, Jaime Brockett, Translove Airlines, and Led Zeppelin. The theatre and surrounding areas was packed. Those who didn’t have tickets perched in trees, sat atop the concessions stand, sprawled out on nearby lawns, huddled on a nearby dock (causing it to sink slightly), and crowded the stage in canoes and rubber rafts. Some even swam in the stage’s pool!
Later that summer, city inspectors discovered that the structure was damaged and the facility was condemned. The Aqua Theatre’s last performance was on August 20, 1969, featuring the Grateful Dead.
The following year, the diving towers were removed and the demolition slowly progressed until 1979 when most of the seating was demolished and a new shell house was built.
I visited the Aqua Theatre in October 2010 (I sure wish I was there August 8, 1966, instead!) It has a wonderful history board hanging on the back side, filled with information and historical pictures. The theatre itself is quite a sight to see! I’m not sure why large chunks were cut out of the structure (structural soundness, perhaps?), but the remains account for about 3 out of 7 original seating sections.
It was fun to look out at the lake and envision where the stage once was.
For further information, and great historical images and memorabilia, I encourage you to check out these links on Historylink.org:
Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you are all having a day filled with food, family, and fun! In honor of the holiday known for its feasting, I thought I’d share this 1970s postcard of Roy’s Chuckwagon, a buffet with 11 locations scattered across Washington.
I couldn’t find very much information about Roy’s, apart from a few addresses and some mentions in newspapers and obituaries. Roy’s may have had it’s start in Baker, Oregon as “Roy’s Pancake Corral and Chuckwagon.” It appears that the first Chuckwagon restaurants in Washington opened in the 1960s. They enjoyed some popularity in the 1970s, and some locations stayed open into the 1990s. They were often popular gathering spots for local service and Bible clubs.
The restaurant was also sometimes called “Roy’s Western Smorgasbord” or “Roy’s Western Smorgy.” Some past locations include:
Chehalis: 50 NE Meridian Street
Pasco: 1315 N 20th Ave
Richland: 6699 Columbia Park Trail
Walla Walla: Inside the Big Y Shopping Center
Whoever owned this postcard previously ate at the Auburn location in 1974.
The Walla Walla location appears to have opened in early 1967. Advertisements for this location reveal that the restaurant was open for lunch (11AM to 2PM) and dinner (4:30-8:30PM), and served a “complete new menu every day!” Roy’s prided itself for serving delicious food at a reasonable price, and interestingly, children’s prices depended on age: 10 cents per year up to age ten (ten cents to $1; about 72 cents to $7.24 today). An adult dinner cost $1.95 (about $14 today).
Whether you’re enjoying Baron of Beef, ham, fried chicken, or turkey today, have a great Thanksgiving!
Although a bit late, it’s with sadness today that I report the passing of John “Buck” Ormsby, longtime Wailers bassist. He died in Mexico on his 75th birthday, October 29, after a fall.
Although the Wailers are not very well-known today (“Oh! You mean Bob Marley’s group?”), they are often considered the first garage band and were undeniably one of the most influential bands of the late 50s and early 60s in the Pacific Northwest.
The band’s humble beginnings date back to 1958 at Clover Park High School, located just outside of Tacoma. Woody Mortenson (acoustic bass) and John Greek (trumpet) began performing local gigs with a menagerie of other musicians as a Dixieland band. Guitarist Rich Dangel asked if he could join and play a few rock n’ roll tunes with the group. Greek consented, and the trio soon turned their focus to rock n’ roll.
The shift in styles resulted in a personnel shift. Pianist Kent Morrill, and two students from Stadium High School (Mark Marush on Saxophone and Mike Burk on drums) completed the lineup. Thus, The Nitecaps were born!
As The Nitecaps started playing better gigs, Tacoma’s other teen band, Little Bill & the Bluenotes, discovered their existence. Bill Englehart, namsake of The Bluenotes, invited The Nitecaps to be their upcoming act at an upcoming dance. The group accepted, changed their name to The Wailers, and stole The Bluenotes‘ popularity.
In late 1958, the group recorded a demo of an original instrumental that somehow ended up in the hands of Clark Galehouse of Gold Crest Records. “Tall Cool One” was re-recorded in early 1959 and released as a single. It charted at #36 on Billboard Top 100. The Wailers released their first LP, “The Fabulous Wailers”, on the Gold Crest Label later that year.
Following the success of “Tall Cool One”, the group toured the East Coast and even appeared on American Bandstand. Despite Gold Crest’s wishes for them to remain in New York, The Wailers returned home. Greek left the group, and two members of The Bluenotes joined: Rockin’ Robin Roberts (vocalist) and bassist John “Buck” Ormsby.
Disappointed by the loss of their label, Ormsby suggested something novel and maybe a little bit crazy: why not create their own record label? At first he was met with opposition, but eventually Morrill and Roberts relented and Etiquette Records was born!
The first single released on the Etiquette label was The Wailers’ own version of “Louie,Louie”, featuring Roberts on lead vocal. This version of the Richard Berry classic was later imitated by the Oregon-based Kingsmen, who would launch the song into infamy and the center of an FBI investigation.
The Wailers continued to enjoy local success, performing with and without Roberts and sometimes with girl singer Gail Harris or girl group The Marshans. Marush left in 1962 and was replaced with Ron Gardner, a saxophonist/singer whose energy and songwriting significantly changed the group’s sound.
By 1964, the Bristish Invasion was in full swing and The Wailers were trying to compete. The group moved toward a more polished, pop sound and publicist Barrie Jackson developed a marketable image: two-toned suits and a “Wailer” haircut. Jackson also penned fake bios on the back of their new album, Wailers!!!! Wailers Everywhere: Burk was especially displeased with his.
Photographer Jini Dellaccio is responsible for the photographs on the album. The images on the front were taken in Tacoma’s Wright Park, while the ones on the back were taken at her home in Gig Harbor.
Despite the fabulous photography and fake biographies, Wailers!!!! Wailers Everywhere was not a commercial success. Many considered it too much of a shift from the group’s earlier, raw sound and image, including Rich Dangel who was becoming less interested in rock n’ roll and left the band the following year.
There is much more to be said about The Wailers and Etiquette Records, but for this post, I’m going to pause here and present you with a complete listen to Wailers!!!! Wailers Everywhere, taken directly off of the 1964 Etiquette LP.
I purchased this record from it’s original owner who bought it while he was living in Bothell.
Buck Ormsby was raised in Tacoma, Washington. He started playing ukulele at age 7 and eventually learned steel guitar. It wasn’t until he joined The Wailers that he switched to bass guitar.
A driving force in the creation of Etiquette Records (still in business today), he is also credited with signing the wildly popular Sonics to the Etiquette label.
After The Wailers split in 1969, Buck played with Jr. Cadillac, and devoted himself to promoting Etiquette’s music. He took suitcases of LPs to Europe and struck up a partnership with Ace Records. In the 80s he revived Etiquette Records and he re-released its music on CD, straight from the master tapes.
The Wailers reunited on several occasions over the next several decades, and released an album with The Ventures in 2009, marking their 50th anniversary. A line-up including Kent Morrill and Buck occasionally performed until around 2010.
Buck’s daughter, Gregory Anne Ormsby, remembers him as a caring man wholly devoted to music.
“Everything was music, always music,” she told The Seattle Times. “He was either a producer, or an event planner or a musician. He just lived and breathed music.”
Happy November! Now that October and Halloween have passed us by, some of the biggest shopping days of the year are yet to come. In the spirit of holiday shopping, take a look at this lovely late-60s postcard, featuring Southcenter Mall!
While the mall’s opening day was July 31, 1968, its roots date back to 1956 when three officials from Seattle’s Northgate Mall (which opened in 1950) formed the Southcenter Corporation with the vice president of Allied Stores (a Department store chain). The four men planned to build a new mall south of Seattle that would match the success of Northgate. They began searching for a site that was at least 100 acres.
Their search led them to the 800-acre Andover Tract. Previously farmland, the Andover Tract was purchased by the Port of Seattle for use as an industrial park. In November 1957, the city of Tukwila annexed the tract. The same year, Southcenter Corporation purchased 160 acres of the tract that were strategically located near the intersection of two planned freeways: I-5 and I-405. The start of construction was to depend on the construction of these roads.
The first part of I-405, connecting Tukwila to Renton, opened to traffic in August 1965. In 1960, he first segment of I-5 opened through Tacoma and by January 1967, the road ran continually from Tacoma to Everett. Southcenter Mall broke ground in early 1967.
The architect for the mall was the Seattle-based John Graham & Company, the firm responsible for both Northgate and Tacoma malls. A total of 75 contractors worked on the project, and despite four worker strikes, the majority of construction was complete by May 1968. Interior work continued until the day before the mall’s grand opening.
When Governor Dan Evans dedicated the mall at 11 AM on July 31, he was dedicating the largest mall in the Pacific Northwest. The 1,400,000 square foot mall featured the largest expanse of terrazzo floors in the area (84,000 square feet). Southcenter boasted four anchor stores, 88 other shops, and employed 3,600 people.
In 2002, Southcenter Mall was purchased by the Westfield Group and renamed “Westfield Shoppingtown Southcenter.” Four years later, the mall underwent a $240 million expansion, adding 400,000 square feet of space.
Some of the stores featured on this postcard include Zale’s Jewelry, Bernie’s Menswear, The Coat Closet, and Hazel’s Candies. Zale’s is still in operation, as are three of the original anchor stores: J.C. Penney, Nordstoms, and Macy’s (formerly Bon Marche).
Despite the stores and the decor and the clothing, perhaps what really dates this card is the last sentence on the back: “Southcenter is 8 minutes south of Seattle…” Today, the commute is about 16 minutes via I-5.