Northwest Neon V

Welcome back for the next installment of Northwest Neons! It’s hard to believe that time is well on its way to August, but there are still plenty more neat neons to come!

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Dari-De-Lite; Mount Vernon, Washington

Yes, this sign is no longer a neon, but let’s appreciate it for what it was. Dari-De-Lite opened next to a Shell gas station sometime around 1950. Though all of the neon is gone from both the sign and the building, they look just about the same now as they did 68 years ago. Unfortunately, the sign is in miserable shape, but it surely still lures hungry passersby in with promises of soft serve.

 

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Sav-Mart; Wenatchee, Washington

Sav-Mart has been known for its selection, its customer service, and I would guess it’s signage since 1962. Located off Wenatchee Ave, it is a family-owned appliance business that has somehow been able to compete against big-box retailers. Both the building and its signs still scream 1962 in a very cool way.

 

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Sav-Mart; Wenatchee, Washington

You may be thinking that this isn’t a neon, but before you make that assessment, look way at the top at the atomic spike. That part of the sign happens to be a neon, and a very special neon at that.

This space-age wonder is a Neo-Lectra, one of about 100 jack-shaped neons designed by Oklahoman Jim Henry in the 1960s. Although produced near Tulsa, there are a few samples of these signs remaining across the U.S.

While it may look small, the atomic structure is actually near 13 feet across. Neo-Lectras sold for about $1,000 a piece, which is roughly equivalent to $8,344 today.

 

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Northwest Neon IV & Happy Birthday!

Today, there is a lot to celebrate! Not only has summer finally arrived in Western Washington, and not only is it the next installment in Northwest Neon, but yesterday was The Northwest Past’s third birthday!

Thank you to everybody who has taken the time to read, like, and comment over the past three years! With the terrible twos out of the way (and few, irregular posts) I hope year three is a great one!

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Aloha Motel; Bellingham, Washington

In the glory days of Highway 99, before all sections of I-5 were complete, Samish Way served as part of a motel-lined north-south arterial through Bellingham. Coming a little late in the game, but offering many modern amenities, the Aloha Motel opened in the very early 1960s.

Sadly, in recent years, the motel became the site of methamphetamine and murder. The city voted to condemn the building in 2014, and it was torn down the following year. Controversies and permit problems have kept the lot empty, but its tropical neon lives on.

 

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Totem Family Dining; Everett, Washington

Also located off of Highway 99 (at the intersection of Rucker Ave and 44th), Totem Family Dining has been serving great food for over 60 years. Built in 1950 as a drive-in, Totem was a hot hang-out for local teenagers. Long-time owners, Bliss and Joyce Settergren, turned the drive-in into a dine-in.

For almost seven decades, a huge cedar story pole stood at this same intersection, giving the restaurant its name. The totem pole, carved in the 1923 by the talented William Shelton, was removed in 1996 after rot was discovered. The damaged totem pole was returned to the Tulalip people, who hope to restore and someday display it.

 

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Hillside Motel; Conway, Washington

Like the other two neons seen today, the Hillside Motel was another by-product of Highway 99. The motel’s roots go back to the early 1940s, when a gas station/grocery store began renting out rooms to travelers. A motel and restaurant were built in 1946.

Sometime in the 1950s, old barracks from Whidbey Island were brought to the site for use as additional motel rooms. Hillside began offering monthly rates in the 1960s. The prettier side of the sign, facing I-5, claims that the motel would be “back in 2010,” but it doesn’t seem like the motel was ever revived. A fire ravaged part of the vacant motel in November 2014.

Galen and Debora Johnson of Hillside Enterprises LLC applied for a permit that would allow them to build a new, three-story motel on the site. Their permit request was denied.

Parking Palace

What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of parking in the city? Parallel parking? Pay-to-park lots? Dark cement parking garages?

How about a groovy parking garage-meets-shopping-center?

Meet the Parkade in Spokane, Washington!

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Park in style!

There is no doubt that the automobile’s postwar popularity affected the US in the 1950s, but it affected Spokane, too. At this time of economic prosperity, downtown Spokane, which had been the city’s commercial hub for decades, was turning into a ghost town. As vacant buildings crumbled, they were demolished and turned into parking lots.

In 1961, a group of concerned businessmen joined together with the goal of revitalizing downtown. They hired a New-York based company (Ebasco) to assess the situation and make suggestions.

The report found that downtown suffered from deteriorating buildings, inadequate parking, congestion, and a general unattractiveness. Downtown reportedly suffered from a “general aura of drabness.”

What was Ebasco’s suggested remedy? A $26 million revitalization plan that included the removal of beautification of the riverfront, new buildings, and eight blocks dedicated to pedestrians. However, after two times on the ballot, taxpayers never approved the Ebasco Plan.

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SPOKANE, WASHINGTON. The Parkade Plaza–shopping and parking combined with beautiful architecture–Downtown Spokane, The HEART OF THE INLAND EMPIRE.

While the entirety of the Ebasco Plan was rejected, the call for more parking and revitalization was answered in the form of the Parkade Plaza. Built in 1967 to the tune of $3.5 million, the Parkade replaced 6 crumbling buildings with parking for nearly 1,000 cars and eight shops. The dramatic structure receive an award for “excellence in use of concrete” the following year.

The Parkade proved to be popular and useful for the 1974 World’s Fair and is still in use today. Several of its revolutionary and modern features, such as sloped floors, may now be common in parking garages, but I think it’s safe to say that it’s wild design makes it unique.

 

 

Pathway to Recreation

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.

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The roads had potholes back then, too

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.

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Skykomish River and Cascade Mountains, Washington. The Skykomish River winds down the western slopes of the Cascade Mountains into the Snohomish River, through a fertile valley of farms and dairies. U.S. Highway #2

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.

It’s Winter!

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?

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Only six months to go!

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.

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BOWL AND PITCHER–RIVERSIDE STATE PARK–SPOKANE One of the unusual geological formations of the State of Washington, these two rocks which bear a remarkable resemblance to a bowl and pitcher, attract thousands of visitors each year. In addition to the scenic beauty, the Spokane River and park provide ideal playgrounds for young and old alike. For additional information, write Department of Commerce and Economic Development, Olympia, Washington. Albert D. Rosellini, Governor

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?

Gobble, Gobble, Gobble

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!

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Check Out Those Cars!

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.

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Back of the menu

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.

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Sundaes and Sandwiches

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!

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Hamburgers, Drinks, and Boring Sundaes

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.

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Busch’s today, courtesy of Google Maps

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!

Fun, Fun, Fun

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.

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The Backdrop for the Weekend

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.

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Limited Hydroplane

We also stood face-to-face with this interesting old building. Anybody know what it was used for back in its day?

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What am I?

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.

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Up in the parking lot, a small group of classic cars had parked, including this unique convertible hardtop, the Ford Galaxie Skyliner:

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Don’t sneak your buddies in this trunk!

Sunday morning brought beautiful, windless weather and breakfast at a Chelan landmark with a great neon sign.

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Sixty Years of Tasty Breakfasts

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:

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U-77 Miss Wahoo

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.

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Oh Boy! Oberto

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.

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U-40 Miss Bardahl

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.

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U-22 Breathless III

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.

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1973 Pay n’ Pak

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.

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Oberto and Miss Wahoo

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.

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Limited race simulation

If you love vintage hydroplanes, mark your calendars for next October! You’ll be glad you did.

 

Seafair Saturday!

I’m sure you know that today is Seafair Saturday. But did you know that fifty years ago today it was also Seafair Saturday?

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Schedule of Events Brochure

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.

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Seafair Weekend Schedule

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!

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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:

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Gale’s Roostertail weighed in at a whopping 10,000 pounds!

In addition to the roster, the magazine provided spectators with their very own scorecard!

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Keep Score from the Sidelines!

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.

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Check out the groovy ad for the Fair!

The last page I’ll share with you is the last page in the booklet, featuring the Seafair royalty:

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Kelly Waller was crowned King Neptune

Whether you’re watching the festivities from Seattle or your living room, have a happy Seafair Weekend!

Oh! The Places You’ll Go: Seattle Part I

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!

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The covers feature recognizable Seattle landmarks

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

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Seattle Center, 1967-style!

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
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Seattle Center now, courtesy of Google Maps

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

 

2. Downtown

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Downtown 50 Years Ago

Each red box on the map represented an important structure. Here is a guide to all 44 spots:

  1. Benjamin Franklin Hotel: Demolished in 1980 for an expansion of the Westin Hotel
  2. Bon Marche: First sold in 1986, it changed its name to Macy’s in 2005
  3. Canadian Pacific Dock: It once ferried people between Seattle and B.C. Now it’s gone
  4. Central Bus Terminal: The site is under construction
  5. Chamber of Commerce:This ornate structure now houses businesses  5a. City Hall
  6. City Light Building: Now home to Expediors, a freight forwarding service
  7. Continental Trailways Bus Depot: Now a parking garage
  8. County Building: Now called King County Superior Court
  9. Doctor’s Hospital: Now part of Virginia Mason Hospital
  10. Federal Court Building: Today, it’s called US Appeals Court
  11. Federal Office Building: The Unites States Post Office occupies this site today
  12. Federal Reserve Bank: Current Home to the Washington Department of Licensing
  13. Ferry Terminal:  Also called the Colman Dock
  14. Fireboats Station: Serving you since 1902. Serving you from this building since 1963
  15. Frederick & Nelson: A new shopping center now occupies this lot
  16. Harbor Patrol Station: The Harbor Patrol moved to Lake Union in the 1960s
  17. King Street Station: Built in 1906, it was finally returned to its former glory in 2013
  18. KOMO Radio and TV Stations: Some things never change
  19. KTNT TV Studios: Present-day parking lot
  20. Logan Building: This 10-story office building was built in 1959, renovated in 2009
  21. Mayflower Hotel: Celebrating 90 years of operation in 2017
  22. 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
  23. 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
  24. Norton Building: Built in 1959, this office building still stands
  25. Old Armory: The armory stood from 1909-1968. The site is now retail and offices
  26. Olympic Hotel: Open since 1924
  27. 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
  28. Pike Place Market: Thanks to preservation efforts in the 60s and 70s, the Market remains and is a hot tourist destination
  29. Post Office: The post office still operates a branch at this location
  30. Pubic Library and Civic Information Center: The 1960 library building on the old map was replaced in 2004
  31. Public Safety Building: Now the home to Seattle Department of Neighborhoods, Seattle City Hall, Seattle City Council, and Einsten Bros. Bagels
  32. Rhodes: This branch of “Seattle’s Home-Owned Department Store” was closed in 1968 and demolished in 2005 for the WaMu Center Bank Tower
  33. Roosevelt Hotel: Hosting travelers since 1929
  34. 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
  35. Seattle Park Department Administrative Building: Now called “Seattle Parks and Recreation Superintendent’s Office”
  36. 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
  37. Seattle Times Building: Now located in offices next-door, the Seattle Times sold their original building in 2013. Demolition started last year
  38. Smith Tower: Built in 1914, it’s the city’s oldest skyscraper
  39. Transit Service Office: Go to this location now and you’ll find a supermarket and a Starbuck’s
  40. Union Station: Today, it’s the beautifully-restored headquarters of Sound Transit
  41. Virginia Mason Hospital: Although much larger now, Virginia Mason still resides at this location
  42. Washington Athletic Club: Built in 1930, the club became a city landmark in 2009
  43. YMCA: 50 years later, this branch is still open
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Downtown Now, Courtesy of Google Maps

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.

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MOHAI in Montlake

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.

 

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MOHAI’s Current Home

Bob, Bob, Bobbin’ Along

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.

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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.”

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Exterior, February 16, 2010

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.

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Front Entrance with Stained Glass Window

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.

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Old Mascot?

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.

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Courtesy of Google Maps

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.

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Hardwood and Brick Flooring, 2010

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.

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Custom Stained Glass

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.