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.

 

 

Shopping City

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!

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Shopping in Style

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.

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Southcenter Shopping Center, the northwest’s largest air-conditioned shopping city, features a terrazzo surface and lush tropical planters in the 40 foot wide mall walkway between the 110 stores. One of the highlights of the center is the specially designed mobile chandelier which hangs above the main mall intersection. Many of the stores take advantage of the completely heated and air-conditioned interior by having wide open entrances with no standard doorways. Southcenter is one of the few shopping centers to have four major department stores; the BON MARCHE, FREDERICK AND NELSON, J.C. PENNY, AND NORDSTROM-BEST. Southcenter is 8 minutes south of Seattle at Tukwila and the junction of Interstates 5 & 405.

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.

This Day in History

46 years ago today, Apollo 11 touched down on the moon and Neil Armstrong took “one giant leap for mankind.” The following day, the story held the best piece of newspaper real estate nationwide, including on this July 21, 1969 issue of The Wenatchee World.

The front page of The Wenatchee World, July 21, 1969-- "Man on the Moon"
The front page of The Wenatchee World, July 21, 1969– “Man on the Moon!”

National news stories in the issue include the charging of Ted Kennedy for the death of Mary Jo Kopechne, the death of Reverend A.D. King, and a day of little activity in Vietnam. Local news stories include the dedication of Lake Pateros, pictures of local brides, and 3 recent drownings.

Two of the weddings that were announced in the paper.
Two of the weddings that were announced in the paper.

Included at the bottom of page one was a box detailing what life was like nationwide and locally at the time of the moon landing. The attempt to cover many aspects of life in Wenatchee and the United States in general sounds almost like something out of a watered-down history textbook. The population of Wenatchee was a mere 19,000, and a quart of milk cost 30 cents.

This is the way it was on EARTH-- But was it?
This is the way it was on EARTH– But was it?