Opening Day

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.

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Four cents to ship a spoon First Class!

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Louis, Louis

Everybody’s heard of Crab Louis, but did you know that it’s supposed inventor was a successful restaurateur and later hotel owner in Spokane?

Yes, I’m talking about Louis Davenport.

Llewellyn “Louis” Davenport came to Spokane Falls in early 1889 at the age of 20 to work in his uncle’s restaurant. Just a few months later on August 4th, a fire wiped out 32 square blocks of the city, burning the restaurant with it. While locals called it “the most devastating fire that has occurred in the history of the world,” Davenport did not stay discouraged long. The following morning, he salvaged what he could from his uncle’s restaurant and opened “Davenport’s Waffle Foundry” in a tent-like structure amidst the rubble.

A year later, Davenport moved his restaurant to a brick building in the Wilson Block and renamed it “Davenport’s Restaurant.” The restaurant and it’s offerings continued to expand over the next several years. In 1903-1904, Davenport purchased the adjacent Bellevue Block, expanded “Davenport’s”, created a lavish ballroom, and turned the upstairs of the building into “The Pennington Hotel.” His menu offered over 100 items.

Davenport hired architect Kirtland Cutter to make his two buildings match. Cutter suggested a Mission-Revival style, which was vastly different from the other buildings in town.

Sources disagree on what exactly happened next, but in 1908 it was announced that a grand hotel would soon be built in Spokane Falls, and by 1912 the Davenport Hotel Company was formed. Cutter and his partner Karl Malmgren were selected to design the new building, and a grand, ornate structure was designed. Davenport didn’t want to spend unnecessary money on fancy ornamentation, and a simpler design was made. It cost about $2 million.

In 1912, buildings currently on the hotel site were demolished, and construction began the following year. Not a single worker was killed or seriously injured. Cutter and Davenport traveled the world, selecting only the finest furniture, rugs, and other decor.

When the Davenport Hotel opened September 1, 1914, it’s dining room featured fine art, Irish linens from Liddell, and a 15,000-piece set of Reed & Barton silverware, the largest private order created by the company.

The Davenport was considered one of America’s finest hotels. Looking through this brochure, it’s easy to see why.

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Engraved Handle

I’m not sure about the age of this spoon, or if it came from Louis Davenport’s restaurant or hotel, but it’s a silver-plated tea spoon from Reed & Barton in the double-stamped Belmont design.

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The design runs down the entire handle

Belmont was designed in 1906 by August Miller and was a popular choice for hotel silver. This particular piece has “Davenport’s” engraved in cursive on the handle. The back reads “Patent Approved for Reed & Barton B.P”. The Belmont design was still offered in 1908 where it appeared in the Reed & Barton catalogue. The price for a dozen spoons was either  $4.75 or $6.50 (about $110 or $150 today).

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Markings on back

I don’t know when the pattern was discontinued, but it’s possible that this piece was part of the 15,000 piece set first used in the hotel. At least, it’s fun to think so!

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Front of Spoon
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Back of Spoon