Prolific pioneer photographer Carleton Watkins visited Seattle late in the summer of 1882 while adding Puget Sound subjects to his eponymous "New Series" of marketable views he recorded from Alaska to Mexico.
CALIFORNIA’S PROLIFIC pioneer photographer, Carleton Watkins, titled this subject “Suburban Residence, Seattle W.T.” Watkins visited Seattle late in the summer of 1882 while adding Puget Sound subjects to his eponymous “New Series” of marketable views he recorded from Alaska to Mexico. He numbered this one 5230. Ron Edge, a frequent help in this feature, first directed me to Watkins’ suburban home posing with its unidentified family. We wondered together, “But where, exactly?”
The answer came quickly when intuition led us to another Seattle view from 1882, one that I used for this column on Oct. 3, 1982. An exquisite panorama of Seattle from Beacon Hill, it, too, was photographed by Watkins during his ’82 visit, although I did not know it a century later when I used it during my first year in this magazine.
My intuition, I speculated with Ron, put the home “somewhere on Beacon Hill” because of the site’s slope to a waterway crossed by a line of pilings (above the roof far right), and a distant horizon suggestive of West Seattle across Elliott Bay. Ron soon answered with Watkins’ panorama, revealing that our suburban home was in it as well — along with the abandoned pilings.
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Then Ron remembered journalist-historian Thomas Prosch’s early caption for the Watkins pan, which the pioneer included in one of his helpful albums about Seattle history. Prosch writes, in part, “Seattle in 1882 from Dearborn Street and 12th Avenue south looking northwest.” Other recordings of the home support this.
We have placed the home near what was once the elevated intersection of 10th Avenue South and Dearborn Street, but now (since the Dearborn Cut of 1909-1912) a paved ditch through Beacon Hill. So far we have not determined who lived here.
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