A charming location on Lower Post Alley, now a coffee shop, has been the site of movies and much, much more.
HAD HE LIVED long enough, I am confident that Frank Shaw, the photographer of today’s featured photo, would have become a member of the recently formed Pike Place Market Historical Society. Shaw’s attraction to the Market is professed in the scores of large negatives and transparencies he recorded there. The then-about-to-retire Boeing employee began visiting the Market with his Hasselblad camera in the early 1960s, just in time to record those politically important years when the well-funded forces campaigning for urban renewal wrestled with the citizen volunteers fighting for the Market’s repairs and preservation.
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On its cardboard border, Shaw dated this color portrait of the only curve on Post Alley May 1, 1966. It was a Sunday morning. Market explorers will know that this is where Post Alley, heading for the Market, turns for its one-short-block climb to the intersection of First Avenue and Pike Street. Of the many entrances into the Market, I expect this is the one least used, but also the most charming. It is also the most gate-like and therefore potentially ceremonial for staging events like the Tiny Freeman-presided Soap Box Derbies on Post Alley in the early 1970s. Shaw’s shabby alley shot came well before the internationally known “Gum Wall,” nearby with its profane patina of donated wads.
Two feature films (and perhaps several smaller ones) have used the curve for art: “Mad Love” (1995), in which the film’s leads share their first date at a punk show here in the alley, and the better-known “Cinderella Liberty” (1973), where the curve and its entrance to Seattle’s first municipal restroom (1908) were converted into a burlesque theater for the movie starring James Caan and Marsha Mason.
It was also just off this curve that Seattle’s well-loved Empty Space Theatre got its start in 1970. It was followed by Stage One, where, we must note, in 1972 the tall but mere 15-year-old Jean Sherrard, this feature’s “now” photographer, played the part of Laertes, the brother of Ophelia, in Shakespeare’s “Hamlet.” Jean notes, “There were rarely more people in the audience than in the cast.”
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