The Savoy was built in 1905-06, then was imploded in 1986. In its place rose the 772-foot-tall Washington Mutual Tower, which became the 1201 Third Avenue building.
THE PEDESTRIANS in the “then” photo seem selected for their silhouettes and artful stepping. The view looks northwest from the corner of Seneca Street and Third Avenue. If I have figured the clues correctly, this was recorded in 1910 or perhaps 1911. Why the Webster and Stevens Studio photographer snapped this street scene, I don’t know. But the brickwork itself is impressive enough to warrant a portrait. The new pavement came with the 1906-07 Third Avenue Regrade, which lowered Third Avenue a full story here at Seneca. Because of the city’s manic growth, the regrading was easily boosted by Seattle’s Public Works Department.
Before the regrade, Third Avenue had developed into “Church Row,” with sanctuaries tended by Methodists; Catholics; Presbyterians; Lutherans; and, biggest of them all, the Congregationalists. The landmark Plymouth Congregational Church (built in 1891) stood at the northeast corner of University, one block north of Seneca. Although less than 20 years old, it would soon be razed for an even larger secular sanctuary, the terra-cotta-clad Pantages Theatre. With the increasing commercial status of Third Avenue, the Lutherans, Methodists, Catholics and Presbyterians eventually sold their sacred footprints and moved away to cheaper corners, most of them nearby.
The ascending skyline here is the most obvious sign of the city’s growth. Hotel Savoy, mid-block on the east side of Second Avenue, was built in 1905-06 to a height of eight floors but then soon pushed higher to the dozen floors seen here. The seven-floor Eilers Music House, on the right at the corner of Third and University, was first named the D.S. Johnston Building for its founder, a piano salesman extraordinaire. For its summer opening in 1907, Johnston stocked the building with what he promised “is the largest shipment of high-grade pianos ever made west of Chicago. We unhesitatingly predict that this … will mean the greatest sale of pianos ever witnessed in the United States.”
The big home on the northwest corner of the intersection was built in the 1880s for the William H. Reeves family. In the late 1890s, Reeves joined with his neighbor across Third Avenue, the pioneer banker Dexter Horton, in operating the Seattle Doll Manufacturing Company. Reeves’ wife was president of a club whose members joined in study of the classics. The family home was sold in 1900 to partners with plans, The Seattle Times reported, to “improve the property for a handsome brick and stone business structure.” Following the 1906-07 regrade, the changes started with fronted brick storefronts like this that were typical of many other big homes in Seattle’s developing business strips during the booming growth years of the Yukon Gold Rush and afterward. This cosmopolitan retail row includes a French dry cleaner; a shop selling postcards; and, at the corner, The Beautiful Orient, where an ad in The Seattle Times advises, “all the latest styles of silk and crepe Kimonos.” A sign at the corner points down Seneca Street to the San Francisco Kosher Restaurant.
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