Many Seattle florists set up shop near the corner of Union Street and Ninth Avenue.
ASIDE FROM WHAT is printed on the photo itself, there is no surviving caption or credit for this record of the “N.W. Cor. 9th + Union St.”
The 4-by-5 print came to me from Stan Unger, a generous enthusiast of regional history. More than a history buff, he is a preservationist. When Unger was working in the county assessor’s office in the early 1950s, he was invited to retrieve, and so also preserve, about 4,000 tax photos from the “circular file,” most dating between 1937 and 1941.
Here at its intersection with Ninth Avenue, Union Street completes a 3,000-foot run from the waterfront to a grade on First Hill too steep for a street. Instead, one must climb a path — behind the photographer — that reaches Terry Avenue one block east and about 70 feet higher.
Well into the 20th century, the precipitous hill at this point was relatively useless for easy development. It stood out and up, covered with a remnant of virgin forest after the land around it was clear-cut in the 1880s.
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On the 1904-05 Sanborn Fire Insurance map, the southeast corner’s surviving verdure is marked as “old timber reserve.” (We have included photos of this evergreen thicket in our blog). Kitty-corner to the copse there was nothing yet on this northwest corner in 1904, but there soon would be. A foundation outline of the wholesale florist here appears on the 1908 Baist Map. A Works Progress Administration photographer almost certainly recorded this photo in 1937.
Below a second floor of steam-heated apartments, and next door to Sing Kee’s Chinese hand laundry (far left), the Union Street addresses of 820-824 were held by florist wholesaler David Lloyd Jones. Born in 1897 in Carbonado, Wash., he was the son of a Welsh immigrant coal miner. Jones became a Presbyterian leader, in his 20s, of the church’s youth activities, and continued into the 1960s as chairman of the planning committee for building the denomination’s Park Shore retirement home on Lake Washington. In 1933, Jones was named secretary of the Northwest Florists’ Association. His flourishing sales on Union attracted other wholesale florists to the street.
In a Feb. 1, 1970, column in The Times, John J. Reddin remembered Union Street and “the many wholesale florists with their wares piled high outside on sidewalks, especially during the days prior to Easter or Mother’s Day when retail florists’ trucks and automobiles made repeat trips to the wholesale house for cut flowers, plants and florist supplies. But, alas, the freeway’s ‘dog leg’ took part of upper Union Street, and ‘Florist Row’ moved to a new location.” Actually, the surviving florists scattered to varied locations.
In 1974, Jones rolled his car twice on Interstate 90 in Eastern Washington, 50 miles west of Moses Lake. He might have been returning from a meeting at Whitworth College in Spokane, where he served as a trustee for 41 years. The wholesale florist did not survive the wreck, dying at the age of 77.