WHEN THE Marine Hospital opened to 84 veteran patients in 1933, many transferred from the federal government’s old hospital in Port Townsend, the new Art Deco high-rise on Beacon Hill looked much higher than its 16 stories. From its roof it also seemed taller, as evidenced by this panorama that looks north over both the Dearborn Cut (1909-1912) and the Jackson Street Regrade (1907-1909). This view affords a revealing profile of First Hill, making it actually look like a hill. Since the early 1960s Interstate 5, far left in the “now,” gave the hill a western border. The slope of its eastern border, here at center far right, is occupied for the most part by the low-rise structures of Seattle University.
In 1940, the likely year for this “then,” the skyline of First Hill was scored with landmarks that are still standing, although by now most are hidden behind higher structures. These include the Swedish Medical Center campus, which is right-of-center in the “now.” The grandest exception is Harborview Medical Center. In this circa 1940 photo its gleaming Art Deco tower stands out, left-of-center. In Jean Sherrard’s “repeat,” Harborview, while half-hidden, still shows its true color, a pale cafe latte.
The photographer’s primary subject here is the swath of open lots and mostly doomed residences that run through the center of the image. Within two years of this recording, a Seattle Housing Authority photographer visited the Marine Hospital again and recorded another panorama showing the completed Yesler Terrace public-housing complex. Nearly 700 housing units with free utilities and low rents averaging about $17 a month replaced the former neighborhood of mostly modest Victorian residences.
To see this and other photos of the area, visit my blog with Jean, www.pauldorpat.com. Jean and I will be giving a presentation, “First Hill and Beyond,” 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 3, at Town Hall. In the lobby, you can also see our “Now and Then” exhibit of this and other First Hill subjects.
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