WE BEGIN THIS installment with indecision — Is it Interbay, or is it Belltown? — and hope that one or more of Seattle’s rail fans eventually will expose which of our two “Now” images comes closer to repeating this week’s featured historical photograph.
Ron Edge appears in both of our “Now” photos because he first introduced the “Then” one to us. He acquired this slumbering classic of five early Seattle streetcars from an online dealer in Austin, Texas. It would be interesting to know the travels of this cabinet card the past 129 years and how many hands it passed through before returning home.
Edge frequently contributes to this weekly feature. An impassioned collector-cartographer, he has become familiar with Seattle’s history through clues found in its artifacts and ephemera. These might include artists’ panoramas, and the calculations, sketches and maps held in private hands throughout the world — all of them awaiting researchers.
Such efforts often are revealed to us with the uncovering of an old photograph like this one. Although this is clearly a Seattle classic, I had never seen it. Surely many more unknown historical images of Seattle have been distributed to the four winds and are slowly reappearing for sale online.
For our two “Now” images, Edge put his safety in the clicking hands of Jean Sherrard, who posed Edge near the centerlines of two Seattle arterials, Western Avenue in Belltown and 15th Avenue West in Interbay.
In 1890, the likely year for our “Then,” both streets were sections of then-new West Street, served by the North End Electric Railway Company’s fresh franchise between its suburban terminus in the new and burgeoning Ballard and the Seattle waterfront near West (now Western) Avenue and Madison Street. For evidence of the line’s Ballard origin, note the “Salmon Bay” painted on the front car.
So which “Now” is it, dear reader? Eventually, Edge persuaded Sherrard and me that these trolleys, along with two dozen hatted motormen and gentleman passengers, are posing on Western Avenue, somewhere near Cedar Street in Belltown. To make this claim, he compared the relative inclines of Denny Hill (then still standing) above Western Avenue and the still-steep Queen Anne Hill ridge above 15th Avenue West.
There are, however, other “considerations.” For the curious among you, we explain them in our blog. The last word here is a suggestion from Edge: “Perhaps we are all wrong.”