In 1930, Seattle's Second Avenue still bustled with businesses, but many of them would fall under the grinding weight of the Great Depression.

Share story

by Paul Dorpat

SEATTLE’S MUNICIPAL archivist, Scott Cline, has determined that this Second Avenue scene is part of a group of Public Works Department images that date from late 1930. And nothing, it seems, in the scene itself contradicts the date. But what was of interest here to the city’s own photographer?

In 1930 the Department of Streets was well along with spreading a layer of concrete over the red brick streets in the business district. Perhaps this is a portrait of bricks in need of that makeover. Or is it the rough condition of the trolley-boarding box outlined in white below the center of the scene? Or the Carl Gould-designed light standards with their alabaster rippled glassware bracketed in caste bronze?

The view looks north through University Street into the retail heart of a Second Avenue hustling with traffic, stately commercial signs and, on the right, two jewelers’ sidewalk clocks.

Only one year into the Great Depression then, many of the businesses packed on both sides of Second will not survive the decade. The losers include Burnett Bros., M.A. Green and Frank Victor, the three jewelers on this east side of the 1300 block.

The distinguished men’s store Klopfenstein’s — with the tall, slim sign right-of-center — would make it through the Depression and beyond, but its famous competitor across the street in the Arcade building, the Browning King Co., would not. This century-old chain of haberdasheries, which outfitted the California gold rush and the soldiers of the Civil and Spanish wars, went bankrupt in 1934.

Other concerns between University and Union include the Rhodes Bros. 10 Cent Store and the Rhodes Department Store, F.W. Woolworth and Bartell Drugs (at Union).

“Washington Then and Now,” by Paul Dorpat and Jean Sherrard, can be purchased through ($45).