The department store, built in 1918, survived a development project that wiped out an attractive flatiron building next door to make room for a three-story retail center.

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IN A NOTE scribbled on the 1937 tax card for this modest block, it is named the “triangle.” Bordered by Pine Street, Fifth Avenue and Westlake Avenue, it is one of about a dozen triangles attached to Westlake Avenue through its seven-block run between Fourth Avenue and Denny Way.

Pacific NW Magazine: Week of Sept. 19

Oscar Galvan, center, serves wine to Scott and Joyce Cutler from Kirkland, the couple on the right, and Dwight and Karen Sawtell from Edmonds, on the outdoor patio at Cafe Juanita. (Johnny Andrews/The Seattle Times)
Oscar Galvan, center, serves wine to Scott and Joyce Cutler from Kirkland, the couple on the right, and Dwight and Karen Sawtell from Edmonds, on the outdoor patio at Cafe Juanita. (Johnny Andrews/The Seattle Times)

The triangles, and about seven more irregularly shaped blocks, date from 1906-07, when Westlake Avenue was cut through the original city grid. This eccentric regrade was meant to channel increasing traffic to Denny Way. From there, it was to continue through the “funnel,” as the South Lake Union retail neighborhood was sometimes called, to the picturesque viaduct built in 1890 for pedestrians, wagons and trolleys along the west shore of Lake Union, all the way to Fremont.

This is one of three Webster and Stevens Studio photographs of the charming flatiron, with its waving cornice. Another of the photos looks in the opposite direction and shows the same motorcar parked on Westlake (perhaps the photographer’s) and a produce stand with its fruit and customers protected by an awning. The Pearl Oyster and Chop House is next to the produce stand. Taped to its windows are posters promoting the weeklong visit to the Metropolitan Theatre, beginning Jan. 7, of the Shakespearean troupe led by the “eminent” actor John E. Kellerd.

It is by this bit of advertising we can easily figure that the three photos were taken sometime in late 1917 or early 1918.

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In the 1908 Baist Real Estate map, only a small wooden shed is footprinted on the block. By 1912, the block had been tightly fitted for the little retail center captured here, and through its few years of existence, it also was home for the Seattle station of the Everett Interurban trolley cars, which started running in 1910.

Sometime in 1918, this attractive triangle was razed and replaced with a three-story structure that bordered the block with a foundation sturdy enough to support a 12-story high-rise that was never constructed. Through more than a half-century of service and two remodels (in 1949 and 1959), the triangle serviced many retailers.

Judging by ads published in this paper through the first weeks of 1919, the quickly built three-story replacement was completed sometime in late 1918. The first tenants were The Silk Shop, Violet Tatus’ New Hat Shop and the New Owl Drug Company. The building was named the Silverstone, after Jay C. Silverstone, a Kansas City native who moved to Seattle with his family to found the Boston Drug Company. Silverstone became a super-promoter for properties in this nearly new retail neighborhood. When he added the little flatiron to his neighborhood holdings, a headline in The Seattle Times for Sept. 2, 1917, read, “New Retail/District Sets Record Price for Seattle Realty.”

Silverstone and his brother Hiram, a physician practicing in Kansas City, purchased the block from Seattle architect John Graham, paying “$56 Per Square Foot for the Westlake Triangle,” which figured to $250,000, most of it in cash.