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THE PRIMARY SUBJECT here is left-of-center, the four-story high sign for Alt Heidelberg Lager Beer painted on the south wall of the Ace Hotel, squeezed between Third Avenue South, seen here, and the Second Avenue South extension. The original negative for this subject is dated April 19, 1934, one year and 12 days after legal 3.2 beer began flowing from bottle to glass in 12 states, including Washington.

In the scramble to win the taste of newly liberated drinkers, Blatz Brewery in Milwaukee began shipping trainloads of its Alt Heidelberg into the hinterlands. Ornamented with a Gothic type style, the label spoke of German brewing traditions. The Milwaukee marketers also used the German “Alt” in place of the English “Old” to emphasize the venerable quality of its brew. However, with prohibition lifted, Heidelberg, like every other beer, was rushed through brewing with such speed that it was bottled nearly “green.”

The original negative for this subject is one of several hundred photographs made in the 1930s, mostly of billboards and a few murals like this one that were installed by roadside billboard barons Foster and Kleiser. Almost certainly the company photographer drove to the scene in the Straight 8 model 1930 Dodge (if I have pegged it right), which is actually parked in the southbound lane of Third Avenue South, a few feet south of Main Street.

Above the Dodge and three blocks to the north, Third Avenue almost reaches the city-county building, right-of-center, before turning left to follow the city’s grid through the central business district north of Yesler Way. North was the preferred direction for businesses even before the pioneer Frye family chose to stay in this most historic district and construct its namesake hotel on the south side of Yesler at Third Avenue in 1909. The big block letters of its neon signs top the scene.

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Also on April 19, an unseasonably warm spring day of 79 degrees, The Seattle Times printed under the header “Romance on Rocks,” scandalous news about the daughter of local celebrity Presbyterian preacher, the Rev. Mark Matthews. Gwladys, her name, who was then living in San Francisco and teaching French, had filed for divorce.

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