Share story

TWO STRUCTURES stand out in this 1907 look across Union Street into the old campus of the Territorial University. Both seem incomplete. The ornate one on top with the comely belfry is the Territorial University building itself, stripped of its columns while still awaiting its fate.

The lower structure facing the sidewalk resembles the warehouse set atop Noah’s ark in a biblical illustration I remember. In the Bible, all the “animals two by two” were given accommodations. In this shed, however, the critters were mostly Methodists; more than 3,000 could fit inside, and apparently did. There they would sing and preach — reinvigorating the local congregations and their own faith as well as chastising selected Seattle sinners.

Apparently the tabernacle was pounded together in 1907 for the fall arrival of the evangelists Hart (the preacher) and Magann (the singer), noted on its signs. By then the landmark behind it, the University Building, was serving as temporary quarters for the Seattle Public Library. Bo Kinney, the library’s new circulation services manager, shares with us that the decision to move (by skidding) the University Building from its original foundation, near Fourth Avenue and Seneca Street, and ultimately to this site near Fifth Avenue and University Street, was announced on March 3, 1905. The building was moved to so Denny’s Knoll could be lowered and thereby allow for extending Fourth Avenue north from Seneca Street directly through the campus at the lower grade, as seen in Jean Sherrard’s repeat photo.

In early May of 1908 an appointed group of UW students started raising $10,000 to pay for barging the original Territorial University building to the new (since 1895) campus north of Lake Union’s Portage Bay. There it was envisioned that Seattle’s grandest pioneer landmark would soon add its fame to the city’s first world’s fair, the 1909 Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition. When the preservation effort failed, some of the hardwood in the old school was turned into canes, which were sold as souvenirs, mostly to alums.

Most Read Stories

Unlimited Digital Access. $1 for 4 weeks

Through the 30-plus years of the school’s stay on Denny Knoll, an estimated 5,000 young scholars had crossed beneath the Ionic columns of its main hall. The columns were saved and survive as the four white, fluted landmarks that grace the university’s Sylvan Theater.

Check out Paul Dorpat and Jean Sherrard’s blog at