THE TIME: June 1909. The place: inside Bartell’s Owl Drug Store on Second Avenue, just north of Yesler Way. The milieu: a lovely evening. This vignette is imagined, but the historical details are factual! 

The proprietor arranges a display in his shop window. The entry bell jingles. In walks a well-dressed customer. 

Lyman Cornelius Smith: George Bartell, isn’t it? 

George Bartell: Lyman Cornelius Smith, as I live and breathe. Let me guess. You’re here for the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition? 

Smith: Indeed. All the way from Syracuse in upstate New York, and well worth the trip. Seattle has surely proven her mettle with this magnificent World’s Fair. 

Bartell: So what can I do you for, L. C.? Liver pills, trusses? Our new Syrup of Hypophosphates is a fine picker-upper. 


Smith: I have news, George. I’ll be turning 60 next year. I’m no Carnegie, but I’ve done all right. 

Bartell: Can hardly go wrong manufacturing shotguns and typewriters, L.C. 

Smith: Truth is, I’m inclined to erect something special right here on this spot. Make my mark. 

Bartell: Mighty kind of you to give me notice personally. 

Smith: You’ve been here, what, 10 years? 

Bartell: Eleven. After my year in the Yukon in ’98. 

Smith: Didn’t “pan out,” eh? (He chuckles.) I was thinking 18 stories tall, but my son Burns wants to go higher. 

Bartell: Just opened my fourth drugstore, L.C. I say, go big or go home. 


Smith: Which is why I asked my architects — the Gaggins brothers — to up the ante. How’s 42 stories sound? 

Bartell whistles appreciatively. 

Smith: Tallest building west of the Mississippi. Steel-framed, white terra cotta, my initials carved on every floor. 

The bell jingles again. In walks a man in a butcher’s apron. He offers a package. 

Man: Two pounds of nice fresh cod for you, George. Just what the doctor ordered. 

Bartell: L.C., this is Nessim Alhadeff. Runs the Palace Market next door. 

Alhadeff: Sold Mr. Smith oysters a few years back, when I first signed the lease. Are rumors true? You will tickle the sky? 


Smith (with a laugh): Scrape the clouds, Nessim. And how’s family life? 

Alhadeff: My brothers are here working for me now — all from the Isle of Rhodes. My English is still not so good, but getting better. 

Yet again, the bell jingles. In walk a man and a boy of 4 or 5. 

Man: Got anything for an upset tummy? My boy ate too much cotton candy at the fair. 

Bartell: Seltzer, maybe? 

Man: Say, “Thank you,” Ivar.