I LEFT HOME for the first time in the mid-1970s, bound for college on a cross-state bus. My parents stood together at the gates of the bustling Greyhound depot at Eighth and Stewart, but only my mom waved goodbye, as if wiping a fogged window.
Just another emotional departure — to be followed a few months later by a joyful reunion — enacted in the charmless station, witness to decades of greetings, farewells and brimming buckets of tears.
Known for the slender, midstride canine in its visual brand, Greyhound began with a single seven-seat bus in 1915. The ubiquitous fleet rolled across America’s heartland and into its hearts, mythologized in popular culture as the buzzing locus of accessible romance and adventure.
From the Oscar-bedecked Frank Capra comedy “It Happened One Night” to Paul Simon’s aural anthem “America,” boarding a bus suggested the promise of open roads, unknown vistas and cute meets. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.
Twenty years before Greyhound acquired it, Seattle’s Central Terminal was erected in 1927 by the Stone and Webster Management Company, a nationwide utilities cartel with fingers in many pies. (Its complex genealogy can be traced directly to today’s Puget Sound Energy.)
While antimonopoly laws eventually divided the pies into smaller slices, its three-story, brick-clad Seattle structure was an innovation, accommodating motorized cross-country buses and intercity electric trains within a single station.
Its lively inauguration on Sept. 12, 1927, included a parade of progress along Stewart Street, led by a primitive, hand-drawn sled and concluding with “the most modern motor coach.” Bertha Landes, Seattle’s first female mayor and the honorary conductor, rang a trolley bell to herald the Seattle-Everett Interurban car’s virgin trip from the sparkling station.
This confident investment in the future of mixed-use travel had a shelf life of only 11 years. By 1939, buses shouldered out trains, and tracks were torn up and smelted down, replaced by gasoline engines and rubber tires.
In 2015, the terminal was demolished, giving way to high-rise development. I have visited the site several times to capture a photographic whiff of those heartfelt arrivals and departures where Greyhounds once growled. That aroma, however, has been dispelled by the winds of change.
The newly completed Hyatt Regency monolith — at 45 stories and 1,260 rooms, Seattle’s largest hotel — surely boasts luxurious interiors and spectacular views of the city. But its glossy, street-level exterior seems uninviting.
A passing mail carrier offers a trenchant critique: “Five years ago, Eighth Avenue was filled with little shops and businesses. Now it’s all glass walls. Did you know that over there was once a bus depot?”