Interstate 5 meant major changes through downtown Seattle, but many of the old buildings remain.
LIKE ANY high-rise panorama, this one, from the Washington Athletic Club, is both stacked and stocked with stories, of which we can touch only a very few. First, far right in the “then” photo from the WAC roof (taken, I suspect, by Lawton Gowey), the twin towers of St. James Cathedral (1907) transcend the First Hill horizon.
In the “now,” one of the two towers peeks through the slot of First Hill that is revealed between the Park Place Building (1972) and One Union Square (1981). Left-of-center, its neighbor, Two Union Square (1987-88) reaches 56 stories and is the third-highest building in Seattle. Together, One and Two hide most of the horizon revealed in the “then.”
On the left in the “now” photo, Eagles Auditorium (1924-25), home of ACT Theatre since 1993, fills the corner of Seventh Avenue and Union Street, and to the east its terra-cotta skin approaches the green glass of the Washington State Convention & Trade Center (1985-88).
The “then” photo barely predates the Seattle freeway section of Interstate 5. Consequently, there is no Freeway Park, which in the “now” is shown with the Convention Center and the autumnal-toned landscape seen between the two Union Squares. Instead, the “then” gives us a spread of the parking lots and small hotels that once sat on a few of the thousands of parcels of Seattle properties cleared for the freeway.
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For a reader’s game of hide and seek, we will name a few more of the built landmarks that appear in the “then” or “now” panoramas, or in both: the Exeter House; Normandie, Cambridge and Van Siclen apartments; Fourth Church of Christ, Scientist (Town Hall since 1999); Horizon House; Virginia Mason and Swedish hospitals; the side-by-side Marlborough and Panorama apartment buildings; Nettleton House; and — giving these away — the new blue-and-salmon-colored Meridian Tower, which rises behind the spreading Electra apartments on the left. The concrete Electra was built in 1949 as one of Seattle’s largest midcentury moderns and converted to condominiums in the 1990s.