Jean Sherrard finds the same space for his ‘Now’ photo of Madison and Third, but a much different time.
MAY WE NOTE first a happy coincidence — instructive, too — between this week’s “Then” and “Now” photos?
Jean Sherrard has lifted his Nikon to a prospect above the southwest corner of Third Avenue and Madison Street that seems to resemble the elevation reached about a century ago by the historical, although unnamed, “Then” photographer. Jean has extended his pole-mounted camera into a zone of overhead wires that might resemble — for you, too? — that surreal moment when the spacecraft Cassini passed through the Rings of Saturn.
In fact, Jean’s camera paused for his “click” within a few inches of the sidewalk of 112 years ago, before the Third Avenue regrade cut 17 feet from the intersection. Before the cutting, cable cars on Madison Street climbed the third-steepest grade in the cable-car industry here between Second and Third avenues.
The intersection’s rough northeast kitty-corner still shows the scars left by the deep grading along Third and Madison about 10 years before the “Then” photo was recorded circa 1916.
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From 1890 until its destruction in 1906 by regrades, this northeast corner was the home of “polite vaudeville,” with a “family formula” featuring acts “without booze, peanuts or catcalls.” Here the scarred corner has been terraced for and signed by the Hopkins Nursery, perhaps the British-born Thomas Hopkins, who, with his sons, later ran an award-winning and long-lived nursery in Bothell.
To this side of the terraced nursery sits a nifty two-door shed at the corner. It promotes itself as a “union shop” that cleans, shines and dyes “ladies and gents shoes,” and also sells, cleans, presses and reblocks men’s hats.
The largest sign stuck in the dirt above the corner shed reads, in part, “For Lease or Owners Will Build.” Soon the east side of Third Avenue between Madison and Spring streets was fitted with an array of single-story brick storefronts, popularly called “Real Estate Row.”
All the sidewalk shops were fitted with skylights of the same sort and size — at least 10 of them. Behind the retail “row” was one of cars, parked west of an alley running the block. East of the alley and up the hill were the two landmark buildings filling much of the frame: On the right is the Lincoln Hotel, built in 1899 and destroyed by fire in 1920. Left of center stands the Elks Club, dedicated in 1914 and sold to the Jewish Community Center in 1958. It was purchased by Seafirst Bank in 1964 for the eventual building of its dark glass-curtain tower, dedicated in 1968.
Far left and facing Fourth Avenue a half-block north, the Independent Telephone Co. completed the photo’s frame on the left. It joined the hot early 20th-century competition to wire the city with telephone lines. Erected in 1902, the building’s “most interesting part,” The Times reported, was its concrete floors and partitions. It was “a feature never before employed in the construction of any other building in Seattle.”