IT’S A GAME I play with others while on a Bainbridge or Bremerton ferry, or at West Seattle’s Hamilton Viewpoint Park down the street from my home: “Do you have a favorite building in the downtown skyline?”
I have my own answer at the ready. “It’s easy,” I say with a smile. “It’s the building without which I would not be possible.” And it figures near the center of our “Then” photo, a pastel-tinged postcard image that looks southeast from Magnolia on a bright afternoon during the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair, or shortly thereafter.
It’s the Terminal Sales Building, the stately, large-windowed, 11-floor Seattle landmark at First and Virginia, seen here mostly from its north side, left of the shaded Seattle Tower.
Designed by Henry Bittman and built in 1923, the Terminal Sales Building is where my dad, Henry Eals, arrived in 1947, from Kentucky by way of Los Angeles, to work as a clothing salesman. His office was on the 10th floor. Soon he met Virginia Slate, a West Seattle lass who worked in a dishware shop on the first floor. The two married in 1950, and a year later I was … made possible.
Also possible is a different game essential to “Now & Then” that Paul Dorpat, originator of this column, likens to “hide and seek.” It’s to discern what in the “Then” photo appears in the “Now,” and what is hidden.
Still in full salute are both skylines’ famous bookends — the Space Needle, in original colors, and Smith Tower, the pointed sentinel that stood as the tallest building on the West Coast from its completion in 1914 until erection of the Needle in 1962.
Among many hidden edifices in our “Now” photo are the Terminal Sales Building and Seattle Tower, plus most of the snow-bare Cascade Range. Scores of skyscrapers take their place.
Of course, the angle of a photo and the lens with which it is taken can affect what is visible. For example, in our “Now,” with a slightly different vantage and focal length from our “Then,” the brown Pacific Medical Center (Amazon’s early home) at the northern tip of Beacon Hill at far right is tucked closer to Smith Tower. Yet it’s also a tad south in relation to its Cascade backdrop.
The top edge of our “Now” is a little higher to accommodate — what else, these days? — a crane atop the under-construction Rainier Square Tower, now Seattle’s second-tallest building, fewer than 100 feet shy of the crowning, 937-foot Columbia Center to its right.
Providing solace for our game is a “Then” seaplane cruising north for an eventual landing at Lake Union — a charming reminder that a few things never seem to change.