There’s not much of note in this photo from March 1940, but there sure was a lot going on the day it was taken.
LOWER ROOSEVELT WAY is an arterial that, aside from the bascule bridge it is attached to, seemingly was developed without many distinguished landmarks. Here, it was photographed on the afternoon of March 14, 1940.
The view looks north on Roosevelt Way from its northeast corner with Northeast 41st Street. Seventy-seven years later, hardly anything survives except the nearby utility pole and the fire hydrant at the bottom-right corner. They are, at least, nearly the same. A temporary 7 feet or so of whitewash was applied below the street sign on the 1940 pole. The sign reads, “E. 41st St.” but not yet “N.E.” Actually, there is one string of landmarks here in 1940: the syncopated clutter of the long line of tall power poles competing for our attention on the east side of Roosevelt Way.
When the bascule bridge that crossed the narrow passage between Lake Union and Portage Bay was opened in 1919, it was sometimes called the Eastlake Bridge after its south-end tie, and other times the Brooklyn Bridge for its north-end Brooklyn Addition — but most often, and perhaps inevitably, the University Bridge for its nearby and dominant campus landmark. By the time its north feed, 10th Avenue Northeast, was renamed in 1933 for two popular presidents — one passed and one brand-new — Roosevelt Way was well along with its development into one of Seattle’s auto rows, with several dealerships, garages, used-car lots and full-service filling stations.
Checking The Seattle Times archive for March 14, 1940, we find that while celebrating his 61st birthday in Princeton with the press, Albert Einstein was asked whether he had any plans in the “immediate future” to go public with new discoveries about his “unified theory.” The cosmologist answered, “No, no. I’m having difficulty there.”
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Meanwhile, that afternoon, with a less cosmic attitude, the deliberating Seattle City Council voted to revoke the license of the Rialto Theatre after sampling the theater’s rum-flavored toffee and peeking into its “view boxes.” For the politicians’ edification and distraction, the Rialto’s manager projected into its ordinarily bawdy boxes lush transparencies of Far East pagodas and stone monuments and not “nudes in a variety of poses,” or other First Amendment-testing titillations that the theater’s late-night customers — mostly older men — paid 10 cents to watch and/or sleep the night through from the comforts of the heated theater’s cushioned seats.