OUR FEBRUARY SNOW, like the October 1937 deposit photographed here on University Way, was something greater than one of our more-typical winter teases that rush to mush. In these two years — 1937 and 2019 — a white blanket packed a few inches above our chilled cityscape and stuck around.
Portland, 170 scenic miles to the south, received its heaviest snowstorm in 31 years in 1937. Hundreds of autos were stalled, truck farmers were unable to reach Portland’s markets and all the city’s schools were closed. It was called a “child memory event.” Here in Seattle that year, at the northwest corner of University Way and 55th Street, University Heights School (built in 1903) also was closed, but only for one day.
The photographer’s preferred subject here is surely the two husky trolleys busting north through the half-foot-deep drifts on “The Ave.” These municipal carriers had a mere three years left for rolling on rails before being scrapped when the city’s street railways were replaced with buses and trackless trolleys, most of them in 1940.
Portland’s greater 1937 storm taught its transit team an unrequested lesson: It was neither streetcars nor gas-powered buses that worked best in the 1½-foot drifts that fell there. It was the trackless trolleys and rolling rubber.
Many of our readers, I suspect and hope, can identify the high-rise immediately to the right of the charging trolleys at the Seattle scene’s center. The modern 15 stories (some sources claim 16) of Art Deco design were dedicated in 1931. The Edmond Meany Hotel was built and financed with a community bond drive during the early years of the Great Depression.
There was then plenty of time for Meany, the hotel’s namesake professor, to prepare one of his speeches for the dedication. Meany’s sententious offerings were typically well-stocked with school and neighborhood history.
Meany lived with his wife near the north end of the University Bridge and so also near the hotel. He died in 1935 in his campus office while getting ready for a class. Eventually, and perhaps inevitably, his name was removed from the front door of the hotel. It is now called Graduate Seattle, formerly the Hotel Deca, for the landmark’s modern design. Meany also had a campus hall named for him.