‘The Club’ — on Eighth Avenue — was completed in 1902 and moved in 1961 to its current home on Dexter Avenue, overlooking Lake Union.
I’M PULLED INTO this clutter of storefront commerce and small hotels that extends through about half of the west side of Eighth Avenue between Pine and Olive streets.
Photographed in 1938, the year of my nativity, it offers attractions that I remember from my youth, first in Grand Forks, N.D., and then — beginning in 1946 — in Spokane. Following Locksmith Snyder’s many keys and services, far left, are the 35-cent haircuts available from the Eighth Avenue Barber at 1619 Eighth Ave., and Jackson C. Clifford’s Red Front Cigar Store, at 1621. After that comes the modest front door to the Olive Court Apartments. There, Mrs. Sigrid Fales is in charge, equipped with a telephone. Most likely, Sigrid was originally from Northern Europe, and as Scandinavian as her nearby neighbors directly across Eighth Avenue, the Viking Tavern and Krono Coffee Shop, both at 1622 Eighth Ave. Next door to Sigrid is her grandest neighbor, The Swedish Club.
“The Club,” as its many members called it, was the best evidence that downtown Seattle had its own “Snoose Junction” or corner, a variation on Ballard. From its beginning, The Swedish Club was an institutional reminder of the departed homeland. It was a profound and shared nostalgia that ran through its many banquets for fondly remembered traditional gatherings, and its choral concerts, dances and opportunities for mixing and courting. Also in a less-secular line, the neighborhood’s Gethsemane Lutheran, Swedish Baptist, First Covenant, Reformer Presbyterian and other churches were all Scandinavian-sourced congregations.
The Swedish Club was first organized on Aug. 12, 1892, by recently arrived Swedes. They were young and living in Belltown’s Stockholm Hotel. It was a name chosen to attract them. Despite the economic crash or panic of 1893 and following, the club flourished, largely because there were so many migrating Swedes. (Migrating Norwegians and Danes had their own clubs.)
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Using the often-generous contributions from members of the burgeoning Swedish community, the club built its home here on its own terms. Andrew Chilberg, the Seattle-based vice consul for Sweden and Norway, was a charter member, and the club’s first president. He was also founder of the Scandinavian-American Bank: Seattle’s Scandinavian godfather. He bought the property for the club’s construction and half-century of use.
N.D. Nelson, a partner in Frederick & Nelson Department Store, also helped with the club’s financing and first construction, as did Otto Roselead, the contractor for The Swedish Club and Swedish Hospital. The dark-brick facade, with its ornamental banding and spiral scrolls, or volutes — both seen here — was soon added to the original frame structure when the neighborhood was regraded.
The diverse flips in needs and interests that have understandably followed through the club’s now-century-and-a-quarter of service are typical for cultural institutions that have their origins in another hemisphere. It has been a long time since members were more likely to join classes to learn Swedish than English. Now sponsored group flights to the homeland are fast and, for many, affordable.