The area near First Avenue South and Jackson Street was built in the early 20th century for wholesalers and manufacturers.
THE OVERSIZED posters hanging in the first-floor corner windows of the Wax and Raine Building, on the right, reveal the date for this look east on Jackson Street from First Avenue South. The posters promote the 1904 visit on Aug. 24-25 of the Ringling Brothers Circus to Seattle’s exhibition grounds, located on grassy acres that are now covered, in large part, by Memorial Stadium at Seattle Center. The circus came with one rhinoceros, two giraffes and 40 elephants. It was also the year that the still-steady Wax and Raine Building opened.
The lonely man standing in the company of a fire hydrant on that corner might be adopted as a symbol for this sturdy street. Aside from a few hotel lobbies, there is little sidewalk commercial bustle here. Jackson Street was then primarily stocked with wholesalers and manufacturers at home in new quarters built in the early years of the 20th century, most of which survive.
Perhaps the man on the corner is headed north for the big bar facing First Avenue inside the Jackson Building, out of view on the left. It was the sudsy home of Olympia Beer, which, with its recently created “It’s the Water” slogan, was Rainier Beer’s major Puget Sound competitor.
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The Jackson Building, constructed in 1901 for the Capitol Hotel, is also distinguished by the loving attention it since has received. Architect and preservationist Ralph Anderson restored the landmark in 1963. It was the first renovation in what soon became a movement and, a decade later, the Pioneer Square Historic District.
Through its first half-century, First Avenue South was easily the busiest retailing strip in Seattle and was appropriately first named Commercial Street. After its largely framed four-block-run from Yesler Way to the tideflats below King Street was consumed by the Great Fire of 1889, along with all else in Seattle’s original neighborhood, Commercial Street quickly returned to its varied enterprises. In the roaring 1890s, following the fire, Jackson Street was a generous contributor to Seattle’s skid-road neighborhood of bars and cheap lodgings, especially on its south side, where it nearly reached the King Street train trestles above the tideflats.
During the 1890s, Salvation Army street bands trumpeted concerts that competed with house bands in bars along Jackson Street. This sawdust row of cheap lodgings and obliging bars was razed to make way for the manufacturing and wholesaling brick neighborhood shown here.
Within a block of this intersection, in the 1904 Sanborn Real Estate Map, there are five hotels, a flour and feed warehouse, a ship chandler, a secondhand store, several machine shops of various sizes, a shirt factory, a printing press, a rubber factory, three plumbers’-supplies stores, a candy factory, a photo engraver, a bakery (in the alley behind the Capitol Building) and a saw shop. The latter was promoted by the billboard, shaped like a circular blade, that sits atop the roof, right of center.