Admission to Seattle’s first multiday summer festival was one thin dime, for acres of attractions.
THE ARCH STANDING here at the southeast corner of Union Street and Third Avenue was short-lived, like every other ceremonial ornament contrived for the Seattle Street Fair and Carnival, assembled and produced by the Seattle Elks Lodge for 13 sunny days in August 1902.
This arch, the only rustic one, was the odd one of four built for the fair. It was a vernacular showpiece with a somewhat exotic shape, covered overall with cedar shakes, making it regional, while wrapped with electric lights, making it modern.
The other three arches, by contrast, were all white, reminders of the also-temporary Beaux Arts architecture of Chicago’s 1893 World’s Fair. The two largest spanned First and Second avenues widely enough to permit electric trolleys to pass through.
With their ornamental splendor, the three classical arches also were unwitting premonitions of Seattle’s own World’s Fair, its 1909 Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition. One of the three crossed Union Street about a half-block behind (west) of the unnamed photographer. With two booths asking for the 10-cent admission, it served the fair as the main ticket gate to the fenced celebration.
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The dime paid for everything spread about on the acres selected from the former University of Washington campus. The off-campus Third Avenue block between Union and University streets was also lined with booths, and Union Street as well, from the ticket booth east into the old campus that was covered with tents, such as the one seen on the far right of the “Then” photograph.
And nearly everything was enveloped in strings of electric lights. The Elks promised that the grounds at night would be “almost as light as day.”
Some of the thrills inside the fenced tents were an “Arabian trainer in a den of lions”; a “cage of leopards”; “Jabour’s Oriental Carnival and Menageries Company”; and “a troupe of 160 Orientals, Turks, Assyrians, Egyptians, East Indians, Japanese,” in addition to “dozens of unusual things.” The Elks fair also was distinguished and promoted by daily parades through the city streets. One of the attractions was a “ladies band with eighteen pieces.”
Although exceptionally civic-minded, the Plymouth Congregational Church, on the far right at University Street, was not inside the fenced fairgrounds. The Armory, the structure with the long roof half-hidden behind the arch, was.
Among its many well-promoted events was a contest in the “pretty booth,” with prizes for the prettiest girl and the handsomest boy, and for “the largest and fattest baby 16 months old.” The judge was a local doctor who prudently fled the Armory following the contests.