The Jan. 21 Women’s March followed the path of past downtown parades.

Share story

LAWTON GOWEY, once the Director of Finance for the Seattle Water Department, recorded this week’s “then” photo. This old friend, now more than three decades deceased (1921-83), was a public worker who studied and extensively photographed the built city. He carried a 35mm camera loaded with Kodachrome transparency (slide) film.

Gowey’s subject is a relatively recent one, dated July 4, 1957. It is still easy to place. For this Independence Day parade portrait, Lawton took his photographer’s crouch on the east side of Fourth Avenue, standing just off the curb and a little less than a half-block south of Pike Street.

Most of the structures, but not the businesses, in Gowey’s photo survive, including the Seaboard Building (built from 1906 to 1909) at the corner of Fourth and Pike, to the right of the light standard. Behind the same standard, but two blocks north on Fourth, the Mayflower Hotel stands at the corner with Olive Way. Nearby, the Great Northern Railroad’s long-popular symbol of a mountain goat looks from its monumental neon circle up the center of Fourth Avenue.

The block-sized Bon Marché, opened in 1929 and remodeled in 1955 as the “largest department store west of Chicago,” holds the center of the “then” photo. To this side of The Bon, the two three-story-tall gaudy signs for Gasco (1932) and the Colonial Theatre (1913) rise side-by-side above the busy sidewalk where street photographers sold pedestrians their candid portraits. Many of these unwitting but generally willing subjects were on their way to or from Manning’s Coffee, at 1533 Fourth Ave. Manning’s, a small chain, was the “Acknowledged Quality Coffee Stores of the Pacific Coast,” and so perhaps, the too-often-forgotten fountainhead of Seattle’s rich coffee reputation.

Left of center, at the northwest corner of Fourth and Pike, stands the seven-story Bigelow Building. It was named for the pioneer couple Harry and Emma Bigelow, who, after purchasing the waterlogged corner from Arthur and Mary Denny in the 1870s, left it to its croaking. It was soon named “Harry’s Frog Pond.” They replaced the wetland with their big home in 1883. The Bigelow Building in the “then” photo was built in 1923 and replaced in the 1980s by the Century Square retail and office complex.

When the Joshua Green Building, far left, opened in 1913, the men’s clothier Lundquist-Lilly occupied the second floor due to lower rent, promising to share the savings with their customers. Lundquist and Lilly hoped their clientele would be impressed by, “The big saving we make in sidestepping the tremendous operative expense which all street-level clothiers are up against … Our furniture and fixtures are very plain; you pay only for clothes. That’s why we give you a $25.00 suit for $15.00.”

The July 4, 1957, parade of mostly marching military units that celebrated the 181st anniversary of America’s assertion of independence from King George III was a modest display. By police estimates, the parade attracted a crowd of about 25,000. This was pint-size parading when compared, for instance, to the 150,000 who lined Fourth Avenue to greet President Harry Truman during his 1948 visit to Seattle.