On August 13, 1951, a B-50 “Superfortress” bomber develops engine trouble immediately after taking off from Boeing Field. The plane glances off the Sicks’ Seattle Brewing and Malting Company and slams into nearby Lester Apartments on Beacon Hill, killing 11 people and injuring 11 others.
Sicks' Seattle Brewing and Malting Company is, of course, the Rainier Cold Storage complex on Airport Way.
[Correction: The picture of the Rainier Cold Storage Stock House on the HistoryLink page led me to believe that the bomber grazed that one of the buildings in that complex. However, Jim Harmon of Sabey Corporation (current owners of the property) and other commenters have posted that they believe the plane hit the building that is now Tully's roasting plant, up the street.]
And Lester Apartments? Apparently it was once the world's largest bordello, right here on Beacon Hill.
From the same HistoryLink essay:
Unbeknownst to many, the tragic crash also brought an end to a piece of Seattle’s more infamous past. The Lester Apartments, for years a home for working-class families and fixed-income residents, had an unseemly history that was rarely discussed by the few who remembered it.
In 1910, Hiram Gill (1866-1919) was elected mayor of Seattle in an administration rife with corruption. Gill’s chief of police, Charles Wappenstein, cut a deal with two vice-lords wherein he received $10 a month for each of the approximately 500 prostitutes in Seattle. Business was so good that the men began building a 500-room brothel on the western slope of Beacon Hill to further pad their bank accounts.
A “friendly” City Council cut the builders some slack and gave them a 15-year lease. By the time construction was complete, the local citizenry had had enough of such blatant debauchery at such a high level of office, and a recall petition was circulated against the mayor. Gill was turned out of office -- he was elected again in 1914 after vowing to crack down on vice -- and Wappenstein was sent to the state penitentiary.
What was once proclaimed the largest bordello in the world fell into disuse. Later, the 500 “cribs” were combined into multi-room apartments, and the building’s proximity to Boeing Field led many workers to take up residence there, especially during World War II. Few knew of the building’s history. At some point, it was renamed the Lester Apartments. They were destroyed in the maelstrom on August 13, 1951.
In more recent Beacon Hill prostitution news, the Beacon Lights blogger posted yesterday about the "angels of the morning" who live in our neighborhood.