Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Prostitution on Beacon Hill, Then and Now

I was just browsing HistoryLink and came across this South End story.

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.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Neighborhood Notes

Full Throttle Bottles is open for business! The grand opening event won't be held for another week or so, but Full Throttle Bottles, a new beer and wine shop, has soft-launched. Come by and say hi to Erika, Mike, or Aimee (but not today, as they're closed on Mondays). 5909 Airport Way South.

What's up at 13th and Shelton? Has anyone heard about a little cafe and theater that will be going into the old deVos corner store at 13th and Shelton? Do tell!

Whatever happened to Rainier Valley? A reader points out that the P-I has renamed it.

Grow in Georgetown. The Oxbow P-patch has Oxbow P-patch, right by the Hat and Boots, has a few open spots. Sign up for one.

Swing and eat in Georgetown. Somewhere in Time, Unlimited (SITU), a local historic costumed group, will host a 1920's Prohibition era dance with potluck dinner Sunday, March 30th, 4:00 PM to 8:00 PM, at the Georgetown Ballroom, 5625 Airport Way S, Seattle, WA 98108. Music to be provided by Chicago 7 (of Beacon Hill), and dances will include the Charleston, tango, Lindy Hop and other early swing dances. Dinner will be potluck, and guests are encouraged to bring a dish fitting the theme. Come in your best flapper dress or zoot suit, as a movie starlet or gentleman in disguise. Cost is $20 for SITU members and $25 for non-members. Non-members may join SITU for $10 per person or household, per year; check the website or call Rita Harris at 206-720-7606 for a membership form and instructions on where to send it.

9 Lb. Hammer has a little sister in South Park. The 9 Lb. Hammer folks have just opened Loretta's, a steakhouse and bar at 8617 14th Avenue S. The Seattle Weekly likes it.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Conceptual Drawing of the Christian Restoration Center Replacement

Here's the first published conceptual drawing of the condo/retail development that will replace the Christian Restoration Center at 15th and Oregon. From the Rudeen website:


The architects are H+DLT Collaborative, whose past projects aren't particularly inspired, but at least do not make me want to break down in tears. The H+DLT designs are certainly several steps up from the designs that Rudeen has typically worked from in the past. I'm not knowledgeable enough about design and construction to guess how well a standard big-box developer might work with a higher-end architecture firm, but I do have hope this could be a good thing for the neighborhood. (Especially if an independent restaurateur starts serving dinner and drinks in one of those retail spaces, please God.)

The scale of this structure seems out of place if you compare it to the low-built (and dilapidated and dirty and depressing) structures at Beacon and Columbian, but not so much if you compare it to the large (and dilapidated and dirty and depressing) residential developments down the road by the I-5 and West Seattle Bridge onramps. Or the nearby VA Hospital. It seems inevitable that our commercial thoroughfares will get a little taller.

As long as we don't end up with tanning/nail salons, FedEx centers, check-cashing places, chain food, or malt liquor quickie marts on that retail level, I'm actually kind of excited to see what happens here. Since I don't golf or throw weddings or dry-clean my clothes, and since I discovered that the Vietnamese sandwiches at Fou Lee don't hold a candle to the fresh ones in the nearby I-District, and that you can't drop in and get a cold six-pack at the Seattle Supermarket, and that the MC Foods gas station fails my can-I-just-fill-my-tank-outside-and-go test, I honestly have no interest in any of the stuff at Beacon and Columbian. But some of this new stuff could be useful to me.

I don't know. What do you guys think?

P.S. Jim Claeys, who's been discussed in the comments of some of these posts, is a partner in the property's ownership group (as is Rudeen Development). The group is called Beacon Hill Ventures LLC.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Lola's South City Bakery & Cafe

Georgetown is directly west of Mid Beacon Hill, and Hillman City is directly east. So we're thrilled that Hillman City is now home to Lola's South City Bakery & Cafe, which not only serves their own fresh-baked bread, pizza, and sandwiches...


...but homemade ice cream as well. It was all I could do to stop after my grilled caprese sandwich and salad and not finish my mid-afternoon snack with some nectarine ice cream as well.


Another time, for sure.

Pictures from South Orcas Street

This is my part of Beacon Hill.


I'm on my way to the bus stop.


Chain-link fence is ubiquitous down here.


I could roll down the hill to Seward Park.


But I won't. I'm taking the loathsome 36 to the Northwest Garden Show. See photos at my new plant blog.


Morning in Georgetown

I'm taking the day off today, to go to the garden show and just screw around. Started with breakfast in Georgetown.

Guess where I'm headed.


I finally meet Justin, who tells me about a Dine for Darfur event they're participating in on March 4. He hasn't created the menu yet, but if I find out what it is, I will tell you.











Thursday, February 21, 2008

Celebrate Five Years of Manny's Pale Ale

Need an excuse to drink on Wednesday? Join the Georgetown Brewing crew in a toast to the fifth birthday of Manny's Pale Ale down at Jules Maes.

On February 27th, 2003 a group of friends and beer lovers gathered at the Latona Pub to drink the first keg of Manny's Pale Ale. Five years to the day and a few kegs later, we'll have a party of sorts at Jules Maes Saloon to celebrate our anniversary.

We'll get started about 7pm and probably be there all night. Please come raise a glass with us if you get the chance.

Rudeen's Been Cleaning Up the Christian Restoration Site

Rudeen responded very quickly to the report of trash buildup at the Christian Restoration Center. I sent my e-mail out Thursday night, and on Friday they had crews out there starting to clean the area up. They've been out there working on it this week as well.

They're working with Jon Hager of Hager Realty Services in the Eastlake area as the local contact for this project. He seems very nice and open to questions; his e-mail is jon at, if you'd like to contact him directly. He's been discussing the project with passersby this week, so if you see people out there working, feel free to approach them.

As for the design of the project, he said this:

On the planning front, we have hired a local Seattle architect and the current concept for the property itself is to have retail on the street level, with condos above. There is also a landscaped atrium in the back for the residents, with a parking garage underneath the building.

I asked who the architect is and whether they plan to share conceptual drawings with the community soon. I've also asked about Jim Claeys, whom a longtime Beacon Hill resident named Dan Hagan has been discussing in comments on this post. According to different sources, Claeys is either the past or the present/future owner of this site. I have no idea; I just work here.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Corson Building Drive-By

Good to know I'm not he only one who's been peering past the metal fence into the Corson Building lot, like I last did back in December.


A Seattle magazine blogger reports that it looks like they're putting in a patio.

Anyone know when Via Tribunali's opening? Pizza pizza.

Red Apple Remodel in Beacon Lights

Craig Thompson at Beacon Lights has written about the Red Apple remodel.

A Trip to Flower World

This blog used to be mostly about gardening. Now it's mostly about the neighborhood, but I'll continue to throw in plant posts. I can't help myself.

On the way to Flower World we stopped at the Woodinville Taco Time.

A box of Mexi-fries basking in the sunshine. Sublime.


Flower World is big and nice. Everyone loves Flower World. so I don't need to say much about it. They have a lot of stuff, it's clean and tidy, and they grow 90% of what they sell. And they pipe out way too much harp music.








Last year I did a lot of nursery browsing; now I can spot a baby Cryptomeria from 50 yards away.


Cryptomeria japonica 'cristata." I have five of these in my backyard. I'm not sure they're going to make it.


Oh, maybe this post is on theme after all. This cedar is called "Beacon Hill."





A sign warns of escaping turtles. My husband's on the lookout.







There's an iris farm next door.



Saturday, February 16, 2008

Finding Beacon Hill Stories

On most days, I search the Seattle P-I and Seattle Times websites for "beacon hill," hoping to find all the news stories about our neighborhood. However, the reporters sometimes misidentify Beacon Hill (even its western edge) as "Rainier Valley," and more often they just don't even bother trying to identify the neighborhood and just call it "South Seattle."

Yesterday they pulled a new one, identifying an area east of Rainier Avenue as Beacon Hill.

The story is only credited to "staff," so I won't bother trying to get this corrected. But these reporting inaccuracies make it hard to try to find out what's really happened in our neighborhood over the years. Do they screw up this badly in other neighborhoods, or are local reporters particularly ignorant of areas south of I-90?

Friday, February 15, 2008

SE Seattle Pics at Good Taste Chronicles

Fellow Beacon Hill blogger Catalina Vel-DuRay has been going around Southeast Seattle snapping pictures of things that would already have been demolished in tonier parts of the city. Like the New Holly Safeway. And a cool-looking church that I believe is on Orcas in Hillman City, a little bit west of Rainier?

CvDR also posts YouTube clips that I would never have found otherwise. Like this.

It's Morning on Beacon Hill


Thursday, February 14, 2008

The Letter I Sent to Rudeen About the Christian Restoration Center

I'm a resident of Seattle's Beacon Hill neighborhood, and I'm writing you first of all to express concern about the sad state of the property you'll be developing here in the summer at 4351 15th Avenue South. I've taken some photos to show you the extent of the damage.

1. There's a lot of graffiti. A lot.


2. There's also a broken toilet and empty liquor bottles.


3. There's garbage and broken glass scattered all over the place.


4. There's an overflowing garbage can that the local rats are probably enjoying, but the neighbors, not so much.


5. There are boxes full of (presumably dead) fluorescent blubs. These contain mercury and possibly lead. According to Seattle Municipal Code 21.36.025 (Unlawful Disposal), these bulbs cannot be taken to city transfer stations; you can read about proper disposal at this King County website.


Anyway, the Beacon Hill community would like you to please clean up your property as soon as possible. I know your company is headquartered in Spokane, and I understand how you might not be aware of the way things are going over here in Seattle. But I'm happy to provide you with photo reports whenever you like -- please just ask.

We'll also want to provide input as to the design of the new building. Apart from work that appears to be going on at the VA Hospital, this will definitely be the largest new construction on Beacon Hill in many years and will have a huge impact on the community. We look forward to working with you on this project! Have you planned any community meetings yet?

Please let me know as soon as possible about your plans for site cleanup. I've already reported the graffiti to the city just to get that in the system, and I'm so concerned about all the illegal dumping that I should report that as well. But I'd prefer to work directly with you on all this. Let me know if there's anything I can do to help.


Blog Tournament: Vote for Blogging Georgetown

First off, a huge thank you to everyone who voted for me. I know I ended up getting over 150 votes altogether, and I am honored and energized by your support.

I checked the blog tournament last night around 7:30, saw that Blogging Georgetown had taken the lead, and mentally conceded defeat to him. I was actually glad that it looked like I'd be taking a strong second place. I'm a huge fan of Blogging Georgetown, so I felt good about getting almost as many votes as he did. Besides, coming in second meant that I wouldn't feel like I needed to campaign anymore!

However, this morning I see that they advanced both of us to the next round, where we face Seattle Daily Photo. I understand that Metroblogging Georgetown wanted to give me the benefit of the doubt because of the problems that they had with their poll over the weekend. But I'm pretty sure Blogging Georgetown was on his way to victory last night, and that he deserved to win outright.

So, anyway, I would like to announce my support for Blogging Georgetown in this race. I'm going to vote for him, and you should too.

Even though it usually lacks photos (and occasionally humor), Blogging Georgetown is the best, and the most important, neighborhood blog by any non-professional blogger in Seattle. He covers not just Georgetown but the largely ignored areas of Seattle, like South Park and the rest of the Duwamish area. And he seems completely fearless about speaking plainly about things that others will only tiptoe around. I don't always agree with him, and his outspokenness can sometimes seem uncharitable, but I always admire his courage and frankness. And he's one of the few local writers whose 1,000-word screeds I will actually read all the way through.

So, again, thanks for your votes in the first round, but let's stop splitting the South End vote -- instead, let's get Blogging Georgetown into the next round.

Vote now for Blogging Georgetown!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Last Chance to Vote for This Blog

As you probably already know, I was recently nominated for Best Neighborhood Blog in a Metroblogging Seattle tournament.

Many of you voted for me (thank you!), and your votes--and everyone else's--were accidentally erased.

So I ask for your vote again, now that we're just about down to the last 24 hours for this round (and I actually have a chance of winning):

I know this contest is silly, but it's really gotten me excited about neighborhood blogging again. Over the last year, this blog has evolved from a personal/gardening blog into a blog that's really pretty focused on Beacon Hill and Georgetown.

And even though Beacon Hill and Georgetown already had some good political bloggers, I think what I'm doing here is worthwhile too. And I'd like to thank you again for supporting me.

Lead Paint Peeling Off in Sheets at Van Asselt Elementary

Saturday's caucus at Van Asselt was the first time I'd ever been inside a school on Beacon Hill. I was thinking it looked pretty shabby, but it sounds like the situation is worse than I thought.

From Sunday's Seattle Times:

And while district officials say health and safety issues are always a priority, just last week lead-based paint was flaking onto the playground at Van Asselt Elementary School — a problem the district identified 10 years ago. ... Tests have shown the paint contains up to 30 percent lead, well above the federal standard of 0.06 percent.

According to the story, district spokesman David Tucker said that lead paint is common on old buildings and isn't a problem until it begins to peel.

Yeah, well...

The school district is claiming to have fixed some of the problems at Van Asselt already:

Over the past several years at Van Asselt, the district has replaced the roof and flooring and fixed windows and broken bathroom-door locks. But it hasn't blocked access to the roof, which has been subject to vandalism, and tetherball poles on the playground are in bad shape.

But from first-hand experience three days ago, I can say that the bathroom door locks are not fixed.


Like this post? Please, please vote for me in the Metroblogging Seattle "Best Neighborhood Blog" tournament.