Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Saving Henry Moore: Art Dealer Linda Farris and a Great Victory For Seattle Public Art

The day the Henry Moore sculpture “Vertebrae” was installed in the plaza of the Seattle First National Bank Building, January 24, 1971, Linda Farris was busily preparing her Pioneer Square gallery for its opening exhibition, scheduled that May.  She had decided to move her original gallery out of an attic in suburban Bellevue she had optimistically called “Gallery East” and now had a proper place to display her artists, mostly friends from her native California and the growing crowd of new creative people she was meeting in Seattle.  Late afternoon January daylight angled a blue light through the west and south facing windows that mixed with the redder colors of her brand new incandescent fixtures, pooling on the floor with the mops, ladders, paint cans and drop cloths. It’s hard to think of Linda not attending the installation of a famous piece of public art, Seattle’s first Henry Moore, if you don’t count a loaned Moore deposited at the Seattle center during the 1962 World’s Fair.  But she was, as ever, focused on herself and what had to be done.  Linda turned 26 that year.  A second explanation was that nobody knew to invite her.

The new sculpture in front of the bank building softened a bit the cold presence of the geometric black box and its empty concrete square. Returning from the Army after two years away from Seattle in 1970, I was shocked when I saw the building for the first time.  It was looming over my memory of a more gently-scaled city, book ended by the two largest buildings when I lived in town, the Space Needle and the Smith Tower.   It took me years to accept the building.  However, it quickly picked up a new, softening brand connecting it to the city’s recent history, becoming “The Box the Space Needle Came In.” 

The success of the Mirabeau, the la-di-dah French restaurant on top of the city’s newest, highest building, spoke to an ambition of the city beyond airplanes and timber. Seattle was not yet the food town it has become, but there was good food at Rosellini’s 410 and El Gaucho in the downtown, Ray’s Boathouse out past Ballard and at Canlis, overlooking Lake Union.

The opening a few weeks earlier of another new French restaurant, the Brasserie Pittsbourg, in the basement of the Pioneer Building on the original street of Seattle, Yesler Way, the founding street of the Skid Road town Seattle
used to be, right on top of Henry Yesler’s first house.  It told its many customers that Pioneer Square was developing its own presumptions after years of decline.  It used to be that South of Yesler Street meant crime, prostitution and danger.  Now, however, galleries like Linda’s were to become more the norm. But so were parking lots and torn down buildings, anticipating the coming of the Kingdome in 1972. Linda had high-end dreams for herself and the new gallery but also saw what she did as contributing to the stabilization of many of the lovely old structures in the square. 

Fulton Hotel
Her gallery started out life as the Old Fulton Hotel, constructed in 1890, part of the building boom that followed the Great Fire.  Originally, the Old Fulton had two additional stories on top but they were removed after the 1949 earthquake, a practice followed by other buildings along Second Avenue South, built on tide flats in the later 19th Century and the early 20th.   Second Avenue shook pretty hard in ’49 on its pudding of sawdust, garbage, whiskey bottles, coal ash and other pioneer detritus.  It is still the biggest earthquake in modern Seattle history.  Eight people died.

The growing arts and food scenes in Seattle seemed out of place with what was really going on in Seattle that year.  The city was falling on its ass.  At the end of 1968, 103,000 people worked at the Boeing Airplane Company, most of them in the Puget Sound region.  When Linda Farris was readying her gallery for the May, 1971 opening, 39,000 people worked at Boeing.  The unemployment rate in the state was well-over 17%.  Food stamp applications rose from 9,000 to 60,000.  Housing sales were off 40% and the value in them plunging.  Oh, and things down at the courthouse were not so good either.  The new prosecutor was indicting the old prosecutor, the leadership of the police department and a couple of city council members in a police pay-off scandal.  It was dreadful.  For those of you who missed crooked government and a recession that truly bit – and there are plenty of you – this was a real recession and a big league scandal.

At the end of World War I, the airplanes that founder Bill Boeing made from Sitka Spruce and linen were no longer needed and its many contracts were cancelled.  The company survived with a combination of good technology and lots of luck.   The Boeing guys bet their future on a very fast boat, one that could outrun just about anything and yet carry a substantial cargo.  It was a fine technical accomplishment, but one waiting for a market.  Prohibition brought plenty of customers and wiped out Boeing's inventory of previously irrelevant fast boats. They also began creating an airline, United, that would soon run afoul of the US Justice Department.

The Boeing of 1971 was hitching its star, and ours, to a couple of widely disparate concepts.  One was the Super Sonic Transport, the SST, or as Boeing called it, the 2707.   A big hanger across from Boeing Field had a representation of the plane bolted to the wall, just lifting its nose to take off.  They were confidently building the mock up inside.  But Boeing was not prepared to bet the company on this amazing new airplane and asked for federal participation.  On March 24, 1971, the United States Senate voted against putting federal money into the development of the aircraft and Boeing abandoned the project.  The picture of the plane bolted to the wall was taken down, but for years a ghostly, weathered paradigm of the thing was visible from Interstate 5. 

The CEO of Boeing at the time was a guy named Thornton Wilson, known as ‘T’.  His board, the Chamber of Commerce and many stockholders hounded him to diversify the company’s offerings.  They looked, once again, at a fast boat and tried to sell Hydrofoils, even building a couple of demos.   A commonly held idea was that Boeing engineers could do anything in any industry if they just put their technical and management minds to it.  Wilson recounted a scouting visit to Boardman, Oregon, a sometime bombing range, where Boeing was contemplating a huge, regional solid waste landfill through a purchase of a small landfill on the site.  He recalled walking across the desert to where a tennis shoe flapped, half in, half out of the gritty, sandy landscape.  He kicked at it, half-heartedly, and had no luck dislodging the shoe, covering his own wingtips with a sandy, smelly dust. 

“What the hell am I doing here?” he told me he thought.  “This is not what we do at the Boeing Airplane Company!” 

It would get better and it did.

Linda’s gallery today is a deli that offers a really good sandwich and a soft drink for six bucks.  The trim is brightly colored as it was while it was a gallery and a small plaque clings to the sandblasted brick. 

The Linda Farris Gallery
1971 to 1995
On this site, many artistic miracles occurred

Someone has defaced the plaque but in the spirit of things, what the tagger said is just about right.  “How sad.”  He could have been referring to the mis-spelling, but I prefer it refers to Linda's too short life.

Linda’s father was in the wholesale diamond business in San Francisco “My parents,” she said in an interview, “emphasized that I could do anything, but really wanted me to do nothing, marry someone and take care of children.”  She saw that her dad was not going to entrust the diamond business to a woman, no matter her business skill, but rather would turn the business over to her brother.  So, Linda discovered art, political activism and a host of other things at UC Berkeley. 

She married a commercial airplane pilot and exercised the benefits of that job by travelling all over the world and getting first hand experiences at the best galleries on the globe.  Her pilot/husband brought her to Bellevue, but suburban life and Gallery East soon felt pretty small to her.

About to enter UC Berkeley
Linda and her husband were separated and this new gallery project was exactly what she needed.  She thrived on purpose.  She was completely charming and fun and felt she could blow through the too-early sunsets of a Seattle winter and the dirt and confusion of her new store and her new life and make everything work.  She loved art and artists, but she had no illusions about her purpose.  She was also there to make some money.  The gallery had to pay the rent.

She was exceptional with the media.  She had convinced the Seattle Times to review her Bellevue gallery once the previous year and had picked up two mentions in 1971, one ahead of the opening in May and another a November review in John Voorhees’ Visual Arts column.  The following year her gallery was the subject of Seattle Times reporting 80 times with an equivalent volume from the Seattle Post Intelligencer. 

Linda was an organizer.  She threw herself into Festival ’71, an arts and music festival opened at the Seattle Center that would become, over time, Bumbershoot.  She unsuccessfully tried to organize a Pioneer Square Gallery Association, but was one of those organizing a gallery walk that is now a Seattle institution, “First Thursday.” It is, today, the oldest art walk in the country.

Just as it rescued Seattle with the discovery of gold in Alaska and Canada a couple of years after the Panic of 1893, Alaskan oil came to the rescue after the Boeing Bust.  From his perch near the top of the Seattle First National Bank Building, Bill Jenkins, Chairman of the bank since 1962, watched with great interest the rising up of the great, historic and profitable Alaska connection. 

Lawyers and politicians in Seattle were working hard settling the Alaska Native land claims.  They were creating the National Environmental Policy Act, an environmental law that would take some of the politics out of building the pipeline and an army of logistics people were staging shipments from Seattle to Alaska, everything from rebar to Cocoa Puffs.  

In 1975, as construction of the Alaska Pipeline began, huge barges assembled in Elliott Bay beneath Jenkins’ gaze.  They contained a Rube Goldberg collection of trucks, cranes, mobile homes, boats, the pipeline itself and other necessaries to support one of the largest construction projects ever.  You felt that even a small breeze would tip them over.  Seattle First National Bank was the 18th largest bank in the country and it had money to loan for the booming oil industry.

The new oil field growing to the North combined with the Mideast oil embargo to energize every oil boomer in the country.  One of the most energetic banks was Penn Square Bank.  It was a drive through bank, all thick windows and pneumatic tubes and very little cash in the back.  Years later, when the regulators came to take it over, they couldn’t find it in the bowels of an Oklahoma City suburban mall.

Bill Jenkins
To do what it wanted to do, Penn Square needed several partners with plenty of cash, so it drew five major banks into its various schemes, among them an enthusiastic Seattle First National.  It could not have been better – for the first couple of years.  Then, as oil prices fell, it would lead, in 1982, to the closing of Penn Square, the near collapse of the Seattle First National and a fire sale of its assets. 

In three years, the bank lost nearly a half a billion dollars and Jenkins and his crowd disappeared into an endless storm front of depositions.  Bank of America bought the bank for $150 million, just enough cash to keep the Comptroller of the Currency from closing its doors.  The CEO of Wells Fargo Bank in Los Angeles, Dick Cooley, took over the bank. 

Jenkins demonstrating how to knot a tie with one hand
Cooley was a good golfer and a wonderful squash player.  He sailed and skied and had a degree from Yale.  He had only one arm, the other taken when his fighter plane was shot down by the Germans in 1944.  He was not a guy to pin his suit sleeve to his jacket.  He wore a utilitarian hook and was skilled enough to pick up a drink with it.

Among Cooley’s first moves was to sell his headquarters building to a Chicago real estate firm, JMB Realty and a partnership it had created.  It sold for $123 million.  (The building sold today, July 6, 2016 to a German real estate firm for $400 million.) Then, he turned his eye to the company art collection.  He knew the art world some, well enough to know he needed a crackerjack consultant.  He had worked with the head of MIT’s Fine Arts Department, Professor Wayne Anderson, who had
Wayne Anderson
helped sell and acquire art while Cooley was running Wells Fargo.  He hired Anderson to assess the Seafirst art collection and make recommendations.

The Moore had been purchased by Seafirst in 1969 for $165,000.  On August 28, 1986, the bank announced it had sold the sculpture for $825,000 to a Japanese buyer who was planning to take it out of the plaza in front of the building in two days.  Everyone was caught by surprise.  The mayor’s spokesman said that the city did not own the piece, had greater priorities than the purchase of it and were mere observers of a tragic event.  JMB told the city that they would replace the piece with concrete planters.

Among Linda’s many phone calls that day was to Seattle's mayor.  Charles Royer was elected six years after Linda opened her gallery in Pioneer Square and he had known her for a long time before the election.  They had many mutual friends and the mayor didn’t feel right about what was happening just a couple of blocks from the Municipal building.  The city began frantically researching the permitting and other documents associated with the building.

Charles Royer 
The next Friday, while on the northern deck of City Hall, the Mayor noticed activity around the sculpture of what was now renamed the 1001 4th Avenue Plaza.  He saw a pick-up truck and a van parked nearby and workers were measuring, checking, looking at plans.  Back in his office, he called up his Construction and Land Use Department head, Holly Miller, and asked her to go down and find out what was going on.

When she arrived, she found several men from Artech, an art shipping company, along with JMB Realty managers.  Holly introduced herself.  They told her they were indeed going to move the sculpture the next day.  Ms. Miller right then decided to implement an option she had talked about with the mayor’s office the day the news broke, though no decision had been made at the time. 

“I think you need a demolition permit,” Miller said.  “Let’s go down to my office and I’ll get you started. The permit costs just $70.00,” she told them.  

Fortunately, there were no lawyers in the JMB/Artech crew.  Back at City Hall, while they filled out the permitting form, she told them that she was posting a stop work order on the site until the demolition permit was approved. The mayor, Linda Farris and her artist friends had some time.

Henry Moore
Communication began to break down.  Neither Seafirst nor JMB would confirm that any sale of the sculpture had happened.  Seafirst said they had no idea of any move coming up and the right source at the bank was on vacation.  JMB asserted in response that they owned nothing, had purchased no sculpture. Then, on Saturday, Henry Moore died, at 88, in England.  The price of all his many works more than doubled.

As in many crises, the first words out are often the most damning.  Seafirst would later apologize for playing dumb, but the dumb part stuck. 

A headline writer topped a hard-edged editorial in the Seattle Times with “Expect Ambivalence,” a play on the advertising slogan for the bank that year “Expect Excellence.”

JMB doubled down on its claim that it had “purchased no sculpture” by claiming that Seafirst had actually sold it directly to the Japanese businessman. 
Given these openings and Linda’s amazing skills as a media hustler, details began to dribble out, all of them affirming that JMB and Seafirst hadn’t exactly thought this through, except perhaps the lying part.  JMB had planned to replace the Moore with several concrete planters.  But, the original building permit required some kind of art in the plaza.  When originally constructed, Seattle First National Bank transferred development rights from the plaza part of its lot to its new building all of which allowed the bank to cover more of its lot and add additional height.  The sculpture was integral to the approved shape and height of the building. 

Finally, JMB admitted that its argument for not having purchased the sculpture was based on the fact that it had only purchased and exercised an option, a first refusal for the sculpture.  Certainly no actual sculpture changed hands!

King County tax people suddenly appeared, looking for the buyer.  Given the climb in the sales price, the sculpture had been undervalued for many years and the county wanted to settle up.

The mayor, with Farris and others from the art community next to him at a press conference, announced a search for the undisclosed, mysterious buyer.

“Too bad for Seafirst,” the Seattle Times wrote in its “Expect Ambivalence” editorial.  “Since a single public-relations blunder may have undone much of the careful, patient rebuilding of the bank’s image damaged in the energy loans fiascoes of several years ago.”

Throughout September, Seafirst and JMB stood up to the Farris led petitions and letters.  She always had a good comeback for the fresh lies minted and exposed every three days or so. 

On October 6, 1986, Burton Glazov, Executive Vice-President of JMB Realty of Chicago and Seafirst called a press conference:

“We and Seafirst were both surprised and unhappy at the community upset over the news that the sculpture had been sold. That’s not good for anybody.” They announced they had purchased the sculpture back from the purchaser, whoever that was.

They said the piece would be gifted to the Seattle Art Museum, then starting to develop the Seattle Sculpture Park. Included was an option to move the Moore to the park, though the Seattle Art Museum said it had no plans to do so and has not done anything to move it there over the past 30 years.  JMB and Seafirst didn’t announce the price of the object, but it turned out to be $2,000,000.

Among people I talked to about Linda was Judy Tobin. Judy met Linda in 1971, when both were new to town and wondering what would happen next. They became fast friends. When we talked, Judy cleared up a long ago mystery. Judy said that Linda really wanted a great relationship with someone. One evening, drinking wine and lots of it, Linda told Judy that she was going to date a thousand men until she found the right one, anticipating the Malcom Gladwell 10,000 hour rule which posits that you need 10,000 hours of doing something before you become truly expert. 

One weekend night in the mid-seventies, a colleague, Doug Rives, called and wondered if he might bring his date over for some wine. Accompanying Doug was Linda Farris. We chatted away on the porch of the falling down rental in the Eastlake neighborhood. Finally, they said goodnight. A couple of months later, I asked Linda whether she was still seeing Doug.

“We just dated a minute,” she said.

Linda once showed me around her amazing house which she built in 1981. Then, interest rates were very high and Linda felt that she was getting priced out of Seattle home ownership. So, she hired the architect Mark Millett to build her a home with simple materials and lots of open space on many different levels. He did. It had one bedroom, one bath, 1200 square feet and two doors, one to the outside and a slider for the toilet. All in, she spent about $50,000, well below house prices at the time. Today, it carries the bad news message about housing prices in Seattle. Zillow says it is worth $700,000.

Linda closed the gallery in 1995 and, with the husband she found and loved, John, traveled the world visiting its inventory of contemporary art. A couple of years later, she came back with an idea. It revolved around her marvelous skills – great taste in art, a good eye for value and a sense of community service. She asked several of her friends to stake her to 15,000 dollars for each of the next three years that she would use to buy art. She would buy the art in their name and it would circulate among the group until it was time to donate it to the Seattle Art Museum to jump start SAM’s collection of contemporary art. The donation happened in 2001.
Linda and John

Along the way, a tumor began growing in her brain and it consumed her life in 2005. Her friends said many goodbyes to her, like the plaque at the beginning of this story. But my favorite is the celebration that used a papier mache rendering of Linda for the gallery closing party at the Nippon Kan Theater. Done by artist Carl Smool and his friends, it got completely out of hand and grew to 16 feet. It was perfectly Linda -- a red polka dot dress and pink ankle boots and a yellow purse hanging from her arm. The piece required way too much candy so they only put the pinata candy in the purse. After Linda died, they floated the sculpture out on Lake Washington and set it on fire.

Jeff Jahn, a founder of PortlandArtNet, and an admirer, wrote in his eulogy:

“It was her frank honesty, over-the-top hustle and daring that made her more than just an art dealer but an icon of fearlessness. Of all the people I have met in the art world none has impressed me like Linda Farris. With no double talk, a deep trust in artists, crazy in the best possible way, constant risk taking and a probing intelligence...she stood out.”

For a woman who was so front and center in her life, it is surprising there are not a lot of pictures around in the public record.  It is a lesson I have learned over many years.  Even fearless people battle insecurities. She probably thought she didn't make a good photo and avoided reminders of being plain, as she saw it.  But you should know she was, really, quite beautiful.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Scott Calhoun's Hotel

Washington Hotel in 1903
UW Collections
Near the end of April, 1903, Scott Calhoun, a young son of a pioneer physician, stood on the corner of what would someday become, in his judgment, the corner of Second Avenue and Virginia Street.  He was teasing out of his imagination what the new corner would look like and, for that matter, how the entrance to his new hotel would fit on the new corner.  

The distressing look of his next door neighbor, an ornate structure, a great hotel, stranded on top of its property line, 140 feet up in the air, didn’t bother him much.  He continued to see nothing but opportunity in the property he had decided to buy and was confident it would have great value once all of this got cleaned up and streets and street corners set and marked and the engineers and workman were dislodged by the real estate people. 

Another man was a frequent visitor here, Reginald Thomson, the city engineer, whose work all this destruction was. Thomson saw Seattle as a landscape in need of alteration by a wise man's hand.  It was to him a collection of too steep hills, high bank waterfront, all kinds
Reginald Heber Thomson
UW Collections
of inconvenient watercourses, creases, folds, cliffs, slides and swamps. Thomson, who sited most of the great public works we still use in today's Seattle, mostly preferred the straight line to the curvy one.

The up-in-the-air hotel used to be called the Denny Hotel, after one of the original settlers of Seattle, who had tried and failed to develop it.  It was now renamed “The Washington” by its new owner, James A. Moore, who had purchased the place in 1903 and finally put the unlucky structure out of its misery, making just-generous-enough final offers to the bill collectors, contractors, lawyers, bankers  and consultants who had sucked the place dry since the day the construction contract was signed, 14 years previous. It never had a paying guest.
James A.  Moore

Originally, Moore opposed the regrade, as Thomson called his latest public work, but soon found romance and business promise in the straight lines Thomson was drawing on the landscape.  Moore was working on an idea that would result in a hotel and a theater near the site, across the street from Calhoun’s would-be hotel.  He saw bright lights in this mayhem.  He had recently told the Seattle Daily Times: 

“Second Avenue is to be the Broadway of the Queen City.  What that famous thoroughfare of this country is to New York, Second Avenue will be to Seattle."

The Seattle Daily Times couldn’t have agreed more.  Its owner, Alden Blethen, came to Seattle nearly broke but the city took him in and he prospered.  He had a fine building on Union Street on the Seattle Broadway, Second Avenue, and he
New Washington in center of photo as Second
Avenue angles to the west to meet the
new grid forming in the regrade.  Seattle
Daily Times Building is in the lower right corner
could look up the street to the north past many of his advertisers toward the slight turn to the left the street took as it was finding its true footing in the glittery future.

About 112 years later, my wife and I were walking home on Second Avenue, past the New Washington Hotel, now called the Josephinum, past the Moore Theater and over to Virginia Street where Scott Calhoun must have lingered all those years ago, only imagining the sidewalk that we now stood firmly on.  We noticed the hotel seemed almost open after the months of construction and remodeling that we had learned to ignore. We tentatively opened the door, saw some people with luggage at the front desk and quickly and confidently found the route to the bar. 

We learned we were visiting at the end of a soft opening for Seattle's newest Kimpton Hotel. We love Kimpton hotels and seek them out when we travel. They have not only a sense of style but almost always a sense of history and scale. The food is good and this bar, called Pennyroyal, is lovely, its original white marble bar incandescent against the old, dark and polished wood still in place. Known originally as the Calhoun Hotel, it had become the Palladian Apartments over time.  

From the thirties to the seventies, Second Avenue did not exactly reflect the visions of Moore, Blethen, Thomson and Calhoun as the new Broadway. There were repossessed cars parked in the area in lot after lot during the Great Depression and new and used cars replaced them in the fifties and sixties.

Regrade in 1929
Finally, the office buildings, then the restaurants and then the apartments and condos followed. Today, the Denny Regrade has the city's greatest density, is home to thousands and soon to be home for other thousands more, mostly techies working at the new Amazon campus three blocks from this corner. Maybe that Broadway dream is enjoying a new day.

I started searching for Scott Calhoun soon after we came home from that first drink at Pennyroyal and found a young man whose prominence in his time had almost completely disappeared in our own.  His role in his greatest public accomplishment, the creation of the Port of Seattle, is unknown to nearly all the people who are the port's stewards today.  In addition to his accomplishments, his life had plenty of tragedy wafting through it, the early deaths of two wives and the death of a toddler son still booming across time, but who is hearing them today?

Little Crossing Over Place
Burke Museum
Like so many journeys in Seattle, this one starts at "little crossing over place," the Coastal Salish term for what became Pioneer Square -- the still beating and true heart of our city.

The natives would come there to tie up their cedar canoes in a small bay protected by a sandbar angling across its mouth. Good water ran into the bay out of springs just up the hill. An ancient footpath started near the bay and went all the way over the steep hill and down to Lake Washington where many native families had longhouses along the lake, well protected from the winter winds blowing out of the southwest.

Today, the tiny bay and sand spit are all covered over by pioneer detritus -- sawdust, ship's ballast, swamp muck, ash from the Seattle Fire, stumps, dead work animals and lots of other garbage -- sealed over time by layers of dirt, gravel, asphalt and cement.

Scott Calhoun’s family was not among the very first Seattle pioneers, but the family was early enough. His great uncle, Rufus, was a sea captain living in gold rush San Francisco. Rufus Calhoun had once sailed into Puget Sound and past the place the original Seattle settlers moved to when their first choice of land wasn’t working. Scott's prosperous, doctor father, a Regent of the Territorial University, lived with his highly verbal family just up the street from "little crossing over place" and, as a young boy, Scott saw the still disappearing outline of the original land that was Seattle.

Burke Museum

When Scott’s great uncle sailed by, 300 people clustered around a steam driven saw mill owned by Henry Yesler whose supply of Douglas Fir and Cedar was pulled down the ancient footpath by teams of oxen.  They started calling the road ‘Skid Road’ for its great contribution to the town’s only real industry.  Finally, they named the path for Yesler, who later built a mansion adjacent to it on the apple orchard he had earlier planted. 

The Calhouns had a ringside seat for the construction of Yesler’s amazing mansion, a 40 room affair on a full block surrounded by the orchard. The Calhoun family had moved to Seattle in 1876 right across the street, along Third Avenue about where the Morrison Hotel stands today.  Scott was two, and as he grew, learned that the old, smallish woman selling baskets along his street was none other than Princess Angeline, the daughter of Chief Seattle.  He and his sister recalled visiting old man Yesler during apple season where he would secretly give them bags of fruit in a way that kept the transaction from his wife, Sarah, who did not share Henry’s generous streak with children.  There were now 3,000 people in Seattle and Scott's father was one of six busy doctors.  

Calhoun’s family was from Nova Scotia and several of his relatives and their neighbors came out to the Washington Territory, settling in the Skagit River delta in and around La Connor.  His father became a doctor, studying at Glasgow University, finding a wife there and returning to Civil War America in 1864 to join the medical corps of the Army of the Potomac.  The experience provided a bloody but priceless internship for the young doctor. 

George V.  Calhoun
He was also noticed.  George V. Calhoun was appointed to establish a Marine Hospital in Port Angeles and later to lead the older, more established Marine Hospital in Port Townsend. Hospitals like these were created during the Presidency of John Adams to provide health care to merchant mariners and act as health screeners at US Ports of Entry.  Later, the hospital cared for US Navy personnel and the service became attached to the US Public Health System.  The old Art Deco building on the top of Beacon Hill, recently used as the headquarters of Amazon, was part of the marine hospital system and traces its origins to our second president. 

Scott Calhoun was young, likable and sophisticated.  He enrolled at Stanford University on the institution's first day.  He graduated from Stanford’s very first class, in 1894, along with his wife-to-be, Mary Burke, daughter 
Scott in 1894
Stanford University
of a prominent California legislator. Herbert Hoover was a classmate.  

Calhoun was literally in at the beginning of Stanford.  He suggested the school colors, scarlet (from his favorite handkerchief) and white and attended -- and took pictures -- at the very first Stanford-Cal football game, now called simply "The Game." He had played baseball at Stanford and was a fine athlete, also high jumping on the track team. 

Mary Burke and Scott married in San Francisco and returned to Seattle after Scott graduated from law school. With them was the first of their three children, Ellen. The couple were leaders of the Republican Party, young people of note whom everyone believed would soon be influential leaders of the community and later quite prosperous. 

His mind was as agile as his body and 1903 was a busy year for both him and his home city.  He was offering some serious time to the campaign of Richard Achilles Ballinger, who would be elected Mayor in the fall and later become President Taft's Secretary of the Interior.  Scott had talked to Ballinger about seeking election in the near future as Corporation Counsel, the city’s lawyer. Calhoun and a close friend were also helping a client acquire a baseball franchise for Seattle in the brand new Pacific Coast League.  Seattle had a franchise in the Pacific Northwest League, the Clamdiggers, but Scott and others saw far more opportunity in a league that would stretch all along the great west coast of the country and one day redeem the city’s promise as a big league town.

The new team started assembling for opening day a couple of weeks before the April 29 opener and their handlers were working the media.  On their way to Recreation Park, out near today's Seattle Center, several players stopped by the offices of The Seattle Daily Times to gin up some press.  Their club's name was the Seattle Siwashes. Little has changed in American sport since then.  Siwash is a derogatory word for Native Americans. 

Most of the players were new to Seattle fans as the ownership had just concluded a frenzy of contract signings and poaching from other teams during the winter, trying to find a team that could be competitive. Frank Vernon Hemphill was one of those players and had done all this before and in many towns. A native of Michigan and a journeyman outfielder, Hemphill would have a career with a total of 40 major league at bats from which he squeezed out three hits.  His weak hitting days ahead of him, his role this day was to be a charmer, someone who knew a sound bite from a salmon. 

“This is the first time I ever saw the town,” he told the Daily Times sports desk, “But it looks like home to me.”

1903 Chinooks
UW Collections
The Pacific Coast League was an existential crisis for Dan Dugdale, the head mentor and owner of Seattle's Northwest League squad, who now had to share this growing and vibrant market.  Every day was a new crisis. Players were jumping ship for the spendy new franchises forming along the coast. The salary cap for the Pacific Coast League was $3,000/player.  In the Northwest League, it was half that. Even worse, Dugdale believed he had a commitment through this crucial season from the Seattle Railroad Company, the trolley company of the day, to have use of a property in the south end of town, Athletic Park. Jacob Furth, the President of the trolley company, a forerunner of today’s Puget Sound Energy, appeared unwilling to approve the oral agreement made by a lower level employee two years previous. Dugdale sought a court order to keep Athletic Park available to the Chinooks. In support of his injunction, Dugdale recounted how he had spent $3,800 dollars on the park in preparation for the ‘03 season and then was told he would not have access to it.

A former major league catcher with the nickname "Fatty," Dugdale recalled for the court his conversation with stern old Jacob Furth after being told he had no field to put his baseball club on.

“What will become of me?” Dugdale told the court he had asked Furth. The old banker and businessman responded with something just this side of recreational cruelty:   “I don’t know, Mr.  Dugdale.  I’m not in the baseball business.”

Days before Roosevelt's arrival.  The hastily erected rail line
is on the right.
UW Collections
James Moore didn't have much time to squeeze revenue out of his hotel purchase so this is why he had fielded a hundred workers to install a small, crude rail line and cantilever to pull a rail car up to the door of the Washington Hotel. He had his first paying guest on the way and it was a good one, the President of the United States, Teddy Roosevelt, and his considerable entourage.  He topped it all off with a picture of the president over the portico.

Calhoun had paid $15,000 for his property just north of the Washington Hotel.  It was a big purchase for him.  Scott’s day job then was as grading attorney for the city and his title Assistant Corporation Counsel.  He was just 29, but with some help from his father he was able to buy the property.    

Corporation Counsel
Seattle Municipal Archives
Scott handled legal issues related to the special grading districts formed to reshape the many hills in Seattle and allocate the costs of the projects to the benefiting property owners.  It was a sensitive and difficult job, always on the cusp of public interest and public subsidy. But he knew how the grading game worked and he had considerable confidence that an investment in the land for the hotel would be a good one.  His thinking proved out a year later when he was offered $60,000 for the property.  His eye firmly fixed on the hotel idea, he turned the offer down.

As the regrade project dragged on, Calhoun settled into the political preparations he needed to win the office of Corporation Counsel.  He became the Chairman of the Republican Party Executive Committee in early 1904.  Even though the current Corporation Counsel, Mitchell Gilliam, was re-elected with the largest majority ever for that office, Scott had a plan.  He and others began to sound the alarm to the legislature about the growing backlog in the King County Court system.  Sure enough, by 1905, the legislature approved a new judge.  Gilliam first thought he should not take the position, if offered, since a friend in his office also seemed to want it.  There certainly appeared to be conversations among the principals.  Soon, Gilliam took the judgeship and Scott was appointed Corporation Counsel.  Gilliam’s friend took over as grading attorney.  Everyone agreed it was a very tidy play.

George Cotterill as Assistant
City Engineer
Seattle Municipal Archives
George Cotterill was the assistant city engineer in 1903.  Unlike his boss, Thomson, Cotterill saw nothing wrong with a graceful, curving line and, over several years, developed a bicycle transportation network that followed the contours of the city’s emerging residential areas on Capitol Hill and beyond.  The bike had changed from a clumsy contraption to something very much like today’s product and it had become quite popular, its use stoked by clubs like the Queen City Bicycle Club, a young person’s social group and an impressive advocate on progressive issues. In 1903, the Seattle Parks Department hired the Olmsted Brothers landscape architecture firm to make a master parks plan for the new city and the firm quite quickly saw the advantages of the Cotterill trail network, incorporating the bike routes into the plan’s boulevard system that connected all of the many parks they proposed Seattle build. 

This was good news for the residential real estate market, now growing further
from the city’s downtown core.  The boulevard system help create and connect very special, close in neighborhoods and people found housing in those neighborhoods highly desirable.

The Sylvia
Scott had hired the best hotel architect then working in the city, William P. White, and began construction on the building in 1908.   White had a reputation for clean, classical buildings and designed not only the Calhoun Hotel, as it became known, but the lovely Sylvia Hotel in Vancouver, British Columbia along with the original San Juan County Courthouse in Friday Harbor.

The real estate industry saw great strategic value in the Calhoun Hotel. It would be the first large building to cross Virginia Street to the north, meaning that investor confidence in the expansion of the downtown was no longer imaginary.  The Moore Theater and its hotel annex also went up, following the construction of the great New Washington Hotel, built on the lot of the original Denny Hotel.

The Calhoun
Frank Blethen published a front page editorial in 1903 declaring that the city would achieve its next step to greatness by 1920 as the regrade's promise was redeemed.  In 1908, he published another piece, he called it a vision, on the front page.  “It’s here already,” it said.  “Everything we thought we would see in 1920 is in our grasp today.”

Having survived the Panic of 1893 by the great happenstance of the Alaska/Yukon Gold Rush, Seattle was booming and ready to welcome the era of the Pacific in a great World’s Fair, the Alaska Yukon Pacific Exposition.  This not only gave a theme to the growing city, but stimulated hotel building and made lasting changes to the city. After 1909 when the Calhoun opened, the three hotels -- the Moore Annex, the New Washington and the Calhoun were changing the center of hotel gravity in Seattle, pulling it north from Pioneer Square.

It’s hard for a Corporation Counsel to have policy priorities.  He represents the city on so many legal matters that he has limited time for his own advocacy.   Plus, his hotel was underway and it required a lot of his time.  But one issue always was near the top of the stack on his desk, an issue that he drove for years– the creation of a port district for the city – an organization that could compete on behalf of the public against the influence of the Northern Pacific Railroad.  The Northern Pacific had long controlled the city’s front porch through its rail yards and docks.  Harbor improvements other than those favored by the Northern Pacific were not easy politically and rarely done.  

Railroad Avenue
Museum of History and Industry
The Progressives wanted a publicly owned harbor with locally accountable officials in charge.  Among those leading the Progressives was our man George Cotterill, now elected in 1906 to the state legislature as one of three democrats in the state senate, where he promptly crossed the aisle and aligned himself with the progressive side of the Republican Party who, with his move, gained the majority.

In the 1907 session of the legislature, Cotterill found himself nicely positioned as the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Harbors and Harbor Lines.  He and Scott Calhoun worked on a draft of a Port of Seattle bill that found its way through the legislature, only to be vetoed by Governor Albert Mead at the insistence of the Northern Pacific.  The bill died in the 1909 session as well.

However, time was on the side of public ownership of the waterfront and the strategic situation was changing.  The French effort to build the Panama Canal had collapsed and the grand idea was tarnished by disease, corruption and incompetence.  There was an opening for American presence there.

Roosevelt, like the assassinated McKinley whom he replaced, saw the Pacific as the new center of the country’s world view.  It is highly likely that among the cables he received at the Washington Hotel during his 1903 Seattle stay were updates of conversations between Panamanian Nationalists and American military men.  Over the summer, the Panamanian Revolution against Columbia ignited.  By November, with the Nashville, an American gunship, standing off the Panamanian coastline, Panama declared itself a nation.  Two days later, the US recognized the new country and, by Thanksgiving, a treaty between the US and Panama gave America the right to build the Panama Canal. 

“Let the dirt fly,” Roosevelt said. 

UW Collections
In 1910, the Calhoun Hotel stood at the highest point of the regrade, the corner of Second and Virginia, just as Scott had imagined it.  A new renter slid into each room as soon as his managers put furniture in.  He negotiated a ten year lease with an experienced operator.  On October 10, he sprung the real estate surprise of the year, selling the hotel to the Interlaken Land Company for $265,000.  Using the proceeds of the sale, he purchased many lots from the Interlaken Land Company portfolio that followed the bike trails laid out by George Cotterill.  These routes formed a wonderful street connection between Lake Union and Lake Washington and enhanced the value of residential real estate. 

At the same time, he announced the sale of 19 of those lots for $60,000.  In one move, the sale guaranteed the Thomson dream of northward expansion on a level gradient, but also Cotterill's dream of a graceful residential and park development along north Capitol Hill down to the shores of Lake Washington.  Today, Interlaken Boulevard remains among of the most lovely neighborhood byways of the city. Scott's family, wife Mary and his three children, were financially set. 

By the 1911 session, the Panama Canal was the strategic driver of state trade policy.  Cotterill and Calhoun pulled all the levers they had and created a powerful consensus around the idea that the era of the Pacific was not to be decided by the Northern Pacific Railroad but by citizens of Seattle. Newspapers and politicians and advocates were lining up.  But it still an iffy deal in Olympia. 
In a dramatic move as the session was nearing its end, the Progressive leadership in the legislature feared the worst.  They asked Scott to explain the legislation and allay the fears of the fence sitters. The legislature met as a committee of the whole to hear Calhoun's passionate arguments.  He carried the day. Even the Seattle Daily Times, no friend of public ownership, lent its editorial page to fulsome praise by supporters of the port bill which now, after the governor signed it, had to be approved by the voters of King County.  Publisher Alden Blethen kept his personal distance, but his newspaper clearly approved the port district as the right thing to do. 

At the end of the year, Scott resigned his job as the city's lawyer and hired on as the new Port District’s lawyer.  Thomson became the district’s Chief Engineer, beating out his old assistant, Cotterill, whom the Daily Times vigorously supported.  That was news in itself.  Cotterill was a Democrat, all for public ownership and, even worse, a prohibitionist, positions Alden Blethen vigorously opposed. The Times reverted to form in the election for Mayor that followed, supporting the thoroughly corrupt Hiram Gill over Cotterill.  Cotterill won.

Harbor Island as envisioned by Calhoun 
Calhoun threw himself into the Port District and the projects it was getting ready to present to voters.  They had come up with seven projects – $5,000,000 for Harbor Island, the largest artificial island in the world, built up by all the dirt the city was moving at the time and a strategic alternative to the waterfront controlled by the railroad.  The plan called for other investments along the waterfront, Salmon Bay in Ballard, Smith Cove below Magnolia and even a ferry from Seattle to Bellevue.  Voters gave the port approval for these projects by 49,000 to 8,000.

Political life swirled around Scott and Mary and they had to squeeze in somehow the everyday parts of life.  A couple of days before Scott was elected chairman of the Taft delegation to the state convention on March 9, 1912, Mary scheduled an appointment at Providence Hospital on March 12 for what friends called a minor procedure.  She checked in at 8:30 in the morning and was dead two hours later.  She was just 37.
Ellen Calhoun at Stanford

Scott's oldest sister, Nellie Calhoun, moved in to help with the kids, Ellen and Katharine.  After Ellen's graduation from Queen Anne High School, she enrolled at Stanford and excelled as had her father. Like him, she became the editor of the school newspaper -- just the second woman to serve and the first woman elected.  She was an athlete, rowing on the varsity women's crew.  Katharine remained in Seattle, mostly, though she attended Stanford briefly.  She and her sister were close, even as they were embarked on very different lives.  Katharine visited Ellen at a southern California ranch her second husband owned and Ellen came to Seattle to help out with the birth of Katherine's daughter, Maribeth, who also became a journalist.  Maribeth Morris was one of the first women to work in the Seattle PI Newsroom. 
Marion Zioncheck

At Katharine's wedding, her husband, Gerald Balthasar, had as his best man none other than Marion Zioncheck, the student leader at the University of Washington.  Katharine's husband met Zioncheck at the University of Washington where Zioncheck was an older and influential student and its student body president. I'm wondering if Frank Edwards, about to be elected the Seattle Mayor, was at Katharine's wedding in that summer of 1928.  Edwards was a great friend of Scott and might have been invited. After, Zioncheck organized the successful recall of Edwards who had sought to privatize the electricity utility.  In 1930, after Edwards had fired Superintendent of City Light, J. D. Ross, by then the beacon of public power in the Northwest.  There was a political firestorm that forged Zioncheck's political career and ended Edward's career.  Said the New York Times:
Frank Edwards, 1928

"Mr.  Edwards is out.  Mr.  Ross is restored to utility control.  The Power Trust has a flea in its ear and the Moscow papers have a good story."

Over time, Scott's law practice began to emphasize business over public service and his work took him further away from Seattle.  By 1923 he was working with an international company that was selling a new wood preservation product.  He lived mostly in Chicago or New York.  In 1923 he married a West Virginia girl, Alice Elizabeth Haller, and they took up residence in New York City where they lived at the St. Andrews Hotel on West 72nd.  

In the winter and early spring of 1930, Haller experienced a series of colds that soon turned into pneumonia.  In early April, his second wife had died.  

Toward the end of the year, he went to a reunion of the the Editors in Chief of the Stanford Daily. Both he and his daughter, Ellen attended -- he served in 1895, she, in 1920. 

They had to have talked seriously about their lives while at the reunion.  The death of his second wife would have been very much on Scott's mind and Ellen's marriage to Dale Van Every, a dashing and talented man who had left Stanford to drive an ambulance in France during the world war, had been a blur.  Success had came so quickly for the Van Everys. 

After returning from France and earning his Stanford degree, he took a job with United Press International as a reporter in New York and then drew the assignment as bureau chief at the state capitol in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Then Van Every found Charles Lindbergh. Doing what good wire service reporters are trained to do, he told a good yarn in a big hurry to capture the back story of the trans-Atlantic flight. "Charles Lindbergh, His Life," was early, good and a big seller. The Lindbergh book created a path to Hollywood where he was soon writing and producing and making more money in a year than Mary Pickford, the great female star of the day.

It's hard to see Ellen doing very well in her husband's wake, even if they are sailing in the magical place that was Beverly Hills in the 1930s.  Their divorce was final in 1935.  

In 1937, Mrs.  Ellen C. Loeb and her husband, Edwin C. Loeb are listed as passengers on the ship Pennsylvania returning to Los Angeles from Acapulco.  It sounds a bit like a brief honeymoon and it was.  Ellen Calhoun had found quite a guy. Edwin Loeb is one of the inventors of modern Hollywood.  Beginning in about 1914, his law firm, Loeb and Loeb, was the place Hollywood went to get help conducting business. Sam Goldwyn, Jack Warner and Louis B.  Mayer of MGM were major clients. Irving Thalberg, the genius producer, was his best friend.  Douglas Fairbanks, D. W.  Griffith, Charley Chaplin and Mary Pickford
were clients.

Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences
Edwin Loeb is standing between the right
shoulder of John Barrymore, center and the left
shoulder of Mary Pickford
Loeb attended the first Oscar program in 1927, an idea which many people believe Loeb himself had suggested, with Thalberg and his new wife, Norma Schearer.

Shortly after their trip to Acapulco, Edwin built a seven bedroom home in the Silver Lake section of Los Angeles, near a reservoir looking over Beverly Hills, Santa Monica and the Pacific Ocean.  Unfortunately, Ellen was only the second of Loeb's three wives.  I think it was their home as a couple and, when they were no longer together, he sold the place, in 1946.  She had many interests. She was a founder of the Los Angeles Chamber Music Society and owned several college book stores in the Claremont, Pomona area.  She died in California in 1969.  Her sister, Katharine, died the following year in Seattle.

Scott moved back to Seattle not long after the Stanford Reunion and, in April of 1933, he married Jessica Brown Ross, the daughter of a friend of his, Judge Frederick V. Brown, a Supreme Court Justice in Minnesota before he was recruited to be the Western General Counsel for the Great Northern Railway. 
Jessica was a sophisticated person whose first husband was in international trade and she had spent time in the far east, mostly in Shanghai. 

Scott was fully retired by the end of World War II and was active in the Pioneer Association and living close by the club house of the association in Madison Park.  In addition to heritage issues and public speaking about history, he particularly enjoyed seeing the young men he had hired at the Corporation Counsel's Office turn into judges and respected legal men.  Scott had a touch for the small, important detail and he was a sought after speaker about the city's history.  He died in 1952.
Shirley and Bill Speidel

Scott Calhoun very much liked Shirley Ross, who was 16 when he married her mom. She married Bill Speidel, a police reporter and columnist turned public relations guy. Earlier, each had married a bit too quickly and a bit in a hurry, and so, once they got together, they determined to have a rich relationship and live well and actively in their out of the way home on Vashon Island.  

I love this photo of them, taken about 1951 or 1952.  It portrays them at the top of their attractiveness.  She is elegant, smart and funny, he the stud he was before he became the grizzled old Seattle historian known for "Sons of the Profits" where he chose to avoid conventional history writing and provide a conversational and casual style that sometimes drives some of today's historians nuts.

I think the picture is a promotion for Bill's first book "You Can't Eat Mount Rainier," of which I have an autographed first edition.  I knew him when he was the grizzled preservationist -- scratchy beard, a cigarette always nearby.  I also think of his constant, frenetic activity, a way to avoid his desire to drink alcohol which he successfully did. Once, in their home on Vashon Island, where I'd gone to ask him to speak at some event, he was making chocolate peanut clusters and watching a Seahawk football game, a chocolate mixing machine spinning slowly in front of him, not quite far enough away from the ashtray. 

Together, they started the Seattle Underground Tours as a way to contribute to the saving of Pioneer Square from the parking lots that relentlessly followed the construction of the Kingdome. Largely, they succeeded and the tour program, a regular feature of Seattle culture, has its offices right on top of "little crossing over place."  

Ghost Shorelines Project, Burke Museum
History of Seattle Water System Slide Show

1946 Pacific Coast League Promotional Film

50th Anniversary of Stanford University