Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The arrival of the Great White Fleet in Seattle and a big party at the New Washington Hotel

Museum of History and Industry
The Washington Hotel began rising from its top of the hill location in 1890 and was originally known as the Denny Hotel, after one of the Seattle founders, Arthur Denny.  Squabbling among the partners kept the hotel closed for its first three years and the Panic of 1893 did the rest, closing it for another decade.  Finally, it was sold to James A.  Moore whose Moore Theater stands next to it and still packs them in today.  Moore’s first guest, Teddy Roosevelt, gave the hotel all the cache it needed to be successful and it was a success for the three summers of life ahead of it, before the hoses leveling what we call Belltown today washed its footings away.  



Moore sold the land at the corner of Second and Stewart to two powerhouse developers who were just finishing the Alaska Building, the first true Seattle skyscraper.  J. E. Chilberg and J. Crawford Marmaduke paid $200,000 for the land and had in mind a turnkey hotel project, something that could be built but not fully furnished and sold to a competent hotelier who'd finish the job.

As they closed in on the groundbreaking date, the architects, the esteemed Eames and Young from Chicago, said that another $200,000 had been added to the original $600,000 cost of the structure “because the great growth and the magnificent prospects of the city merit it,” said Mr. Eames.  There were to be 350 rooms in the hotel and, the Seattle Daily Times noted, “every room will have a private bath.”  The doors to the closets were to be constructed so that “when opened, the closet will be flooded with electricity.” 

The Alaska Building underway
August 22, 1904
UW Collections
The construction of these new, taller buildings should be understood in the context of the San Francisco Earthquake that occurred in April, 1906.  Clearly, the great city was damaged goods and the events in the Bay Area gave Seattle a strategic advantage that would ensure something more than backwater status.  Also, Chilberg and Marmaduke had just finished the Alaska Building and wanted it to be seen as safe.  Its all steel construction helped that point along as did the choice of Eames and Young from Chicago.  Also helping was the fact that people then knew absolutely nothing about how earthquake prone their region was.

The hotel was on a schedule that would have it comfortably ready for the great world’s fair, the Alaska Yukon Pacific Exposition that Seattle planned first for 1908 and then delayed for a year to June of 1909.  St.  Louis and Portland had just completed expos celebrating the start and the end of the Lewis and Clark Expedition.  Now it was Seattle’s time with a fresh topic, the gold rush plus the emergence of an American Century in the Pacific.   However, soon, the inevitable delays came Materials didn't arrive on time and, also, the realization that the basic business scheme devised by Chilberg and Marmaduke needed to be revisited.  The destruction of San Francisco sent a strong economic shock, that reverberated across the entire western economy.  Then, manipulators tried to corner the copper market which led to a collapse of copper stocks and a slowing of mining that hit the national economy in 1907. The slowing economy made the idea of finding a turnkey buyer unlikely, so Chilberg and Marmaduke turned to a public stock offering to raise the $250,000 necessary to furnish the project and install the interior spaces that would complete the hotel.  The coverage at the time seemed sober and straight forward, a small wrinkle in the plan, but clearly the back story demonstrated a significant fear that Seattle could be left with another empty hotel, just like the one Arthur Denny tried to build. 

Events also crowded in.  A great fleet was moving from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean and would visit Seattle in the Spring of 1908.  The purpose was to demonstrate President Roosevelt’s famous saying, "Speak softly and carry a big stick."  The Great White Fleet was the big stick part and sent a clear signal to Japan that the Pacific was an American lake as well.  When it became clear that sometime in May, 1908 the big ships would visit, there was a possibility that the city’s new showcase hotel might not be ready. It had the potential for a world class embarrassment to a city with world class presumptions. 

Chilberg and company were cutting it very close. They announced on April 19 that the New Washington would be the site of the great reception for the offices of the fleet when they arrived on May 23.  The Seattle Daily Times felt it necessary to underscore the community's expectations by saying that "the reception will take place in the big hostelry which will be finished by that date."

One step ahead of the sheriff, with workers racing to complete so many details, the officers’ reception began with the admirals being led to the ornate mezzanine so they could take in the lovely lobby. They then left the mezzanine and proceeded down stairs to the dining room/ballroom where the officers formed a reception line. They would greet 3,000 people inside the hotel while an estimated 30,000 milled around outside, where music was available and the police department scanned the crowd for pickpockets. 
They got some, like E. Larson, known as the “Frisco Kid” who had $125 on his person.  Ike Borenstein had filched $193 and, over at the post office, Joe Medford, who tried to outrun the cops, knocking over a group of ladies and a stroller.  He had $130 on him. Big money in those days.

New Washington and Moore Theater across from
grandstand on Second Avenue.
Note people standing on utility poles.
UW Collections
Then, three days later, the greatest parade ever in Seattle marched down First and up Second Avenue. The Seattle Daily Times, using a tortured analysis, had the attendees at half a million.  Let’s not argue with Alden Blethen, it would be a hopeless endeavor, let’s just say there were a lot of people.  They went South down First Avenue to Jackson Street, then back up the gentle slope on Second Avenue where they went by the official bandstand located across the street from the New Washington and the Moore Theater. 

Organizers had roped off the sidewalks from the parade route, using 33,000 feet of half inch rope. 

Original Poster
The military part of the parade was all starched uniforms and crisp, shouted orders, but the civilian part was down home.  The City of Aberdeen brought 16 black bear cubs who were to be escorted along the route by the 16 fattest men in Aberdeen.  A view of the parade route by the bear escorts led to a change in plans due to the rigor of the march and the long climb north on Second Avenue.  Younger, thinner men escorted the Teddy Bears along the streets.  After the parade, each of the 16 battleships received a bear cub as a mascot.

The hotel that Chilberg and Marmaduke made spanned the two World’s Fairs in Seattle, the Alaska Yukon Pacific Exposition – the youthful Chilberg was its president -- opened June 1, 1909 and Century 21, April 21, 1962.  Performers in both events stayed at the Washington.  Most notable, of course, was Elvis Presley, here to film “Take Me To The Fair,” later released as “It Happened at the World’s Fair.”




The Depression of 1893

The Great White Fleet and its Purposes

Very intelligent discussion of the 2001 earthquake in Seattle

The Elvis History Blog -- in Seattle



Seafair's older uncle, Potlatch

When I lived in the Leschi neighborhood of Seattle, a hillside overlooking the middle part of Lake Washington, I would watch the boat traffic streaming away from the southern part of the lake following the Seafair hydroplane races, the crowning event of Seattle’s 72 year old summer festival.  Though I knew there would be lots more good weather in front of us, actually the very best Northwest weather, the end of Seafair was a punctuation mark on the summer that somehow made me sad.  I’d walk out of the garden and up the stairs to the kitchen where I’d get another beer, or more likely a glass of whiskey.
While I don’t live in that house above the lake anymore, I have that same feeling of sadness at the end of Seafair and, for some reason, decided my familiarity with the history of Seafair needed some work and I took my whiskey over to my laptop when the blues came.  It didn't take long to blow past Seafair to its very interesting predecessor, Potlatch, sometimes called Golden Potlatch, a stop and start special event that began with great promise and some tragedy in the summer of 1911, seemed to gain a foothold in 1912, played host to a full bore riot in 1913 and was replaced with a choral music festival in 1915 after the Seattle Chamber of Commerce decided a better use of its money would be chasing conventions.  Potlatch revived for a few years in the mid-thirties but was abandoned as World War II broke out. 
When it ended in 1915, a former booster of the event, The Seattle Daily Times, said there was nothing to get upset about. 

“Seattle has discovered and promoted with a commendable degree of success a happy substitute for the erstwhile, noisy and meaningless Potlatch.”
Festivals have always been markers – of time, accomplishment, our spiritual life. They were, in the fundamental meaning of the concept, a special event.Today, special events are more mundane -- business tactics, things we do to communicate ideas, to carry out commerce, to advocate, to create a purposeful unity. 

Potlatch comes from Chinook Jargon, the trading language of tribes in the Northwest.  It derives from a Nootka (Vancouver Island) word and described a celebration in which many people gathered together, feasted, gambled and made gifts, often lavish, to one another. 

UW Libraries
The first Seattle Potlatch grew out of the civic energy generated by the 1909 Alaska Yukon Pacific Exposition that celebrated the Alaska Gold Rush and Seattle’s gateway role in the riches of the far north.  Seattle’s connections to the tribes still had power back in the early part of the last century, perhaps because we had so overwhelmed them, as we had the forest, and they existed only in a pleasant myth.  My old neighborhood, Leschi, was named after a chief, likely innocent, authorities had hung just sixty years before.
Planning for the event began in April with a meeting of worthies intent on raising enough money to make a good first impression.  Mayor George Cotterill led off with his favorite topic, growing the city.  “This year’s summer visitor is the advance agent of next year’s permanent resident.”  Frank McDermott, leader of the Bon Marche, the most successful department store on the west coast, chimed in with “Cities are only learning what merchants learned long ago - that it pays to advertise.”  “It helps put Seattle on the map,” said Joshua Green of the Inland Navigation Company.  Blunt old Henry Broderick, the downtown real estate man, added:   “The Potlatch will pay if you do.  Mail your check now!”

Seattle Golf Club
UW Libraries

A prelude to opening day of the first Potlatch on July 17 was the Potlatch Golf Tournament, played at the new Seattle Golf Club, open at its present location since 1908.  One of the more popular young businessmen in Seattle, George R. Andrews, Seattle manager of the Burroughs Adding Machine Company, was set to play in the tournament on July 13th.  He was good – just a couple of weeks earlier he won the Chapin Cup and the club championship in successive days. 

He would have been known as a “good club man,” a popular joiner in the Seattle upper crust social scene.  He and a number of friends had a small party at the golf club the night of the 12th which concluded about 10:00 PM.  They left at about the same time with George insisting he was in a hurry to get back to his apartments in the New Washington Hotel downtown so he could be rested and ready to tee off early on the 13th

They drove out onto Golf Club Road, George the second to last car out of the parking lot.  One of the cars ahead had a mechanical problem and stopped at the city limits, then on 85th Street and perhaps four miles toward the city from the course.  When the last car came along, ahead of George, his friends sensed something wrong and back-tracked for the club, finding some skid marks about a half mile from the club at a place called “The Dip,” an elevation change along the narrow, two lane road perched above a small but steep embankment.

They couldn’t see anything there until they picked up, in their headlights, the glint of broken glass. They slid down the ravine’s edge until they saw the car at the bottom and George at the foot of a stump, his neck broken.  The skid marks and other clues suggested that Andrews was driving 60 miles an hour or so or before he flew off the road.  One of his friends broke an axle while searching and another car was damaged while backing up, nearly rolling into the same ravine. There were many indicators that alcohol was involved, but the Seattle Daily Times, never a friend of governmental performance, blamed the road builder, King County, even bringing the Executive Director of the Good Roads Association to the site to evaluate the quality of the road.   Seattle Daily Times Publisher Alden Blethen was a member of the club and his sons were pretty good at the game.  He likely wished he would have exposed any problems of “The Dip” that he had driven over so many times before the accident.   
Despite George's tragedy, they finished the tournament, out of deference to the many golfing visitors in town, but Potlatch never felt the same to Blethen or the Seattle Daily Times after the George Andrews tragedy and subsequent events.

Still, the first Potlatch was a hell of a party.  It had many of entertainments we enjoy in today’s Seafair.  A big parade, water sports, even something called a hydroplane, though it was really a float plane with wheels in its pontoons that could scoot the craft noisily along the ground. 
There were nightly dances on the streets, a Chinese monster dragon dance and, in an unfortunate sentence “a Japanese feast of lanterns.”  Those Japanese and their hot food!

Pergola at First and Yesler
Seattle Municipal Archives
Seattle’s Potlatch goals were fairly minimal – more growth, awareness of the city’s accomplishments.  The city was working hard at gaining attention in 1911.  In 1890, Tacoma and Seattle had about the same population, around 40,000 and the same basic interests – access to major transportation linkages via the railroads and ports.  But Seattle exploded in the next two decades as it went on an annexation binge and had considerable organic growth as well.  Suddenly, it seemed, Seattle was a big city with 250,000 people.  It had pulled off a spectacularly successful world’s fair, but it still yearned for more attention.   The first Potlatch did just that and the one the next year seemed even better. 

UW Libraries
Every summer festival has its auxiliary group, fundraisers and boosters who support the event and march, in their white suits and shoes, in the big parade.  Seafair has its “Commodores” formed five years after the first Seafair in 1950.  The Potlatch had an auxiliary as well, Tilikums, another Chinook word meaning people who signify a nation.  The Tilikums marched in something even more uncomfortable than a poorly fitted white suit.  They wore great masks, really more like totem poles, over their white robes.  The masks covered much of their body and must have been clumsy at the volunteer reception after the parade or, more likely, required a really big check room at the host hotel. 
It looked like this event was on the rise in 1913, especially when Frank Baker, head of the National City Bank, committed to be the chairman at a luncheon held at the Moose Room of The Rathskeller restaurant.  Baker would become the father of another Seattle banker, Miner Baker, who for many years provided the regional economic forecast at Seattle First National Bank and later served as a Seattle Port Commissioner. 

There were no invitations sent out for the dinner, people just knew to come and, at a dollar plate, it was a big success.  When Baker spoke, he promised an event that would be the best yet. 
It was, in fact, a nightmare. 


Alden J.  Blethen, Publisher
Seattle Daily Times
UW Libraries
There are many complicated antecedents to what caused the 1913 Potlatch Riots.  First, there was Colonel Blethen, who wore his heart on his masthead, where he sometimes described his publication as “An American Newspaper for Americans.”  One of his goals, also on the masthead, was the defeat of Bolshevism, along with a 3,000,000 ton/year coking plant located in town.
The Industrial Workers of the World had Blethen’s version of America always in their sights and periodically would hold parades in front of the Daily Times offices, their Red Flag of the revolution on equal level with the Stars and Stripes.  Of course, this infuriated Blethen.  He believed that their continued organizing and speech making was dangerous, bad for business and un-American and he constantly pressured the mayor to run them out of town as other towns had done.

George Cotterill, Mayor
Seattle Municipal Archives
But the mayor and Colonel Blethen didn’t get along.  Before becoming mayor, George Cotterill was the assistant to R. H. Thomson, the great city engineer whom Blethen thought was out of control, by and large true, and Blethen had him as a socialist as well because Thomson thought highly of public ownership.  

After the Great Seattle Fire, Thomson blamed the poor performance of the private water companies for the inability of the firefighters to put down the blaze.  So, he created his own publicly-owned water department, building the city’s water system on the Cedar River, 30 miles from the town, hooking it up with wooden pipes.  The dam he built to hold the municipal water supply led him to attach a power plant and run the stored water through its generators.  The resulting city-owned electric company delivered significant value to the citizens of his town, the rate/kilowatt hour dropping from 20 cents to 10 cents in a handful of years.  Not only was Cotterill connected to Thomson, but he had defeated Blethen’s pick, Hiram Gill, for mayor the year before.
So, when Blethen and the management of Potlatch wanted the IWW silenced and off the streets of Seattle, Cotterill refused.

There are several versions of how the riots began.  One of them had a young female IWW supporter speaking to a largely IWW crowd on Washington Street in Pioneer Square.  A few soldiers and sailors here for Potlatch and having a good time in the square's many bars came upon the scene and began heckling the speaker.  She heckled back.  At some point the soldiers took over the platform and shouted their points of view to the crowd, who shouted back. 
The woman sought to get her platform back and they refused.  She told them the platform was rented and she would be charged a premium if she did not return it on time, a point the military men who now had the box did not buy.  There was a struggle, a fist was raised near the woman and one of the crowd stepped forward and decked a sailor.  


IWW Hall
UW Collections
That night, after reading inflammatory accounts in the Daily Times about the incident, a mob consisting of soldiers, sailors and their friends busted up the IWW headquarters building as fights broke out everywhere. Other offices were ransacked, newsstands with Socialist and IWW materials were destroyed. Cotterill declared a civil emergency, cut off liquor sales and told Colonel Blethen that the only way he would publish another account of the troubles then ongoing was to have it reviewed prior to publication by the mayor.

Seattle Police then refused to let a Daily Times extra edition be circulated to newsboys gathered at the Times Building.  The Times lawyers finally got an temporary injunction against Cotterill and his gag order.

By then troops had been federalized and the city was under martial law.  Soldiers and sailors were sent to their ships and barracks.  While additional violence was expected, it didn’t materialize, although it was clearly a precursor of truly bloody events in the remaining years of the decade -- the Everett and Centralia Massacres, the General Strike and hundreds of smaller incidents in the coal mine and lumbering towns across the state.  

Absent from much of the coverage of the 1913 event was the accomplishment of a young woman, Alyn McKay, who set the altitude record for women in her small plane, rising above the mayhem below in lazy circles until she reached 2,900 feet which, at the time, seemed amazing. 

Potlatch would have one more year, 1914, and disappear from the civic agenda.  Blethen would exit the following year, dying July 13, 1915.


Monday, June 23, 2014

Washington Hall and the beginning of Seattle's melting pot

The Squire Park neighborhood has one of those names you’d think was given by a savvy developer hoping to communicate open space and the good life.  In fact, however, it was named after Watson C. Squire, a respected Territorial Governor of Washington and a United States Senator after statehood.  Squire bought the land from the original Carson Boren land claim and filed a plat in 1890, the year after Seattle’s Great fire.  He had married well.  His wife, Ida, was the granddaughter of Eliphalet Remington who founded the gun company.  Watson had worked at the company as a lawyer.

Squire Park assembles along a section of Yesler Way, which a few decades earlier was also the famous Skid Road, where the logs from Seattle’s virginal forest were skidded by mule and horse down to Elliott Bay so they could be sawed up and shipped off to places on the west coast that were, remarkably, growing even faster than Seattle. 

Everyone figured there would be a boom after Seattle’s business district
burned down in 1889 and they were right.  The great clear cut formed by logging the Yesler forest provided an opportunity for developers to build streetcars that led to parks they had built on Lake Washington so they could attract people to their real estate via a good time, picnics, and even a little gambling.  It was all about these new, fun things like leisure time and money trickling down to a growing middle class.  Within twelve months of the completion of the Yesler Streetcar Line, nearly 1600 homes were built within three blocks of the line.  By 1896, another two lines were in place to the north of Yesler, homes popping up and hugging the new transportation links.  In 1900, they were selling lots for about $250-$500, ready to build.
 
Squire Park in 1910 with
Providence Hospital in the background
The real estate pages of the early Seattle Times exhibited the making of magic in Squire Park, the kind of magic that transformed the idea of residence from a place above the shoe and furniture stores in town to a real, single family house, possibly with a boarder, but no less a real house.  At the turn of the century, Squire Park’s homes seemed within reach, a powerful and necessary reality of residential real estate.  It had potential, which was the message from that nice Mr. J.W. Clise, who came to Seattle just after the big fire, saw potential in Squire Park and bought and sold houses and land there alongside Watson Squire and his son Philo.

William Grose, an African American Pioneer, also saw potential in the housing boom.  He had lost his waterfront hotel, restaurant and tavern in the big fire and decided to move
William Grose house, still standing, near
24th and Madison
back to a 12 acre farm he had purchased earlier from old Henry Yesler himself just south of Madison Street and east of 23rd Avenue, a bit North and East of Squire Park.  He led development there and in the 1890s it became known as the “Colored Colony,” home to many middle class blacks.  As Quintard Taylor, the University of Washington historian has written:

By the 1890s, the handful of African-American entrepreneurs were far more integrated into the city’s economy than their counterparts would be a century later.  Black businesses were located throughout the city and served a mostly white clientele.  For one brief moment in the 1890s, Seattle had more black attorneys than ministers.”

On the other side of the neighborhood, the southern end of Squire Park and a bit to the west, a large community of Japanese was also growing in size and economic influence.  It was called Japan Town.  Some 3500 people lived in and around Squire Park.  Masajiro Furuya, the Japanese banker and merchant, who partnered with two other Japanese businessmen to stage the Japanese exhibit at the World’s Fair, lived in what is now the Yesler Terrace Housing Project, just a couple of blocks from Washington Hall. 

Together, they helped contribute to the racial diversity we normally don’t equate with those times in Seattle. To this, add the Scandinavian arrival to Squire Park, and the construction of a building that served as a kind of settlement house for them and for everyone else in the neighborhood.  It serves the same purpose todeay.  

At the western end of Squire Park, a couple of blocks off Yesler on 14th, just down the street from the baseball park, home of the Clamdiggers, Siwashes, Chinooks, Turks and Giants, the Seattle team in the Northwest League, the Danish Brotherhood bought four lots and built a lodge in 1908.  The Danes were part of the great migration from Europe that resulted in more than 60,000,000 Europeans leaving their native countries in the 100 years between 1830 and 1930.  For parts of that 100 year span, the doors in America were wide open. 

More than a 1,000,000 Swedes, 800,000 Norwegians, 300,000 Danes and 230,000 Finns found their way to America seeking opportunity through such remarkable laws as the Homestead Act, a statute that brought the idea of land ownership into the immigrant vocabulary.   The Scandinavians were also running from events at home.  Norwegians sought to escape conscription in the Russian Army.  When Prussia took the province of Schleswig Holstein from Denmark, a third of its 150,000 residents left for America, having no desire to serve in the Prussian Army.

Germania Hall, Second and Senaca
U. W.  Collections
Early Scandinavian immigration was largely to the Midwest but people kept moving west across the northern tier of America.  Along the way, they formed associations to keep their culture and customs and ease the bumps and stumbles that came with their new lives in America.  In Omaha, early immigrants who had fought in the US Civil War and the Danish-Prussian War formed the Danish Brotherhood in 1882, just as Danish immigration was peaking.  Six years later, the Danish community in Seattle opened a chapter and began looking to build a permanent lodge.  By 1902 there were 185 members and they met in various lodges like the Carpenters’ Union Hall or Germania Hall, the great German Lodge located at 2nd and Seneca.

Officers of Danish Brotherhood
UW Collections
In June of 1908 they dedicated their lodge in Squire Park and named it after their new home state.  Besides the meeting and entertainment spaces, they built single rooms where new residents could stay while they looked for more permanent places. There were 450 members of the Brotherhood that year and an equivalent number attached to the Danish Sisterhood.   In recognition of the Seattle chapter’s accomplishments and robust growth, T. P.  Nielson, the lodge’s president, was voted in as national president of the Brotherhood in 1910.

UW Collections
The year 1910 was an extraordinary year in Seattle’s history and in the history of America’s immigration.  The world’s fair, the Alaska Yukon Pacific Exhibition, had closed at the end of 1909.  It left Seattle’s citizens with a feeling that they now lived in a new city, a place of international consequence.  In one sense, it certainly was.  In 1910, one in four of residents had been born in another country.

That year, Squire Park was becoming even more diverse.  Jews were settling into Squire Park, speaking German, Yiddish and Ladino, the Spanish-Judeo language of Sephardic Jews who had been expelled from Spain.  All of these Jewish groups used Washington Hall as a temporary synagogue while they built their permanent synagogues up the street.  Some of these Jewish residents began calling Squire Park another name -- “The Village” -- because it reminded them of the cohesive enclaves they had left behind in Poland, Germany, Rhodes and Turkey. 

Even though Chinese people in Seattle had been pushed out under the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and by vigilante action the Exclusion Act inspired, 900 or so remained in Seattle in 1910, most living nearby the Hall.  Ironically, Watson Squire was territorial governor when those terrible events occurred.  In Tacoma, hundreds of Chinese were herded onto a ship and sent to San Francisco.   

Hazel Dixon stands by a Packard in 1914.  Behind her is
her house built by pioneer William Grose, her husband's
African American Heritige Society
Around the time of statehood, African Americans lived in all of Seattle’s 14 wards, but, in 1910, nearly all 3,200 lived in the Central District and Squire Park. 

Yesler Way and the Squire Park Neighborhood looked and sounded a lot like Seattle today, many cultures and languages populating the streets – nearly 12,000 Blacks, Jews, Chinese and Japanese congregating near Washington Hall.  Soon they would be joined by several thousand Filipinos whose country had become a territory of the United States after the Spanish-American War, meaning that citizens of the Philippines would be able to travel more freely to the US because they weren’t considered aliens. Though only 17 Filipinos lived in Seattle in 1910, they were poised to become the newest and largest group of people to move in close by Washington Hall.  Seattle was 97% white in 1910, but in the little melting pot of Squire Park, it was almost okay to look and sound a bit different.    

In the several decades after it was built, Washington Hall became identified as much with the adjacent residents as it was with people hailing from Denmark.  The managers of the hall happily rented it for dances, potlucks, plays in many languages, marriages, concerts.  It was the center of so many communities that one set of faces streaming out into the sunshine with their smiles and laughter would run into another set of faces, somber as they entered, prepared to eulogize a leader or listen to a speaker with an important topic. 

1910 was also important to this community because for the first time, the national government began a major, systematic accounting of the immigration policies of the past.  It came in the form of the Dillingham Commission, a joint committee of Congress that spent four years studying immigration policy and government action between 1820 and 1910.

Vermont Senator William
Dillingham
Appointed by President Theodore Roosevelt, the commission would have called itself progressive in its political thinking, but most political thinking in those days had racial and cultural blind spots.  The Progressive liked to think that progress in the country was linked to the perceived strength of the new immigrants, concepts like “good stock” or people who were “socially ready for assimilation.”  In other words, their bias was to northern Europeans over those from southern Europe and to white people over yellow, brown or black, or those from Eastern Europe.  Their goal was assimilation and they believed that only certain people were able to assimilate.  At the same time, the diverse Squire Park residents worked hard to assimilate, but worked as well to keep their cultures, religions and languages intact.

The commission did its work over four years and its volumes of background and recommendations formed the rationale for many future changes in immigration law.   By 1917 and twice in the twenties, big years for immigration reform, literacy tests for all people over 16 were in place. The law defined as undesirable people with certain illnesses or mental defects.  South Asia immigrants were barred from immigrating along with many others from across the Pacific.  While not in statute, a “gentleman’s agreement” between the government of Japan and the United States made it illegal for Japanese to emigrate to the United States.  The quotas then in place favored northern Europeans and reduced significantly southern and eastern Europe immigration. 

The end run around all these restrictions to immigration from the Pacific was the territorial status of the Philippines.  Philippine people had few restrictions to entry.  They were not aliens and needed no passport to come to America.  Also, the signals sent to Filipino men and women were decidedly mixed about opportunities in the United States.  Fighting a bloody revolution by Filipinos who wanted independence immediately, the Governor General of the territory, William Howard Taft, put his own progressive values to work winning the hearts and minds of young Filipino people. 

Seeking a pro-American elite in the country, many young people were invited to a program in the United States that placed young Filipinos in American colleges.  The University of Washington was a popular destination for these children, largely from educated upper classes of Philippine society who had the educational preparation that would help them succeed in US universities.  Taft also championed land reform and educational access to other, less fortunate people in the Philippines.  For example, under Taft’s leadership, the US purchased large plots of land from the Philippine Catholic Church which were redistributed to people in rural areas.

Carlos Bulosan
One person who observed these actions while growing up on a Philippine farm harbored a hopeful view of America.  He was Carlos Bulosan, a 17 year who was plenty smart but also burdened with a bumpkin’s naiveté.  When he arrived in Seattle, in 1930, he had no idea of the Dickensian horrors he would find after he got off the boat.  Two days after arriving, Bulosan told the hotel clerk at the hotel where he was staying that he didn’t think he could pay his tab in full.  The clerk had a way to fix that.  He sold Carlos to two tough nut Filipino labor contractors who, in no time, had Bulosan on a boat to Alaska where he would work in the salmon canneries for next to nothing.

A gifted writer, though he did not yet know it, he worked along the west coast at hard and low paying jobs through The Great Depression, finally getting sick in California where he was hospitalized with tuberculosis.  Then, for a few years, he wrote about his immigrant perceptions of America, marveling at how the country could be so cruel and at the same time so kind, revealing at one time so much opportunity and so little, so much compassion, so much hate. He became a labor organizer, but died at 42. America is in the Heart is a book that needs reading if you are interested in understanding any immigrant experience.

In the thirties, Seattle did not have the racially discriminatory Jim Crow laws that existed in other parts of the country, but there was a Jim Crow culture that effectively determined where different races would work, live, eat and play.  There were two musician unions in town, a white union which played in the theaters and lounges in the downtown where the money was good and a black union that played in the clubs along Jackson Street and the bars in Squire Park and the Central District.  Big touring bands like Duke Ellington played Washington Hall but could really play any hall in town.  But a great regional band like Edythe Turnham's Knights of Syncopation hung out on Jackson Street or played Washington Hall.  It took some time to open the doors of the Trianon or the Ice Arena.

Edythe Turnham and her Knights of Syncopation
University of Washington Collectoins
After, they would look for a place to play for fun and they would head for the cool joints along Jackson and Yesler Streets.  The pianist Overton Berry once had a black night club that became popular with these musicians.  It was exciting, the big names and great players of the American Negro musical world, but Overton’s stage was so small that the musicians had to find a seat in the audience which is where they played, delighting and sometimes surprising the patrons.

The segregated music scene ended in 1958 under pressure from the Century 21 World's Fair leadership, who did not their portrayal of the 21st Century marred by segregation.  In fact, Overton Berry was hired to bring more black musicians to the fair grounds.  In the closing scene of "It Happened at the World's Fair," for example, where the band marches through playing Elvis' highly forgettable "Happy Endings," Berry and others were drafted to carry instruments because the sharp eyes of the fair organizers saw too few African Americans in the band.

Once the Jewish immigrants in Squire Park had built their synagogues and didn’t need Washington Hall as a temporary place of worship, they continued renting it for
UW Collections
touring speakers and singers who served these smaller, special communities around the country with old world, ethnic  music, frequently in Yiddish, German and Ladino. 
Especially well-known among Sephardic residents was the drama produced by Morris Eskenazy and Leon Behar, both known as great wits, playwrights and actors. Productions of Ladino drama continued into the 1950s.  

Young Filipinos Dance at Washington Hall
in the 40s
UW Collections
A feature of immigrant life is loneliness.  Men frequently outnumbered women, especially at the beginning of an immigration wave.  Filipinos used the hall for dances and mixers, recruiting girls from all over the farming and fishing communities across the region.  Japanese would work on their loneliness by spending time at Mr.  Furuya’s farm and country home on Bainbridge Island where workers and students were welcome.  One of Furuya’s two daughters was a highly accomplished violinist and likely would have played at Washington Hall, though I have not yet found a record of it.

After Pearl Harbor, the Japanese residents rented the hall to organize their own civil defense procedures to both show their patriotism and contribute to
the community’s defense.  It didn't work.  On Tuesday, May 5, 1942, Washington Hall became the center of the continued Japanese evacuation of Western Washington.  The announcement was made by the west coast military command that the remaining Japanese in Seattle – the pre-war population was 7,000 in Seattle and 10,000 in Washington state -- would have to register at Washington Hall on Wednesday and Thursday and be transported by bus to Camp Harmony at the Puyallup Fairgrounds.  They arrived on May 11 and would later be sent to Minidoka, Idaho in August.  Other Seattle Japanese would be sent by train to Pinedale, a camp near Sacramento and then on to Manzinar.  Japanese living in Kent were told to register while a decision had not yet been made about when Japanese living in Auburn would be register.  These events would bring the number of Japanese evacuated to 55,000.  When it was finished, 110,000 Japanese living in the west had been interned. 


LA Times
Among the registrants were Japanese farmers in the Kent Valley.  About 150 Japanese-owned farms and dairies operated there.  An official assured residents of the state that because ownership of the farms was being transferred to Filipino and white farmers, no loss of produce was expected. 


There is a constant echo in today’s newspapers emanating from the American tragedy of Japanese internment.  The published obituaries of Japanese people today follow a mostly similar format.  The lead paragraph tells the story of a full life and loving character.  The second paragraph almost always mentions their internment for three years from 1942 to 1945 and where they were imprisoned.  The third paragraph, for the males, usually mentions military service in the European Theater.

World War II, in fact, changed the face of Squire Park for more people than the Japanese.  Few Japanese returned to Squire Park, their numbers in Seattle today are about the same as in 1942.  The great African American diaspora, accelerated by the wartime industries in the Northwest, brought many African American people to Squire Park and the Central District.  In fact, the movement of African Americans was comparable to the Oregon, California and Santa Fe trails in the covered wagon days, about 1.6 million people finding their way across the country.  By 1960, the migration topped 3,000,000 people.
 
Housing covenants conspired to keep black people in Squire Park and the Central District, though federal wartime housing opened new opportunities to the south of Squire Park, in the Rainier Valley.  In 1970, the Central District and Squire Park had become 72% African American, the earlier populations moving on to somewhere else.  Synagogues were repurposed as clinics and arts centers.  Today, however, the white population in the Central District is about 60% and African Americans total about 30%.  The African American population has shifted mainly south and southeast, frequently to the King County suburbs there. 

Jews tended to move out of Squire Park and into Southeast Seattle neighborhoods like Mount Baker, Seward Park and across Lake Washington into neighborhoods like Bellevue and Mercer Island.   

With racial and religious covenants illegal, the choices of later waves of immigrants were not confined to Squire Park and the Central Area.  Koreans, Chinese, Vietnamese, Hispanics and Pacific Islanders tended to choose the southern part of of Seattle as well as close in suburban towns like Tukwila, Renton and Kent as their first home, though many chose to go east of Lake Washington to suburbs there.  Today, the suburb of Bellevue, on the east side of Lake Washington, has the highest population of foreign born in Washington state, 30%.

The Danish Brotherhood gave up on Washington Hall during the seventies.  It was expensive to maintain, no longer centrally located to their membership and the neighborhood had changed so much.  They sold it to a Black Masonic organization, The Worshipful Sons of Haiti, in 1973.  It not only provided a home to the black Masons, but also to waves of avant garde performers whose first priority in choosing a performance venue was the cost of the hall. 

As another wave of change washed around the building, King County’s Arts and Cultural Agency, 4Culture and Historic Seattle purchased the building in 2009 and Historic Seattle, which holds the mortgage, is leading an effort to rehabilitate the building and create a place in the community as vital and necessary as when it was first built. 

In addition to acquisition of the property and stabilization of the building's basics, historic Seattle has fixed the building’s roof and is now raising money for a seismic retrofit, American’s With Disability Act compliance and finishes finishing of the interior spaces.  It’s about a $10,000,000 project.

The emergence of Seattle University, which moved back to the neighborhood in the 1930s, along with the appearance of a thriving restaurant culture, have helped make the neighborhood in 2014 as hot as it was in 1900.  The rebuilding of Yesler Terrace into a mixed income home for 5,000 people is a stimulant on the way.  The existing housing is, by Seattle standards, affordable and the commutes to downtown or to the nearby health care complex are minimal.

Carl Sandburg saw, correctly, that the magic of cities is in their constant and restless re-imagining:   

"The city is made, forgotten, and made again,
     trucks hauling it away, haul it back."

Every change, however, brings an abiding need -- a place at the center that somehow figures out how to bring people together.  That's Washington Hall's role and it somehow must figure out how to do it all over again.

Lovely Historylink Piece About Washington Hall
The Baker Building and Massajiro Furuya
History of Sephardic Theater at Washington Hall
Central District History
Harvard University collection on immigration from 1789 to 1930