Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Gone Gone Gone

Closed 2014
On a recent visit to the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle I was saddened to see that yet another landmark has disappeared. The Totem House, Seafood and Chowder, Family recipes since 1948, has given up the fight leaving a note on their door stating,

“Goodbye friends,  the economy has overtaken us, we will miss you greatly!”

Four people signed the note.
(Totem House has since re-opened)

It seems to me that more and more funky sites are morphing into condominiums, apartment houses and most unbelievably into - out of state banks bearing names foreign to the local tongue. Bank of America, Wells Fargo and Chase Manhattan Bank have replaced Peoples Bank, Rainer Bank and Seattle First National Bank, all absorbed by these and other larger institutions.
Change is change!
People new to the area never embrace the same emotion to what is no longer.
It all looks and feels great if you are new to the view.
Maybe this is the way it has always been, though I feel we have lost a lot of local color that made us a bit different from the big cities south of us. We still had a sense of humor and balance to who we were without the mantel of financial planning and success hanging over every decision.
Does every stitch of land have to produce some multiple of income to have value?
I miss the “Taj Mahal of Ballard.” Originally opened as Manning’s Cafeteria in 1964 it was taken over by Denny’s Restaurants in 1983. They managed it as a landmark-meeting place until it was leveled, after receiving historic preservation status, to make way for more income.
Architect Clarence Mayhew designed the vanished building from his office in San Francisco. It had a soaring, parabolic roofline referred to as “Googie” which was a dominant style evoking optimism during the cold war days.
I once knew a Russian immigrant who left, what was then called Leningrad, in the pursuit of freedom. She was training to be an English teacher. When she applied to leave she lost her job, school status and her apartment. With a sponsor in Jerusalem, she was given an exit visa allowing her to travel to Israel. Within three weeks of leaving Russia she was a cashier at Denny’s in Ballard!
Imagine the stories that have been swept away by the wrecking ball.
In a flash we lost the Twin Teepees, built in 1937. It was an eccentric place to meet close to Green Lake. It didn’t matter that Northwest Indians didn’t live in teepees as the experience of sitting in the somewhat bizarre environment was worth ignoring the historic misstep.
The Coliseum Theater, built in downtown Seattle in 1916 transformed into a Banana Republic in 1990. Fortunately they were kind enough to leave the fa├žade to jar the memory of us who loved going “downtown” to the films.
Yes, there were ashtrays on the backs of chairs as smoking was allowed in the theater for most of its life.
The Coliseum was designed by B. Marcus Priteca, known as the architect of the Pantages vaudeville theatres between 1911 and 1929. Based in Seattle, Priteca became one of the “most renowned theatre architects” in the nation. In addition to his Pantages work, Priteca also designed the fondly remembered grandstand at the Longacres racetrack in Auburn, Washington.
Longacres moved to a new site renamed Emerald Downs so I’ll refrain from mourning its demise.
We have lost the Queen Anne Theater.  Originally, back in 1925 it was called Stradley’s Cheerio Theater. This was the only theater located on lower Queen Anne near the “counterbalance.”
Yep, income was down.
More recently The Uptown Theater, opened in 1926, is closing due to it “no longer competes effectively in the marketplace.”
There was a time before Seattle was referred to as the Emerald City that we were known as the Queen City. From 1869 to 1982 we carried that moniker proudly.
The Neptune Theater, 1921, in the University District is in the process of redefining itself. The word on the street is they will offer live entertainment.
Lets hope that works out well for all of us.
The Sunset Bowl, 1956, vanished to the screams of memories when the giant machine knocked down the pins for the last time. Gone forever are the five-cent coffees and the fifteen-cent shoe rental.
Gone forever are the neighborhood parties, the Saturday morning kids league, the laughs.
Presently it is a bare lot waiting for “good times to be here again.”
People aware enough to appreciate some uniqueness have saved lots of cool places in our fair city. I am thankful for what we still have but miss those spots that gave you a bit of warmth and a feeling of simpler times when you frequented them.
If Ivars Salmon House, on Lake Union, ever disappears it may be time to put up those billboards that said, “Would the last person leaving Seattle please turn out the lights” that were so prevalent a few decades before Boeing actually moved to Chicago.
For those of you who may have forgotten, Ivar Haglund, “King of the Waterfront” built the first Seattle Aquarium in 1938 on pier 54, owned the Smith Tower before he died, and brought us 4th of July fireworks for years. He successfully opened a number of restaurants, Ivar’s Acres of Clams, Ivar’s, Ivar’s Salmon House along with a few short-lived fish and chip stands. He was one of our more colorful citizens offering an optimistic view wrapped up in his often quoted, “Keep Clam!”

Perhaps it’s time to quit looking back and “Keep Clam!”

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