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Traveling with Postcards: Seattle

St. James Cathedral

St. James Cathedral is a Roman Catholic cathedral church located at 804 Ninth Avenue in the First Hill neighborhood of Seattle. The need for a cathedral in Seattle arose in 1903, when Edward O’Dea, bishop of what was then known as the Diocese of Nesqually, elected to move the Episcopal see from Vancouver, Washington to Seattle. Construction began in 1905 and was completed in 1907.

Major artwork at St. James Cathedral include an extensive collection of stained glass by Charles Connick, installed in 1917-1920, during the rebuilding of the cathedral following the collapse of the dome. In 1999, ceremonial bronze doors were added, the work of German sculptor Ulrich Henn. A bronze tabernacle by the same artist was installed in 2003. St. James Cathedral is also home to an altarpiece by Florentine artist Neri di Bicci, dating to 1456. It represents the Madonna and Child surrounded by six saints.

The cathedral’s original choir space in the west gallery features an organ built by the Boston firm of Hutchings-Votey (Opus 1623). This organ was installed and voiced by E. M. Skinner in 1907.

The Fairmont Olympic Hotel

The Fairmont Olympic Hotel, originally The Olympic Hotel, is a historic hotel in downtown Seattle. It was built on the original site of the University of Washington’s first campus. The hotel opened in 1924, and in 1979, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

After World War I, Seattle’s Chamber of Commerce appointed a committee to work toward the goal of bringing a world-class hotel to the city. The committee identified an undeveloped portion of the city’s Metropolitan Tract, a downtown area covering four blocks, as an ideal location for a new hotel. The Seattle Times held a contest to name the hotel. From 3,906 entries, the committee chose The Olympic.

In 1922, once the lease had gone into effect, the Community Hotel Corporation chose New York architect George B. Post & Son to design the building; the local firm Bebb and Gould—a partnership between Charles Bebb and Carl Gould—were hired as the local supervising architects. Post created an Italian Renaissance design that was popular at the time, and this design remains one of the building’s hallmarks today. The Olympic Hotel’s grand opening took place on December 6, 1924, with a grand dinner and dance attended by more than 2,000 Seattle residents and their guests. Hundreds more people lined the streets just to catch a glimpse of the new hotel.

The L.C. Smith Building

Smith Tower is a skyscraper in Pioneer Square in Seattle, Washington. Completed in 1914, the 38-story, 484 ft tower is the oldest skyscraper in the city, and was among the tallest skyscrapers outside New York City at the time of its completion. It remained the tallest building on the West Coast for nearly half a century until the Space Needle overtook it in 1962.

During a trip to Seattle in 1909, Smith planned to build a 14-story building in Seattle. His son, Burns Lyman Smith, convinced him to build instead a much taller skyscraper to steal the crown from rival city Tacoma’s National Realty Building as the tallest west of the Mississippi River. Construction began in 1911. Although Smith did not live to see it, the building was completed in 1914. L.C. Smith Tower opened to the public on July 4, 1914. Over 4,000 Seattleites rode to the 35th floor on opening day.

In recent years high-tech companies have been occupants of L.C. Smith Tower, which sports fiber-optic wiring. The burst of the dot-com bubble hurt Smith Tower by raising its vacancy rate to 26.1 percent, twice Seattle’s commercial vacancy rate, as of December 21, 2001. The Walt Disney Internet Group, for example, at the time reduced its seven floors to four. By 2007, the occupancy rate had rebounded to about 90 percent, with new occupants such as Microsoft Live Labs.

The building is one of the last on the West Coast to employ elevator operators. The Otis Elevator Company provided the elevators, which have brass surfaces. The doors are latticed, so a rider can see into each hallway and through the glass walls in front of each office.

Leschi Park

Leschi Park is an 18.5 acre park in the Leschi neighborhood of Seattle,  named after Chief Leschi of the Nisqually tribe. The majority of the park is a grassy hillside that lies west of Lakeside Avenue S. and features tennis courts, picnic tables, and a playground. Across Lakeside Avenue to the east is the western shore of Lake Washington and a small lawn with benches. To its south is the southern portion of Leschi Moorage, separated from the northern portion by a parking lot in the E. Yesler Way right-of-way, private docks, and an office/restaurant complex.

The cable car run from Pioneer Square that operated from September 27, 1888, to August 10, 1940, terminated here. As with Madison Park to the north, there was a cross-lake ferry run from Leschi Park to the Eastside before the construction of the Lacey V. Murrow Memorial Bridge. Seattle’s first zoo was located here, but moved to Woodland Park in 1903. Leschi Park borders Frink Park in its southwest corner.

The Duwamish called the area “Changes-Its-Face”, referring to an enormous and powerful supernatural horned snake that was said to live there.

Alaska–Yukon–Pacific Exposition

The Alaska–Yukon–Pacific Exposition was a world’s fair held in Seattle in 1909, publicizing the development of the Pacific Northwest. It was originally planned for 1907, to mark the 10th anniversary of the Klondike Gold Rush, but the organizers found out about the Jamestown Exposition being held that year, and rescheduled. The fairgrounds later became the campus of the University of Washington.

The gates opened at 8.30 AM on June 1, and crowds entered immediately. At 9.30 AM, attendees watched performances by military bands from the Army and the Navy. Many sat in the fair’s amphitheater, awaiting a signal scheduled to be given in Washington DC. At 3pm East Coast Time (12 noon in Seattle), in the East Room of the White House, President Taft sent the signal. He “opened… the Exposition… by touching a gold key, studded with gold nuggets taken from the first mine opened in the Klondike region.” The telegraphic spark that Taft sent was received by telegraphers at the fairgrounds; as soon as it arrived, a gong was struck five times, a large American flag was unfurled, and there was a twenty-one gun salute, while other demonstrations of pageantry announced the official opening of the fair.

Opening Day, June 1, was declared a city holiday, and 80,000 people attended.  Attendance was even higher—117,013—on “Seattle Day”. Other big draws were days dedicated to various ethnic groups, fraternal organizations, and U.S. states. By the time the fair closed on October 16, over 3,700,000 had visited.


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