1828 6th Ave. W. in 1937, with its flat roof.
1828 6th Ave. W. in 1937, with its flat roof.
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The impact of Seattle’s streetcar lines on Queen Anne’s commercial development continues to be part of our daily lives. Even today, following the historic No. 24 streetcar route — the one that ran up the Counterbalance around a couple of corners and down Sixth Avenue West to its terminus at West McGraw Street — finds us still shopping in historic buildings all along the way. The active stores like Macrina Bakery, Top Pot Doughnuts or Molly Moon delight us still, but the abandoned ones, like the three at 1828, 1834 and 1900 6th Ave. W. at West Howe Street, draw my eye every day.

All three stores are on the east side of the wider street and were obviously built in response to the 1902 completion of the streetcar line. According to the city’s historic side sewer cards, the shop at 1828 connected to the sewer in 1909 while the one at 1834 on the southeastern corner of West Howe Street tied up in 1910. The oldest of the three at 1900 6th Ave. W., connected in 1904 barely two years after the streetcar arrived. Oddly, we don’t learn the name of the shop owner until 1907. Unlike the great majority of the brick clad stores that survive today, these three are two-story wooden structures with at least one apartment over the shops. Fortunately, we have photographs of all three in 1937 and the early 1950s. The 1937 photos were snapped by an under-employed designer working for the Depression era Works Progress Administration.

Its asbestos sheathing notwithstanding, 1834 6th Ave. W. is architecturally the best preserved of the three and the most interesting. Like many small town wooden stores, this simple wood frame building exploits its site with a false front that when seen from a passing streetcar makes it look about one story higher than it really is. The false front hides a simple gable running east-to-west and creates an imposing façade. Two large plate glass windows of unequal size flanking the entrance are capped by transoms of delicate strip windows which span the façade’s entire width including the setback in front of the doors. The recessed and poorly maintained double doors between the uneven halves of the 6th Avenue façade still delight passersby on foot, in cars, on the No. 2 or 29 buses or, like me, swooshing by on bicycles. Upstairs, a pair of one over one windows with decorative spandrels and remarkable round-arch panels (both features probably added when the asbestos siding went up) mark the flat where shop owners lived. Today, a couple of trees planted in the parking strip (by the city we hope) obscure the historic façade.

The store at 1900 6th W. on the northeast corner of the intersection, the one sheathed in glorious white vinyl, also had a false front. As the 1937 photo shows, the gutters and the edge of the roof wrapping around the building’s western-facing side broadcast the façade’s insincerity. It too had an apartment upstairs for the first shopkeepers, but by 1918, shopkeepers lived in the little house in back on the alley. Today, offensive vinyl siding conceals red composition asphalt siding embossed with imitation bricks that hid the original clapboard in the 1940s. Like the store at 1834, this one had asymmetrical plate glass windows on either side of a recessed door all tied together by a narrow transom of small windows.

All that remains of the store at 1828 is the historic door on the southern edge of the façade that leads upstairs. Where it once had huge plate glass windows flanking a recessed door, now two front doors and a curious arrangement of windows suggest the conversion of shop space into apartments. The recessed door in the 1937 image matches those of the stores at 1834 and 1900. This shop also has a rectangular primary façade just like its mercantile neighbors, but this one is for real. A flat roof makes it possible to build out to the upper corners of the second floor while eliminating the attic and the high false front a gable roof requires. The sign on the awning in the 1937 image announces Middleton Market, whose owner Thomas ran a meat shop. As late as 1952, there are empty lots on either side of this structure.

A couple of extremely quiet hours downtown perusing a few of Polk’s City of Seattle Directories on the ninth level of Rem Koolhaas’ Seattle Public Library proved most of our suppositions about the buildings’ early history.

Even though the now odd-looking box at 1900 6th Ave. W. may have been owned by the trustees of the Third Presbyterian Church (now the Queen Anne Presbyterian Church and located a block away on Fifth Avenue West) in 1904 when it was connected to the sewer, it served from the get-go as a grocery store. Samuel Irvine is first identified in the city directory as operating a grocery there in 1907. He may have been the person of the same name who sold tea in 1905 and 1906 at 519 E. Denny Way, but by 1907, there is no doubt that he was here and living upstairs over the shop with his wife Margaret. They were still there in 1912. With some more digging, we may find out how long they stayed. In any case by 1937, Thomas J. Hanrahan ran the grocery and lived with his wife Nora T. Hanrahan either upstairs in the apartment or out back in the tiny house at 516 W. Howe. By 1941, when the electric trolley busses replaced the streetcars, it had closed. By 1955, however, with the false front removed and the clapboard hidden behind the composition siding, Don Moyle was running Don’s Market here.

We know a bit more about the store at 1834 6th Ave. W. The 1910 city directory names Homer T. Verd operating Verd Bros grocery there. Homer apparently went into business with his brother Edward who also sported a middle T, but Edward continue working as the treasurer of Bryant Lumber and Mill Company and the Jackson Investment Company. He did not live on site. According to the 1906 directory Homer and Edward appear to have started in the grocery business down the street at 602 W. Crockett where Homer also lived and where Targy’s Tavern can be found today. In 1910, Verd Bros. moved one block south and across Sixth Avenue West to 1834 where Homer lived upstairs with his wife Mary. Homer and Mary are still there in the 1912 directory apparently operating their successful grocery just across from the Irvines all that time.

In the 1937 picture, the big sign on the false front announces the grocery store’s IGA identity. The initials stand for Independent Grocers Alliance which started in May 1926 when a group of 100 independent retailers (family-owned local grocery stores) in Poughkeepsie, New York and Sharon, Connecticut, led by J. Frank Grimes, organized themselves into a single marketing system. Guidance from the IGA management came in the form of marketing and access to a consistent supply chain. In 1937, Thomas W. Weddle and his wife Pearl ran the IGA and lived upstairs. You can see the Weddell name at the very top of the IGA sign. The Weddle’s store also closed its doors by 1941. (Note: See Alicia Arter and Jan Hadley’s marvelous articles about local grocery stores – especially this one, which explains why these stores failed during the Great Depression). The shop re-opened a few years later as a delicatessen and bakery, but by 1955, it had closed once again.

Exploring 1834 6th Ave. W., today, we discover that the retail space is (comparatively) unchanged. Sure, it appears at first look like a rough-hewn nearly abandoned carpentry shop, but truth to tell you could easily slip the old IGA in without changing much. Big old beams still frame the first floor while high ceilings make room for any equipment you might need. Large openings make deliveries easy while the trees notwithstanding, those big windows admit gobs of light. The apartment upstairs is still rented, but the building’s owner now lives next door in a discrete bungalow designed in 2000 by Gregory S. Hackworth of Hackworth Architecture – Planning to hide its modern origins. Hackworth may have set the new house way back from the street in honor of the long gone No. 24 streetcar that used to rumble by. 

MICHAEL HERSCHENSOHN is president of the Queen Anne Historical Society (qahistory.org).