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Cover Story Plant Life On Fitness Taste Northwest Living Now & Then

Now & Then
WRITTEN BY PAUL DORPAT
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Sin, Suds and Free Lunch

Photo COURTESY OF LAWTON GOWEY
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Built in 1890, the often-notorious three-story brick block at the northwest corner of Second Avenue South and Washington Street was prudently reduced to a single story following the 1949 earthquake.

 
spacer Photo PAUL DORPAT
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IN THE MID-1990s, frustrated by the chronic confusion over both the names and historic uses of the buildings of the Pioneer Square Historic District, Greg Lange and Tim O'Brian joined their years of research on the neighborhood and came up with an inventory. For most of the district's landmark structures they agreed — but not on this three-story brick at the northwest corner of Second Avenue South and Washington Street.

Tim O'Brian called it "The Schlesinger-Brodek Block." John Schlesinger and Gustav Brodek built it in 1890 upon the ashes of the city's "Great Fire" of 1889. Greg Lange chose the name Considine as a kind of reward for its most famous tenant, the impresario John Considine. The contrite and tea-totaling Considine operated the notoriously lewd and looped People's Theater in the basement. His career is skillfully portrayed in Murray Morgan's classic of Seattle history "Skid Road" with his own chapter, "John Considine and the Box-Houses, 1893-1910."

In this view the open stairway to the basement theater is beneath the sign that reads "Free Lunch Down Stairs." The two policemen standing in front of the Rainier Beer sign mostly hide the name "People's Café." By this time — early 20th century — Considine has likely moved on to run his national vaudeville circuit and left his basement box-house to sell beer with the lure of free nuts and sandwiches, sans sin.

Billy's Mug was this building's second famous tenant. In his book "Early Seattle Profiles," Henry Broderick, a local real-estate tycoon, remembers William "Billy" Belond's tavern "where on a 50-foot-long bar skillful bartenders would slide a filled beer mug along the sudsy bar 10 or 15 feet so it would come to stop in front of the customer."

Paul Dorpat specializes in historical photography and has published several books on early Seattle.


Cover Story Plant Life On Fitness Taste Northwest Living Now & Then

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