Pacific Northwest | October 19, 2003Pacific Northwest MagazineOctober 19, 2003seattletimes.com home
Home delivery
Search archive
Contact us
CONTENTS
COVER STORY
PLANT LIFE
TASTE
ON FITNESS
NORTHWEST LIVING
NOW & THEN
PREVIOUS ISSUES OF PACIFIC NW


WRITTEN BY PAUL DORPAT

A Citizen Armory
Photo
COURTESY OF THE UW LIBRARIES
In the historical scene, a photographer from the Asahel Curtis studio takes a picture of the new Seattle Armory in 1939. His shadow, bottom right, reveals that he was using a large box camera on a tall tripod. In the contemporary view photographed from one of the food-concession rows at the 2003 Bumbershoot Festival, the old Armory/Center House is effectively hidden behind the landscaping of Seattle Center. Both views look north on Third Avenue North toward its intersection with Thomas Street.

 
 Photo
JEAN SHERRARD
FOR ANYONE like me, whose physical impression of the city was first etched in the 1960s (I moved here from Spokane in 1966), the big Moderne structure shown here is the Food Circus at Seattle Center. That was the name given to the 146th Field Artillery Armory when it was surrendered to Century 21 for the World's Fair in 1962.

When the armory was built on the future Seattle Center site in 1939 it had, of course, military functions such as a firing range and a garage for tanks. But like the two other armories Seattle has had, it ultimately was used more by citizens than soldiers. The first armory was built in 1888 on Union Street between Third and Fourth avenues. When much of the city, including City Hall, burned down in 1889, the National Guard Armory was headquarters for city government. The old brick battlement at Virginia Street and Western Avenue that replaced it (1909-1968) was used for dances, car shows and conventions. During the Great Depression it became a food-distribution center. The last of our three community-defense centers (built before the atom bomb) was used regularly for events driven by the pleasure principle. Duke Ellington, for instance, played in this armory for the 1941 University of Washington Junior Prom.

The name Food Circus was pronounced stale in the early 1970s when the big building got a low-budget makeover and was renamed the Center House. A greater renovation came in the mid-1990s when the Children's Museum, a primary resident since 1985, built its own space. In 2000, the Center House Stage became only the fifth place to be designated an Imagination Celebration National Site by the Kennedy Center. Now the old armory is busy with more than 3,000 free public performances each year.

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

  PACIFIC NORTHWEST
 MAGAZINE SEARCH
Today Archive

Advanced search

 
advertising

seattletimes.com home
Home delivery | Contact us | Search archive | Site map | Low-graphic
NWclassifieds | NWsource | Advertising info | The Seattle Times Company

Copyright

Back to topBack to top