Pacific Northwest | April 4, 2004Pacific Northwest MagazineApril 4, 2004seattletimes.com home
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CONTENTS
COVER STORY
PLANT LIFE
TASTE
ON FITNESS
NORTHWEST LIVING
NOW & THEN
SUNDAY PUNCH
LETTERS
PREVIOUS ISSUES OF PACIFIC NW


WRITTEN BY PAUL DORPAT

Rails to Rainier
Photo
COURTESY OF LAWTON GOWEY
In the century or so that separates this "now" from its "then," the trolley tracks on Rainier Avenue have been replaced with asphalt, and the ridge between Beacon and First hills opened with the Jackson Street Regrade and the Dearborn Cut.

 
 Photo
PAUL DORPAT
With their backs to Beacon Hill, three unidentified hand laborers pose for an unnamed photographer just south of the odd intersection of Dearborn and Dean streets and Rainier Avenue.

If the trio had stepped back to pose at the front ramp to the real-estate agent's bungalow, we might have assumed that they were either huckstering home tracts in the valley or buying them. Instead, they are probably tidying the switch in the street railway that crosses at their feet near the centerline of Rainier Avenue.

The Rainier Avenue Electric Railway made its first run in the spring of 1889 as an exciting way to sell home lots in what was then the new Rainier Valley suburb of Columbia City. This photograph, however, was recorded nearer to 1907, the year Columbia City was annexed to Seattle. By then, the line was renamed the Seattle Renton and Southern Railway as a sign of its greater service.

The W.C. Hill brick works on the far right (with the tall smokestack) had a most lucky president, Thomas Lippy. As the YMCA athletic director in the early 1890s, Lippy introduced basketball to Seattle and also the first swimming classes in Lake Union. But when gold was found in the Yukon, Lippy followed the stampede and was the exception: He found it, lots of it.

After a 'round-the-world shopping spree, Lippy and his wife, Salome, covered the floors and walls of their First Hill mansion with rugs they bought in India.

The greatest excitement in this scene, however, is merely implied. Beginning in 1907 on the far side of the Beacon Hill horizon, the city got busy lowering that ridge with the Jackson Street Regrade and the Dearborn Cut. Both of these ambitious projects would make it even easier to move out to Rainier Valley.

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

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