Pacific Northwest | April 11, 2004Pacific Northwest MagazineApril 11, 2004seattletimes.com home
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CONTENTS
COVER STORY
PLANT LIFE
TASTE
NORTHWEST LIVING
NOW & THEN
PREVIOUS ISSUES OF PACIFIC NW


WRITTEN BY PAUL DORPAT

The Cliff Hanger
Photo
COURTESY OF LAWTON GOWEY
When it was new in 1910, the Ben Lomond Apartments looked down on Lake Union from the steep and clear-cut western side of Capitol Hill. A "second-growth" urban landscape now often hides the apartment so the "now" view was photographed from the closest available opening.

 
 Photo
PAUL DORPAT
THE BEN LOMOND Apartments that cling to the western slope of Capitol Hill were named after a 3,330-foot mountain in Scotland. While the name does not fit the five-story brick block's architecture, which is more Mediterranean, it does resonate with the names of nearby streets — Belmont and Bellevue.

In any case, the apartment's high west wall faced, when it was built in 1910, Lakeview Avenue (seen here at the bottom left corner). During the winter of 1961-62, Interstate 5 replaced that eccentric street with an overpass and a ditch, leaving the apartment house propped so precariously over the freeway that a special cylinder retaining wall of concrete and steel was required to hold up the hill beneath it.

The Ben Lomond was distinguished enough to get its own announcement in the real-estate section of the Aug. 22, 1909, Seattle Times. Architect Elmer Ellsworth Green's rendering of the structure was headlined, "Ben Lomond Apartments to Be Built for Benefit of Families With Children." A subhead explained, "None but couples with children may enter this $75,000 New Apartment House." The attached story made the 21 apartments with "disappearing beds" sound like a play land. One of the residents, it was announced, would be a matron employed to care for the children, who would be encouraged to play on the roof and enjoy its covered sun rooms.

There was, however, a eugenics hysteria attached to this utopia. Remembering Roosevelt's famous remarks of 1903 regarding "racial suicide," the "couples with children only" rule was code to encourage Anglo-Saxon Protestants to have more children as an answer to the greater fertility of Catholic immigrants from Europe.

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

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