WITHOUT SHADOWS or a sidewalk clock, we cannot tell the time in the “then” photo, but we do know the date. It is printed on the negative: September 21, 1938.
Those vehicles are crossing the red-brick paving of East Olive Way as it intersected with Melrose Avenue on the west slope of Capitol Hill. Seattle’s first “Ways” — Broadway, Yesler, Denny — acted as borders between the city’s large directional sections (northeast, north and so on). The sections also eased the sorting and delivery of mail.
“Way” later was used to distinguish roads requiring more eccentric work, such as cutting a diagonal through a neighborhood. (I’ve counted about 25 of them north of Denny Way.) The diagonals Olive Way and Bothell Way were supported by ordinances in 1920, followed by bulldozers in 1922-23. The Olive cut first was proposed in 1907 by what the press — The Seattle Times included — identified as “real estate boomers.” Speculators were stopped by a neighborhood protest of more than 100 “prominent men and women (living in) the Harvard Avenue and Broadway districts.”
The later slicing for Olive Way began at Bellevue Avenue, where we see it make its turn to the left at the center of the featured photograph, below the Edwards Coffee billboard. From there, it swoops through five blocks to join a widened John Street at Harvard Avenue. The original 1920 proposal to speed traffic with an arterial underpass beneath Harvard Avenue and Broadway was dropped. And so a new name was proposed.
- descriptions off, selected
- subtitles off, selected
- captions settings, opens captions settings dialog
- captions off, selected
This is a modal window.
Originating in Belltown, Olive Street first was named for Olive Julia Bell (1846-1921), daughter of pioneers Sarah and William Bell. President Warren G. Harding’s death, which followed soon after his 1923 visit to Seattle, inspired a variety of panegyric proposals, including one to the city council to change the name of Olive Way to Harding Way. The sentiment, however, was denied when the local forces of heritage beat it back. One councilman rationalized the defeat by observing that Olive Way was not really long enough for a president.
By reading The Times’ archives for Sept. 21, 1938, we find this was the day Czechoslovakia accepted the British-French plan of a compromise capitulation (aka the Munich Agreement) for restraining the Czech’s maniacal neighbor, Adolf Hitler, from inciting greater chaos. The Germans were allowed to annex much of the Sudetenland, the Czech borderlands with Germany inhabited primarily by ethnic German speakers. A summary of this World War II kindling began on the front page of this issue of the afternoon Times. (The Times’ archive can be accessed with a library card, a computer and some help from a Seattle Public Library librarian.)