Sunday, May 24, 2009

Then and Now

I generally try to document the goings-on of this neighborhood in terms of what's going on now and what has gone on in recent memory (i.e. since I moved in 19 years ago) but I recently came across a cache of photos that was too interesting to pass up. They depict certain neighborhood buildings as being part of what was known as "film row." My understanding of this is that these were screening houses where movie theater operators would come to view coming attractions and choose which ones they wanted to show. If that's wrong, then please correct me. Apparently there were quite a few of these in the neighborhood. We'll start with the building at 1st & Battery.



Golly, how times have changed! And it only took 71 years. As you can see, the photo was taken in 1938. For about the first 15 of my 19 years here, this place was the Catholic Seaman's Club on both floors. Now it's the Del Rey (not to be confused with the El Rey; my God, please do not confuse those two things!) below and Catholic sailors on top. Gosh, that sounded pretty gay! Anyhow, it's not my part to judge which is best, but if I was, I'd say that the 1938 version of the place was much cooler. To tell you the truth, I've never been to the Del Rey. There's never been any compelling reason for me to go. But knowing its history does make it somewhat more appealing.

You know, I was looking at a book of historical photographs of Seattle and I began to notice that downtown seems to experience a transformation about every 20 years. I kept seeing all these photos of 2nd Avenue during the twenties with all kinds of grand, dark, heavy-looking buildings going all the way down to Pioneer Square. Then 20 years later and everything would be completely different. What the hell happened in the meantime? I guess progress meant tearing stuff down as fast as it was built. It kept your average worker from having impure thoughts, I guess.

I think the same can be said of Belltown. The Belltown of 2000 bore little resemblance to the Belltown of 1980 in so many ways, physically and demographically. Likewise, in another 11 years we'll probably see a dramatic change from the 2000 Belltown. However it changes, though, I still expect it to be very ugly.

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