Seattle’s Cascade neighborhood has changed much in the past few decades, regaining its identity as a residential community mixed with commerce.
Archival photos contrast the “then and now” nature of Cascade.
Around the time Washington gained statehood in 1889, homes popped up around the south shore of Lake Union, which served as a waterway to float logs cut from nearby hillsides. Mills gave way to modest houses, a few mansions, churches, industry, and electric streetcars, and by 1894 the Cascade School opened at Pontius Avenue and Thomas Street to serve the growing community.
Growth hastened after the Montlake Cut was breached in 1916 and the government locks in Ballard opened in 1917. Commercial laundries, machine shops, even factories for Kenworth trucks and Ford Model T cars gave the Cascade neighborhood an increasingly industrial flavor. The Seattle Times settled in at Fairview Avenue in 1930.
In April 1949 a 7.1 magnitude earthquake jolted Western Washington, damaging Cascade School so badly that inspectors condemned it. By then the residential population already had been somewhat displaced by industry, so Seattle Public Schools razed the building and built a warehouse on the site. The structure remains today, derided by some as “the ugly yellow building” just west of PEMCO Insurance’s parking garage.
1949 also marks the year that PEMCO opened for business on Eastlake Avenue. The top photo shows PEMCO and three adjacent homes around 1970, near the corner of Eastlake Avenue and Thomas Street.
PEMCO today is flanked by current and former laundries and church sites, including the former home of St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church, which opened at the corner of Yale and Thomas in 1921. St. Demetrios moved in 1962 to the south Montlake area. The old church, across Thomas from PEMCO, became an Overall Laundry warehouse that was demolished to make way for the REI flagship store that opened in 1996.
Two blocks north is St. Spiridon Russian Orthodox Church, which dates to 1895. St. Spiridon opened its current cathedral at Yale Avenue and Harrison Street in 1941. Two blocks southwest, Immanuel Lutheran Church remains active across from Lunchbox Laboratory, which along with Alley 24 Apartments occupies the former site of New Richmond Laundry.
Longtime Cascade bus riders who caught northbound I-5 Metro routes at Howell Street and Terry Avenue likely walked past The Monastery, a disco that was closed as a public nuisance in 1985 and demolished in 1998. The structure was formerly Central Methodist Church, built in 1906.
The bulk of REI occupies the longtime home of Overall Laundry, which operated in Seattle from 1920 until 1992. Supply Laundry on Yale Avenue has given way to the Stack House Apartments. And today, the old Troy Laundry building at Thomas and Fairview Avenue, built in 1927, is being gutted and transformed into two office towers to be leased by nearby Amazon.com.
The accompanying pictures show some of these sights, then and now, courtesy of the Seattle Municipal Archives and the PEMCO Webster Stevens Collection at the Museum of History and Industry.
Top to bottom: Cascade School in 1905. Cascade Playground, still with us, was built to serve the school. Today, a former school district warehouse occupies the site.
Yale Avenue sewer problem, 1961. Note the brick building rising behind the bucket loader. That’s St. Demetrios Church, one year before it relocated to Montlake. Today, REI customers rent equipment and shop for bikes on that site.
St. Spiridon Church in 1953, looking west. Note the Supply Laundry smokestack. The tree alongside the church has gotten a bit unwieldy over the years!
Yale and Thomas in 1962, looking north. See the white Mercury Comet parked near the fire hydrant, and three people on the sidewalk? They’re walking alongside what today is PEMCO’s parking garage and a white van.