I've always been a fan of Paul Dorpat's "Now & Then" feature in the Seattle Times. I noticed a guy in the UK was making composited cross-time images by matching Google's Street View with vintage photos, so I made some of my own -- though I sometimes take my own "now" photos to improve alignment. It's been fun to time travel and think about people and events that happened in our region's past. All images can be clicked to see them at full size.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Beauty For All

The Tourist & Trade pictorial section of the Seattle Sunday Times on July 12, 1936 featured a few of the city's noteworthy vistas in an article titled "Beauty For All To Share."

This shot looking north on Lake Washington Boulevard was an alternate to the one used, taken from the same spot a moment later. The caption read: "A glimpse of the nationally famed drive that follows the shore of the lake for several miles, with new vistas and beauties opening up at every turn."

It's nice to say that's still the case 82 years later though the I-90 Floating Bridge would be added to the shoreline seen through the trees just four years later.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

A New/Old AYPE Poster

This is a "Then & Again" of a different stripe, though it still combines things from the past and the present.

I've always been fascinated by the Alaska-Yukon Pacific Exposition, the elaborate fair hosted on the grounds of the present-day UW campus in 1909. More info about the AYPE.

I've run across some nice printed ephemera over the years but I've always wanted a poster I could hang on the wall. A few promotional items come close but nothing was exactly what I wanted. So, I gathered some source images and assembled my own.

This was mostly done compositing source material in Photoshop with a lot of tweaking and rebalancing to get the texture and colors right. I did the typography but based it very closely on a ticket from 1909. The airship draws upon photo reference from the AYPE with a little hand retouching and color by me. That lead to making the sky much taller on the main aerial view. I also scaled up Mt. Rainier a bit and fixed numerous holes and stains on the original image.

Some of the items I used to create the poster.

There are plenty of design ideas that would make this poster more dramatic and eye-popping, but those often draw from the last century of design and layout thinking. I was trying to stay faithful to how they might have designed it in that era. I think it mostly accomplishes that.

So, there you go -- A new/old AYP Exposition poster!

Thursday, April 12, 2018


It only took half a decade, but I finally started posting my cross-time pics on their very own Twitter feed. Feel free pay a visit and follow us there! It's actually not a bad way to look through our library of images. Expect the entire run of Then & Again to appear there over the next few days.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Spanning The Years

A recent eBay album purchase contained some great photos of Seattle in the early 1930s. The photographer was a woman from West Seattle who was not only a talented photographer, she was nice enough to date and annotate each picture carefully. Here we see the George Washington Memorial Bridge, better known as the Aurora Bridge around the time it opened in 1932 – Construction debris is still visible and the roadway beneath the bridge is still unpaved. Her note alongside the photo is still true today. “Standing under the bridge gave us a feeling of being in a great cathedral.” This shot was taken facing south just down the hill from the Fremont Troll.
I've been able to identify the photographer in question but so far, I haven’t had much luck contacting her surviving relatives. I hope to credit her work more fully with their permission in future posts.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Fire & Water

Many Seattleites are familiar with the Great Seattle Fire of 1889, but other conflagrations have hit the city over the last century or so. One of the biggest of these was the Belltown Fire on June 10, 1910. It started near the waterfront and swept into downtown Seattle reaching 2nd Avenue, ultimately destroying six city blocks. Fortunately, the 40 mph winds calmed and Seattle’s signature rainfall subdued the blaze. This was a stroke of good luck, since the city’s newly mechanized fire department was powerless to stop the fire.
Here, we see a shot across Railroad Avenue (present day Alaskan Way) near the foot of Wall Street at the ruins of the Puget Sheetmetal Building (left) and the Glenorchy Hotel (right). The shot also offers a good view of the railroad trestles that crisscrossed Seattle's waterfront before the seawall was constructed.

Thursday, January 18, 2018


A trolley car from The Puget Sound Electric Railway, better known as the Interurban, parked at its Seattle terminus on Occidental Avenue in the early 20th century (photo Lawton Gowey). The network of privately owned electric trolleys carried passengers between communities from Everett to Tacoma between 1902 and 1928. The system eventually gave way to highways and buses, but the Interurban name lives on in buildings, streets and business names (and a sculpture in Fremont). Speaking of which, the distinctive archway of the Interurban Building provided a handy way to align these two pictures.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Mystery Album, Part One

As I continue to make those cross-time images I've been relying less on Google Street View images and taking more of the "now" images myself. For the "then" pics I've been looking beyond the usual online archives and MOHAI for source material. I've been finding great images in old news photos and photo albums on eBay. One album in particular turned out to be a real gem. The photos are all from the early to mid 1930s and show a very active family growing up in West Seattle. Every picture is meticulously annotated by the mom, who must have been the person behind the camera.
I'm looking forward to seeing what these pictures might turn into. The family spent a lot of time visiting many popular destinations in Seattle and Western Washington, which makes them perfect for "now and then" treatment.
This all made me curious about the people in the photos. As much as I'm enjoying the pictures it's a little sad to think that such a lovely piece of family history ended up selling on eBay for under 15 bucks. That's pretty common. Sometimes there are no living descendants or an album ends up in a branch of a family with nobody to pass it on to -- or no interest in old photos.
I was able to use the names, dates and some landmarks near their house to find most of the people in the album. One of the photographer's sons is apparently still alive in Oregon, as are several grandchildren. I'm planning to contact the family to see if they have any interest in the album. It could be I bought this from them to begin with (oops) but I figure it's worth checking. I'll follow up if any news develops.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Far, Far Away

Here's another picture from my home town, but a lot people who grew up in the 70s and 80s will relate to this. A friend sent me a photo of the original marquee being removed at Bremerton's historic Roxy Theater yesterday. Coincidentally, I photographed the Art Deco movie house a few weeks ago, planning to make a composite of a crowd lined up to see Star Wars in 1977. If you grew up in Kitsap County back then, chances are you saw the original trilogy at the Roxy. In Panavision. AND color. A lot of us will always be sentimental about walking under those neon lights for our first visit to a galaxy far, far away.

It seemed like the Roxy's days as a movie palace were over years ago, but thanks to recent restoration efforts it reopened with a new marquee last month. And it's screening films once again!


Monday, August 7, 2017

Just Wild About Harry - POTUS 33 In Bremerton

After a year-long break, I'm back with some new/old photo composites -- This time venturing back to my home county.

A recent eBay find netted some terrific snapshots of Harry S. Truman's visit to Bremerton, Washington on June 6th of 1948. This was the visit where many believe Truman's famous catchphrase "Give 'em hell, Harry!" was first shouted by a man in the crowd gathered on Pacific Avenue below the Elks Club (the present-day Max Hale Center) . A couple other towns tell a similar story but Bremerton's claim is pretty strong, or at least no worse than competing versions.

The photos from before and during Truman's speech are easy to match with present-day Bremerton -- Many of the buildings, including the terraced rooftop outside the Elk's Club still exist. The photos of Truman and his traveling companions stopping shortly before arriving in Bremerton took a little more digging. At first glance, it's just a nondescript country road.

Newspaper stories during the presidential visit mention Truman leaving Olympia early that morning with his friend, Washington Governor Mon Walgren (no relation to the famous senator). One story in particular mentioned the group -- a car of staffers and a Cadillac convertible for the dignitaries -- taking Highway 3 through Shelton. A note on the back of the photo lists Bremerton's mayor L. "Hum" Kean among the group. Given the direction they were coming from and the need to add Bremerton's mayor to the group it seemed like they must have stopped somewhere just outside the city.

Truman appears to be having an animated conversation with Bremerton mayor, Hum Kean.

This ended up being correct. The house seen in the background is in the town of Gorst, just south of Bremerton where Highway 3 meets Highway 16. Not the first place that comes to mind for a presidential visit but the brickwork on the house's back porch is still clearly visible today, though it's just peeking through dense trees and bushes. Several shots in the series show Truman, Walgren and Hum Kean chatting and milling about while a few onlookers enjoy their brush with fame. The image of a US president just hanging out with a small handful of people on a country road is remarkable compared to the huge contingent who travel with presidents today.

After his visit to Bremerton, Truman and Walgren boarded the governor's yacht, Olympos and left for Seattle while reporters followed on a specially chartered ferry. After giving a short address in Seattle Truman and his entourage visited  Fort Lewis before returning to Olympia, completing their loop.


Sunday, July 10, 2016

Regrade Do-Over!


I've been fortunate to hear from better informed experts on Seattle's past topology as I've posted these photo mash-ups over the last few years. That first batch especially had a few mistakes. Sometimes the image alignments were a little off -- Sometimes a lot. David B. Williams was nice enough to point out that the 1914 photo of the McNaught house was actually situated on the southeast corner of 6th and Marion, not the northeast as shown in my original composite. So, here's a do-over with the house where it should be. If anything, the elevation difference looks even more dramatic now. Thanks, David!

Monday, May 16, 2016

Just Passin' Through

This image from around 7th and Jefferson gives a sense of what it might look to drive through Seattle on I-5 in 1887 or 1888, a year or two before Washington attained statehood. The dramatic growth of the city is remarkable when you compare wider shots that contrast a town of wood and brick with the glass, steel and cement of today. Of course the stage will be set for Seattle's next growth phase by Great Seattle Fire which cut a huge swath through many of the buildings to the left in 1889.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Lighter Than Air

Here we see the majestic USS Macon gliding above Seattle's Green Lake on August 22, 1934. The airship was traveling to its new station near San Francisco but took a leisurely route with time for a number of photo ops along the way. The Macon was a marvel of engineering and was designed to be a "flying aircraft carrier" with five small fighter planes. But even before the Hindenburg disaster in 1937 airships didn't have an encouraging safety record. The Macon's sister ship, the USS Akron, crashed off the coast of New Jersey the previous year with a loss of nearly all hands. The Macon too would be gone in February of 1935 when it crashed into the Pacific off the California coast near Monterey. Unlike the Akron disaster, all but two of its 76 crew members survived. The Macon's wreckage wasn't discovered until 1991 and the site is now a designated marine sanctuary.
Many of the residential houses from the era still stand today, though the area was clearly much more rural with some pastures and farms still evident. Both the baseball field and the Green Lake boathouse are present in the 1934 photo as well. The biggest change was certainly the addition of I-5 which eventually snaked through the fields in the central foreground.

Monday, August 17, 2015

An Arterial Materializes

Seattle commuters: Expect construction delays on I-5 before 1962. Not that things cleared up much after that.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Onward & Upward

For many Seattle old timers, 1st Avenue was historically a patchwork of bars, second hand stores and some of the city's more colorful adult-oriented businesses. As Seattle made the transition from a blue collar town to an epicenter of technology many of these institutions and the buildings that contained them have given way to a more gentrified (some would say clinical) appearance. Here we see present-day 1st Avenue near Virginia Street contrasted with a 1968 view. It's interesting to note that the offices for web-based real estate giant Redfin are in a crisp new high rise where Al & Leon once sold furniture across a rambling array of storefronts.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Change From On High

Another experiment contrasting aerial views from different times. This time combining an 1891 bird’s eye view of Seattle with a semi-polygonal version from present-day Google Earth. The 1891 image was rendered by lithographer E.S. Glover for the A.L. Bancroft company in California who specialized in text books and large aerial views of cities up and down the West Coast. These lithographs were somewhat idealized, both for clarity and aesthetic reasons – The perspective is fudged a lot to include both a street grid and the distant scenery. This makes lining up the horizon and landmarks a bit tricky but there is enough overlap using the waterfront and a few landmarks to get reasonably close. It's also possible to appreciate how successive decades of regrades removed a number of the rolling hills that once dominated the landscape of downtown Seattle.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Camp Harmony

This is a follow-up to the previous image of Japanese Americans boarding trains on the Seattle waterfront in 1942. I thought it would be interesting to mash up two aerial images this time. The results aren't perfect, but it gives a good sense of scale. 7390 residents lived in these hastily constructed barracks at the Puyallup Fairgrounds called Camp Harmony from May to September of 1942. The sections of the camp had simple letter designations. Area A is the block in the upper left of the photo. Area B is to the upper right near the present-day freeway. Area C is in the lower left. Area D was the most surreal of all, being situated in the middle of the race track and surrounded by grandstands, attractions and the roller coaster track. Most residents of Camp Harmony were transferred to the more permanent Minidoka and Tule Lake internment camps.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

2 Million Bricks

This site at 7th and Madison housed four different school buildings over a 75 year period, concluding with this impressive edifice. Seattle's Central School was opened in 1889 and was almost immediately overcrowded, forcing the district to rent annex space from a number of nearby churches. As the 20th century unfolded the school had the opposite problem as downtown residences were replaced with office buildings. After surviving social and economic shifts and several earthquakes, the school was demolished in 1953. The lot was leased for parking until the site gave way to the construction of Interstate 5 in the early 1960s.


Sunday, November 2, 2014

An Embarrassment of Riches

My work took me to Bordeaux, France last week, so I thought I'd have a little fun remixing images from that part of the world. Making cross-time composites seems easier in a town where buildings are routinely hundreds of years old. The city is so absolutely crammed with landmarks that show up in countless paintings and photographs it's hard to choose.

It's also interesting from an urban planning standpoint: Most buildings in the heart of Bordeaux are carefully protected and preserved so very little has changed appreciably since they were first constructed. Compared to my Seattle images, where entire city blocks have been replaced multiple times during a scant 100 years, it seems like Bordeaux is preserved in amber.

The two buildings to the far right are actually in this painting by Louis Burgade from 1835. This is a view from the then-busy quay of Chartrons; one of several key piers that comprised the heart of commercial shipping to and from Bordeaux. The building where I worked for most of last week is a couple hundred yards to the right.

Bordeaux has many great avenues filled with restaurants and shops. Here we have a postcard view of the intersection of Cours Victor Hugo and Rue Sainte-Catherine from 1905 featuring a "Federal and Presidential" festival. The street hasn't changed much. Lining up buildings is incredibly easy when relatively little changes for hundreds of years.

The occupation of France was a painful chapter and Bordeaux was no exception. Here, Wehrmacht troops parade with a marching band at Place de la Comedie in 1942.

This merges a painting by Pierre Lacour and dates to the 1804-1806 timeframe. Lacour was facing in the opposite direction and slightly south of the viewpoint in the other painting.