The Capitol Retrospective - Before The Light Rail There Was 1830 Broadway

Monday, March 7, 2016

*The fourth installment in my series "Before There Was Light Rail" in which I take a look at some of the buildings that were torn down in 2009 to make way for the light rail station opening on March 19, 2016. Disclaimer: I spent the better part of the past 14 hours rushing to get this one done. In due time I'll come back to fill in the missing details. And if you spot errors don't hesitate to mention them!

 

Anyone who frequented this stretch of Broadway at the turn of the century might recognize this storefront as the former home of Godfather's Pizza with Espresso Vivace (901 E John st) and Revolution Books (1833 Nagle pl) occupying the rear side of the building with a view of Cal Anderson Park. However, when this building was constructed in 1915 it was originally intended to function as a single, unified structure with one address: 1830 Broadway, but it didn't take long for it to become a house divided by the ever-changing interests of its many occupants.

 

Rothweiler & Company

 

As is obvious in the photograph above, 1830 Broadway was originally a Ford dealership with a workshop and garage in the rear. The founder was Harvey N. Rothweiler, a native of New York City and born in 1884. He joined the automobile business in Seattle as early as 1908 after spending roughly the past decade in Alaska. He learned all aspects of the business from sales and management to mechanics and engineering and quickly became known as one of the "live wires" in the business. In fact he was one of a few people who, around 1913, had simultaneously invented a method for converting Ford cars into light trucks using what he called the "Rothweiler Attachment" during a time when apparently the auto manufacturers hadn't started mass producing trucks.  

 

This wasn't Rothweiler's only invention. He'd already invented a new type of pipe wrench called the Rothweiler pipe wrench and another device, the Rothweiler pump, for oil barrels. With a booming auto industry and a desire to develop his own line of trucks and pumps, it was obvious to Rothweiler that he needed a larger facility to suit his needs so he moved to 1830 Broadway in 1915. However, only a few years later he decided that auto sales were too much of a distraction from his growing manufacturing business for which he'd already built another facility in south Seattle, so he sold the dealership to another prominent Ford salesman by the name Alfred Ayerst.
 

Alfred G. Ayerst Inc.

 

Ayerst had been around since 1912 and was by this point assistant manager of the Ford branch office in Seattle and instead of being made a manager at a new branch elsewhere he decided to buy out Rothweiler's authorized dealership in February 1918 so he could stay in Seattle.  

 

The first year under Ayerst's leadership was a success. There was enough money to go around to fully renovate the building, which included mahogany trim in its salesroom. This is really quite telling considering the building was only 3 years old. Anyway, by Christmas Ayerst hosted a party for his 21 employees at the Arctic Club. The dining table centered around a Christmas tree decorated with bonus checks that ranged from $5 to $225 ($80 - $3500 in 2016 dollars). Afterward they drove their Fords over to the Wilkes Theatre for a performance of "Which One Shall I Marry?" Certainly a great way to celebrate success, the holidays, and even the end of WWI only a month prior.

 

Business marched onward and upward into the 1920s despite the post-war lull. And with the war over, people were focused more on personal comforts than meeting logistical needs as Ayerst was advertising a way to convert open-air Ford cars into closed ones or "Limousettes" as they were called rather than into trucks like Rothweiler had done.

 

Now as the narrative always goes for the automotive industry in the early 20th century, moving to a larger facility would soon be necessary. So Ayerst eyed himself a spot in the heart of downtown at 3rd and Stewart where he built a considerably larger two story facility by October of 1921. The new facility proved so attractive that one of the largest auto dealers in America had to have it so he bought out Ayerst for an unknown, but presumably enormous amount in February of 1922.

 

This technically left Ayerst without a job, but thankfully he hadn't sold his old facility so over the next few months he shopped around for a new brand of automobile to get behind and that brand was Rickenbacker and with it came a new business partner L.M. Cline.

 

L.M. Cline & Alfred Ayerst Inc.

 Ayerst and Cline together were the first to introduce the new line of automobiles designed by the WWI ace pilot Eddie Rickenbacker and 1923 would be their break out year. Apparently the Rickenbacker was responsible for bringing a whole host of innovations to the automobile and the most popular among them was four wheel breaks.

 

By the summer of 1923, Cline and Ayerst carried out a massive advertising campaign in Seattle for the four wheel brakes including public demonstrations. The first demonstration took place at 11th and pine where they marked out 35 feet lines and each drove a car, one with two wheel brakes and one with four wheel brakes. From a speed of 20mph the former stopped in 25 feet, the latter in only 9 feet. The new braking system took the automotive world by storm. It was deemed the safest car on the road and so much so that insurance companies offered a discount rate for Rickenbacker owners.  

 

Production and sales proceeded to increase throughout 1924 and Rickenbacker continued to make additional innovations. However, the changes made proved too far reaching and expensive that sales began to stall leading to the company's closure in 1927 with its remaining assets sold off to Audi in Germany. Cline and Ayerst must have saw it coming because they had already left the Rickenbacker. It isn't immediately clear where Cline went but Ayerst, stayed put and briefly sold Auburn automobiles based out of Auburn Indiana, but only for another year. If I had to guess, he probably decided to bail on Auburn after he got a sense that its new owner, the infamous Errett Cord, was taking it in a similar direction Eddie Rickenbacker was taking his company. So on November 17, 1926, Ayerst and some friends founded two new companies the Industries Finance Corporation and the Industries Warehouse Company.  

 

MacMarr's Grocery

 

In May of 1927, a quickly growing grocery store chain founded by Charles E. Marr in Spokane in 1909 as "Marr's Grocery", but later based out of Los Angeles as "MacMarr's", moved into the Broadway portion of the space while another operation, Nagle Place Garage had been operating out of the rear. According to the store's manager C. H. Soper, Marr was a good educator and took personal interest in each of his stores and great pride in all of his employees. In time this personal touch would prove more and more difficult to maintain. Marr had caught the same bug that many other business owners across all industries had caught by the late 1920s, the compulsion to race for the top in a seemingly never ending binge on mergers and buyouts. By 1929 Marr had expanded to well over 1000 stores and completed his company's merger with Piggly Wiggly. Their stock price hit a high of about $43 before the big crash that October and by the time the oh so familiar Safeway Inc. bought them out in 1931, it had sunk to as low as $8. Without any direct evidence at the moment, I can only guess that this was around the time the MacMarr store at 1830 Broadway would have closed due to economic constraints.

 

 

From The Great Depression to the 1980s

 

Throughout the 1930s activity at 1830 Broadway and 1831 Nagle Place was never really the same and for obvious reasons. Various independent grocers and automotive services swapped in and out of various parts of the building every couple years probably struggling in the worst economic conditions the country had ever experienced. Furthermore, the automotive industry was well established and consolidated at this point and all the ballyhoo built up around it up through the 1920s had subsided. So it isn't a surprise that there just wasn't much newsworthy activity taking place at the local level. However, by the 1940s business started to pick up and the building had more consistent occupants.

 

On the Broadway side opening as early as 1942 was Broadway Automotive Service a combination accessory store and repair shop.  Taking up the rear was the Broadway Auto Machine Shop specializing in reboring, crankshaft and piston grinding, and rebuilding of motors.  If advertising is any good indication, then it appears that Broadway Automotive resided here until the mid 1960s while the Machine Shop may have left in 1947.  As a matter of fact, the machine shop caught fire in January 1947 burning through to the first floor on the rear side causing $15,000 worth of damage. So it doesn't surprise me that the machine shop stopped advertising shortly thereafter.  They likely moved on.

 

No mention of business here emerges again until 1978 when a fellow named William Ward set up United Transmission Service for a few years.  During his tenure at 1830 Broadway he did manage to catch the attention of the Seattle Times automotive editor a few times in which he offers extensive advice on transmission care.

 

The 1980s

 

Godfather's Pizza moved into the Broadway side of the building  in 1983 as evidenced from photos provided by the Washington State Archives and would reside here until about 2001. This same year a third story, side entrance and walkway ramp were built for the rear side of the building.  The floor plans and images below, spell it all out in decent detail.  I would say more Godfather's, but it is now past 3:30 AM as I type this and I've been writing this story for the better part of the past 12 hours and need to wrap it up, so I'll have to come back to it another time.

 

 Revolution Books


A cursory google search through early internet records indicates Revolution Books had a store front at 1833 Nagle Place as early as 1997.  If I had to guess, I'd say they were probably there before that.  Again I will have to return to this subject at a later date when I have more time to do it justice.  See what I just did there?

Espresso Vivace


In 1992 Vivace owners and co-founders David Schomer and Geneva Sullivan opened a full-sized brick and morter cafe behind Godfather's Pizza after operating solely as a street cart on Broadway since 1988 and remained here until 2008. Since the founding of Vivace, Schomer has become world-renowned for his innovations in the craft, publishing multiple books in multiple languages.  I would tell the whole story myself, but in my weary state I am oh so grateful that many others, even as recently as October last year, have published some fantastic pieces about Vivace that would certainly put anything I could quickly churn out in the next hour to shame, so I've decided to curate a selection of these stories below and share a few photos of the original cafe at 901 East Denny so I can finally wrap this up!

 

Seattle Post-Intelligencer - Whirr of Espresso Vivace soon silenced by new rail: May 16, 2006

 

Seattle Times - Vivace founder, David Schomer is a coffee prophet: July 3, 2006

 

Bloomberg Business - Higher Grounds: February 25, 2007

 

Sprudge Coffee News & Culture - Seattle: The infinite complexity of Espresso Vivace: Sept 24, 2015

 

Seattle Times - Vivace's David Schomer - not Starbucks - 'made coffee huge in Seattle' October 22, 2015

 

 

 

 

 

 

*To keep track of future stories like these and for additional content be sure to follow The Capitol Retrospective on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

 

**Note well, I originally (and mistakenly) referred to "1830 Broadway" as "1830 Broadway Ave E" when neither the "Ave" road type nor the "E" direction is attached to Broadway addresses south of Denny.  The error has since been corrected as of 12:43 PM on 3/10/2016.

 

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