GSGH #9 solution

We have a winner for the ninth installment of the Great Seattle Gargoyle Hunt, the most obscure one so far. It’s Issy again, who avers that she does “love love love this kind of visual and historic traipsing around the city”. My three sentiments exactly.

Gargoyle #9

Above is the contest photo, the only clue Issy had to go by. By actually starting at the brown building visible in the background and exploring radially outward, she located her lions along the cornice of the Hotel Cecil at the southwest corner of First and Spring. Well done again, Issy.

The Cecil's northwest cornice, from Spring Street and Post Alley.

Shot from the rooftop of the National Bldg. Yeah, that's right, I still have the key to the roof. How do you like me now?

The Cecil was one of three buildings on the block — all still present — designed in the Italian Renaissance Revival style by Max Umbrecht and built by (James) Clise Investment Co.. The Hotel Cecil and the middle building, the Beebe Building, were both built in 1900-1901 for the capitalist Clifford D. Beebe (whom I keep wanting to call Cecil B. DeMille for obvious reasons). The hotel originally opened as the Waldorf, but upon renovation in 1909 was renamed Cecil after the hotel in London. For a while shortly after that it was called the MacFarland, and in 1921 it was done up again and reopened as the New Arlington, named for its older sibling two blocks north up First Avenue.

The Hotel whatchamacallit. And now it's condos.

I asked Paul Dorpat if he had anything really early on the Cecil and he sent me this. I don't have a date, but the Z. C. Miles & Piper Co. was an original tenant in the building. The lions are hard to see on the dark underside of the cornice. The Beebe Bldg. is to the left and the National Bldg. is behind them, visible at the right. Click for larger (this one's a whopper!)

I only just recently discovered that the three Umbrecht buildings and the building I work in, the National Building, which sits behind them and faces Western, are all part of a big redevelopment project that took place in the early 1980s and which included the six blocks bounded by First Avenue and Alaskan Way and Madison and Seneca. It was called Waterfront Place, and maybe some people still refer to these blocks that way, but I’d never heard the name until I went to do some research on the Cecil, and apparently pieces of the development have been sold multiple times since it was created (in 1995 Falcon Real Estate Investment Company bought the Waterfront Place Building for $16.5 million, then sold it ten years later to San Francisco-based Spear Street Capital LLC for just shy of $42 million).

The president of Cornerstone, whom you may recognize as a younger Paul Schell, surveying his urban-neighborhood-to-be and wishing he'd kept his Matchbox cars. The Cecil is front center with arched windows and the Beebe and Globe are next to it. Watermark Tower is at right, on a block that also includes the historic Colonial and Grand Pacific hotels (out of frame). The National Bldg is the red brick. The Waterfront Place Building is back left, and the never-built Cornerstone Building is back right. The sixth block, where the tennis court is, became a parking garage, and the tennis court is now on top of it. This photo from the brochure is the only one I've been able to find that shows the conceived Waterfront Place. Image copyright Cornerstone, as far as I know.

The Watermark Tower, which sits kitty-corner across the alley from us on the retained, original base of the 1915 Colman Building, was and is the centerpiece of Waterfront Place, but the project included the restoration of the National, Globe, and Beebe buildings and the Cecil, Colonial and Grand Pacific hotels, and the creation of the monstrous (but I suppose cool and sensible) Waterfront Place Building that blocks our view of Elliott Bay. There was apparently supposed to be another behemoth next to the Waterfront Place Building called the Cornerstone Building, named after the development company behind the whole thing (see photo above), but there is only a parking lot there. I didn’t realize I’d been working for seven years in an urban subdivision (go to this writer’s samples page and click the “Cornerstone Development Company Marketing Brochure”).

In this 1891 birdseye, only the Colonial Hotel exists on the SW corner of First and Seneca. The warehouses at map item #76 are now a parking lot and the depot at #15 is where the Waterfront Place Building is. Most of what will later be the Waterfront Place development -- including my building -- are holes between the street piers where drunken sailors fell through into the tidewater.

In this birdseye map of 1903 a few more buildings have been built on land that was beach just a few short years before. The National Building will begin to emerge a year later. I've marked the six "Waterftont Place" blocks in red. The cartographer conflated the names of the Beebe and Cecil and conveniently flattened the land, especially along Seneca. The Colman Building that the Watermark Tower replaced on the northwest corner of First and Spring is still twelve years from being built and not to be confused with the other two Colman buildings already standing in the lower right corner, the older of which is still there -- only a lot taller -- and the newer of which has been a parking lot for time out of mind until just last year, when a new building was begun that is not yet finished.

How those same six blocks look today. Almost everything in this recent photo used to be Elliott Bay. Image copyright Bing.

I know I’m getting way off topic here but I can’t resist putting up just one more photo, this one shot last July from the National Building’s rooftop looking north past the cream-colored Watermark Tower (at the right edge) and beyond to the Harbor Steps condos and the gleaming new Russell Investments Center. The backsides of the Colonial and the Grand Pacific hotels are the brick affairs low on the right side of the image.

The foreground here includes much of Waterfront Place's northern half.

Thanks again for playing, Issy (and for giving me an excuse to put up so many photos and illustrations). You’re the player to beat.


6 Responses to “GSGH #9 solution”

  1. 1 knightofswords February 3, 2012 at 07:53

    I’m a fan of gargoyles (that sounds odd, I know), so I would have enjoyed the hunt. However, I’m in faraway north Georgia.

    By the way, the fact that I enjoy reading this blog led me to bestow a Versatile Blogger Award on it in today’s post here:

    You’re on your own. You can pretend it never happens or pass along to others.


    • 2 Matt February 3, 2012 at 09:32

      Malcolm, thanks for this. I’m honored. You know, the first two GSGH winners were in Boise, Idaho and Salvador, Bahia, Brazil, respectively. So you could play remotely. It’s just a LOT harder.

      [Malcolm is an author of several fantasy and magical realism novels and runs several blogs and websites. He did me the solid of linking to my post about Sinbad and Me last week. Click on his name to reach his main website.]

  2. 3 leatherhead109 February 3, 2012 at 10:31


    Thrilled with the bits and pieces here. Specifically the large blow up of the Cecil. I wonder what the deal is with the cart in front, with a scale model house on board. Toy for the little wee lass at home? Or an odd gimmick for selling things? We don’t have gargoyles here…but we do have pigeons.

    • 4 Matt February 3, 2012 at 10:57

      Thanks Ben,
      Gosh, I didn’t even notice that dollhouse in the cart or whatever it is. I was moving fast trying to get the post done and Paul sent me that photo late in the evening. I just thanked him, cropped it and stuck it in.

      We have pigeons on our gargoyles.

      • 5 leatherhead109 February 3, 2012 at 11:29

        Also, it took me a minute, but I noticed that the horse is a miniature or small pony of some sort. Its a small scale wonder. Beautiful picture, you can almost feel the breeze and smell the sea and the waterfront below.

  1. 1 Gargoyle #9 | The Great Seattle Gargoyle Hunt Trackback on February 2, 2012 at 23:13

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