Thursday, March 1, 2012

If this is Thursday it must be postcards, 28

Pioneer Square Pergola and Totem pole, ca 1909

This Robert A. Reid black & white postcard published in Seattle shows Pioneer Square or Pioneer Place as it was once called with the Iron Pergola and the Tlingit Totem pole. Pioneer Square was the original site of the city’s first sawmill built in 1853 by Henry Yesler. In the 1880s the land was turned into a public square following a massive street-straightening project.

The dictionary defines a "pergola" as a frame structure that supports climbing plants such as a grape arbor, a shady resting place in a park. The Iron Pergola was built in 1909 as a stop or public waiting area for the Yesler and James Street Cable Car Company. Julian Everett, a Seattle architect, designed the Pergola which was a waiting shelter built mostly of glass with ornamental cast iron columns and wrought iron ornamentation. It also had a large underground restroom that was described in one article as the eighth wonder of the world. The “comfort station” as it was called had marble stalls, brass fixtures, oak chairs, tiled walls and terrazzo floors. There were separate entrances for men and women with a combination of free and pay stalls. Each side had an anteroom with oak chairs, sinks and a shoeshine stand. The men’s room also had a place to purchase cigars. The restrooms were closed sometime after World War II. For a more complete description please see: http://www.historylink.....

In January 2001 an inexperienced driver of an 18-wheel semi truck crashed into the pergola and did significant damage. Many people did not think it would be possible to restore and repair the nearly 100 year old Pergola but in August of 2002 about a year and half after the accident at a cost of $3.9 million the repair and restoration was completed.
For pictures of the restoration project see

The totem pole first appeared in 1899. The Portland Post Card Company of Seattle, Washington and Portland, Oregon published the card below [card #6114]. The card has the official logo of the Alaska Yukon Pacific Exposition of 1909.

Totem pole, Pioneer Square, Seattle, ca 1909

The totem pole had stood for more than 100 years in Alaska but was stolen from the Tlingit Indians by vacationing members of the Chamber of Commerce and brought to Seattle where it was gifted by the men to the city and erected in Pioneer Square. The Tlingit tribe sued for its return but the courts only assessed a $500 fine and let the city keep the ownership of the pole.

In 1938 the pole was vandalized and set on fire. The pieces were returned to the Tlingit tribe where their craftsmen carved a reproduction. The new pole was sent back to Seattle where it has remained unmolested in Pioneer Square. The article I read from the National Park Service stated that it “now stands as a symbol of the complicated relationship between American Indians and European Americans.”
See for the complete article with information about both the Pergola and the Totem Pole.

Another totem pole was recently erected at the Seattle Center. It is 33 feet tall and is a memorial to John T. Williams a slain Native American woodcarver. The article and photograph from the Seattle Post Intelligencer can be found at

No comments:

Post a Comment