Washington State Woman’s Bldg., 1909
The central building shown on this postcard from the Alaska Yukon Pacific Exposition held in Seattle, Washington the summer of 1909 was then the Washington State Woman’s building but is now known as Cunningham Hall. It was built for the Fair in 1909 and later named for Imogen Cunningham a 1907 graduate of the University of Washington who later went on to become one the first female professional photographers. She began her photographic career taking pictures of plants for the botany department as a way to help pay for her education. She graduated with a degree in chemistry but is best known for her photographs; most of flowers and plants, human portraits, hands and nude studies. She worked for both Edward Curtis and Ansel Adams two well-known western photographers who had their own studios.
One of the few buildings to survive beyond the Fair, originally in 1909 it was located near where the Chemistry Library and the Molecular Engineering and Sciences buildings are on the University of Washington campus today. In 2009 the building was successfully moved to the grassy slope just south of Parrington Hall. It is the home of the Women’s Center and once functioned as a meeting place for suffragists fighting for women’s voting rights. It continues to serve women on campus and in the community.
I went to the University campus and walked to the present site to take a couple of photos of the way the building looks today. It is a lovely old wooden structure that has been restored, painted a soft yellow color with white trim and preserved in near pristine condition. It was fun to see something 100 years old looking so timeless and beautiful with a bed of roses in front, a garden in back and green grass all around. One change I noted was the little annex to the side of the building shown on the card is now a series of stairs or fire escape with metal fencing instead of the wooden porch shown on the card. It also looks as if the front porch roof may have been changed slightly.
The front of Cunningham Hall, 2013
Cunningham Hall, 2013, taken from approximately the same angle as the postcard
The back of Cunningham Hall, 2013
The card has the AYPE seal in the upper left, is numbered as X101 in the series of official Post Cards for the exposition, is unused, has a divided back, and was published by the Portland Post Card Co., of Seattle, Washington and Portland, Oregon. There is a notation stating the postage for the United States and Canada as one cent, foreign postage was 2 cents. This is another example of a black & white photo that has been tinted to appear as a color picture and then published as a color postcard. The postcard shows the building as white but I am not sure if it was originally white or a soft yellow with white trim as it is today. The roof seems true to color as it is the same blue-gray depicted on the card.
The photographer is not credited on the back of the card but is thought to be Frank H. Nowell. In 1909 Nowell, the official photographer for the Fair, took a picture of several women posed on the building steps and labeled as the Ancient Order of United Workmen members that appears on the site providing historical information about the Women’s Center. The AOUW was a fraternal order that had mostly male members but did also have a female division. Another photo taken by Nowell shows the interior of the building, which had wood floors, a fireplace and several wooden chairs including rockers but not much else.
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