Thursday, October 29, 2015

If this is Thursday it must be postcards, 218

Foundation piles for the Smith Tower, ca 1910

This is a rather amazing look into the construction of the Smith Tower in Seattle Washington.  Plans for the construction of the tower were considered as early as 1909 with commencement of the project in 1910.  The tower was completed in 1914, a 42 story building the tallest west of the Mississippi at the time.  It continued to be the tallest building on the West Coast until the Space Needle was built in 1962.  The postcard photo shows the 1281 friction piles that support the tower and notes that the L.C. Smith Building weighs approximately 49,000 tons.  To provide some idea of immensity of the project, notice the small blue dots in the picture, these are the workmen. 

No publisher or photographer is given on the front or reverse of this card or on the one below that shows the completed tower.  Since both cards do have the same design on the reverse; however, most likely they were published about the same time by the same company dating them to 1914 or shortly thereafter.  The original photos would have been black & white, then tinted before mass producing as postcards.

L.C. Smith Tower, ca 1914-1920


The next postcard below shows the tower after dark.  Frank H. Nowell, who took many of the pictures for the Alaska Yukon Pacific Exposition in 1909, is identified as the photographer and the Loman & Hanford Co., of Seattle, published the card.  Loman & Hanford was a stationery and printing company (1894-1955), later bought out by the Portland, Oregon company, J.K. Gill (1868 – 1999).  Neither of these companies exist today.

Smith Tower after dark

The Smith Tower was funded by and named after the American industrialist Lyman Cornelius Smith (1850-1910) who died before the building was completed.  His son, Burns Lyman Smith, had convinced him to build the 42-story structure instead of the 14-story building he had first envisioned.  During the course of his life Smith was involved in several business ventures, livestock, lumber, firearms (L.C. Smith Shotgun) and eventually typewriters (Smith-Corona).  The firearms and typewriters proved to be the most successful.  The shotguns were produced from the 1880s to about 1950 with a brief revival in 1967, then retired in 1972.  Computers caused a decline in typewriter sales beginning in the 1980s. 

For more information about Smith Tower and L.C. Smith, see:

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Mirror Lake

 Mirror Lake

Mirror Lake is located just east of Snoqualmie summit.  It is a short but steep hike with 2 beautiful lakes, Cottonwood and Mirror, along the way and a peek-a-boo view of Twilight Lake looking down from the trail just past Mirror Lake.  The trail is mostly dirt with needles and leaves this time of year; however, the usual patches of roots and rocks are also found.  It is a 4 mile round trip up and back or a 5 mile round trip if one stops at Cottonwood and also walks around Mirror Lake.  The vertical gain of 800 ft makes it almost entirely up going in and down on the return.  

The Mirror Lake trail meets the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) at Mirror Lake and we did meet a group of women who had arrived at the lake from another spur trail starting at Hyak and merging with the PCT before reaching the lake.

The paved road ends about 6 miles before the trailhead with a gravel and dirt road continuing the rest of the way up and finally deteriorating into a very rocky, steep, hole filled last section.  Most people park their cars below that last section and walk up.  It would take high clearance and 4 wheel drive vehicle to make it up to where the trail begins.  We have a smaller SUV with good clearance and 4 wheel drive but after looking at the condition of that part of the road we opted to walk up the rest of the way.  

 Cottonwood Lake

 Once at the lake shore it was easy to see why it is called Mirror Lake.  The still waters hold almost perfect reflections of the surroundings forest, mountains, and sky.  The smaller Cottonwood Lake that is passed on the way up to Mirror also had lovely reflections.  The autumn color was predominantly yellow with red and red-orange spots here and there. 

 Mirror Lake

 In places the water changed color from blue to blue-green to shimmering

The third lake, Twilight Lake, can barely be seen just beyond Mirror Lake

 Lots of these mushrooms could be found along the way

The yellow leaves on these trees shone bright in the afternoon sun as we headed back home

Thursday, October 22, 2015

If this is Thursday it must be postcards, 217

Historic Crystal Bar in Virginia City, Nevada, ca 1930s

California photographer Burton Frasher (1888-1955) started publishing postcards in 1920 as an expansion to the photography studio he and his wife, Josephine, opened in 1914 first in La Verne and later in Pomona, California where this card was printed.  He enjoyed traveling by automobile and his night photos of Las Vegas and Los Angeles as well as other American Southwest picture postcards proved popular with tourists of the 1930s and 1940s.  Frasher’s black and white landscape pictures of the American West have been widely reproduced.  His postcards carry a circle logo seen below showing with his name and Fotos, Pomona, Calif.

Frasher logo

The “Real Photo” postcard above shows the interior of the historic Crystal Bar in Virginia City, Nevada.  It was found with several 1930s era cards, is not dated and must have been included in an envelope with a longer letter.  It does have a note written on the reverse:  “This is a bar Peg & I visited when we went to Virginia City a couple of weeks ago.  These are the original chandeliers from the gold mining days.  They have a couple of old music boxes that still play.  Lots of old-time pictures of mining and fights.”   Curt Teich reproduced many of Frasher’s photographs as Linen Type postcards. 

Virginia City, Storey County, Nevada is near Reno-Sparks.  The boomtown sprung up when the Comstock Lode silver was discovered in 1859.  Although not part of the earlier California Gold Rush of 1849, gold was also discovered here with Comstock producing hundreds of thousands of dollars of both gold and silver.  When the silver output declined in 1878 so did the city.  German engineer Philip Deidesheimer created a special system for mining tunnels using timber square sets.  By 1876 it was said that every activity having to do with mining was employed at Virginia City.

Like many old West boomtowns Virginia City has an interesting history.  The town has retained authentic historic character with board sidewalks and restored buildings dating from the 1860s and 1870s.  There are several museums and old saloons also a Comstock Historic Walking Trail and a Pioneer Cemetery plus many other attractions for visitors.  It has been designated a National Historic Landmark since 1961. 

For additional information, see:,_Nevada

Thursday, October 15, 2015

If this is Thursday it must be postcards, 216

Château de Chaumont

Here above is Château de Chaumont, also written as Château de Chaumont-sur-Loire, another of the French castles of the Loire River Valley that my friend and his bicycle touring group visited this summer.  This enchanting castle is so much like a fairy tale castle that photos of it often appear in travel advertisements and on pictorial calendars. produced the card with photo image by Marc.

The name Chaumont comes from its location on a “bald hill.”  The first castle to be built here around the year 1000 AD was by order of Odo I, Count of Blois in order to protect his lands from attacks from rivals such as the Count of Anjou.  There is a long line of succession of ownership of the castle until 1455 when it was burned to the ground by Louis XI as punishment to Pierre d’Amboise for his involvement in the League of the Public Weal.  After he was forgiven Amboise the castle was reconstructed (1465 and 1475) and a north wing was added that no longer exists.  Owners included a king’s mistress and Catherine de Medici. It has housed kings, dukes, a glassmaking and pottery factory, a museum of medieval arts, and trapestries cut and pieced to fit the room.  The French Ministry of Culture has classified it as “Monument historique” since 1840. 

My friend wrote that the gardens at Chaumont are where the International Festival of Gardens is held and tht the orchards have many different types of plants and roses.  He also mentioned that the tapestries and carved wooden furniture make it delightful with a stronger Renaissance style than is found at Chambord (postcard Thursday, 212). 

Here below are a few of the pictures my friend sent of Chaumont.

My special thanks to my French friend for sharing the postcard and pictures.

For more glimpses of the history of this palace, see:

Friday, October 9, 2015

Baker River

Baker Lake

This week the destination for hiking was Baker River in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.  From Seattle it is about 2 1/2 hour drive to reach the trail head with the last stretch of the road unpaved.   It is a river walk about 5 miles round trip with very little vertical gain although the trail goes up and down rather than just flat or up one way and down the other.  The temperature hovered around 50-55 degrees F with a cloudy sky but not threatening rain.  The trail surface is mostly dirt with leaves and needles at this time of year but there are places with roots and rocks.

About ½ mile in there is a large bridge across the river and the trail forks.  The right side (trail 610) is marked as open to horses and hikers the left side for hikers only.  We took the left side (trail 606) that follows the river and affords nice views from several points.  The river trail continues an additional 1.7 miles where it meets the North Cascades National Park boundary.  Once inside the park the trail improves and from there it is just another .4 miles to the Sulphide campground which would be the lunch and turn around spot.  Since the water levels are so low this year there was a very nice rocky beach with water on both sides.  There are good logs to sit on at the campground and a fire pit.  Backpackers would find space for 3 tents in this woodsy camp site.

The bridge where the trail splits

 River views from the bridge

It doesn't look like it but the trail goes between the rocks behind the sign, is very narrow for a short distance and then widens out

 Spawning Sockeye Salmon
[Photos:  Bob's camera]

Baker Lake is formed by a dam that does not have a fish ladder for returning salmon.  Fish are caught in a trap and ferried over the dam to the river where they continue up stream to spawn.  When it comes time for the new little fish to head out to sea they are also caught and taken past the dam and let loose away from the turbines.  My brother is a fisheries research biologist who when asked said the sockeye salmon in the Baker River spawn between September and December with the peak between September and November.  I had never seen this in the wild and really wasn’t expecting to see fish on this hike but we did.  At first there were just a couple of salmon when we looked in the river but as we continued up stream there were more and more, probably close to 100 fish.  They were bright red and unmistakable to see.  Bears and eagles are known to prey on fish but we did not see either. 

No flowers this time of year but the trees are turning and dropping leaves.  Most of the deciduous trees along the trail are maples and the kind that turn yellow.  There were just a few red and orange-red varieties mixed in with the yellows.  Moss is thick and covers the branches of almost all the trees just like in the Ho Rain Forest. 

There were some very large cedar trees like this one that was probably 10 or 12 feet across.

Toad (Western Toad aka Bufo boreas)
[Photo:  Bob's camera]

We saw plenty of wild mushrooms, a couple of frogs and toads as well as numerous birds.  We were the only folks hiking on this trail that day.  

 Some trees had mushrooms growing on them

There were great views of both Mount Baker and Mount Shuksan and even a bit of blue sky with clouds.  It was wonderfully quiet and peaceful with the pleasant sound of the rushing water mingled with bird song.

 Mount Baker

Mount Shuksan

I saw Shuksan from the other side last year.  This side is craggier and more rugged looking.  The white line in the center of the photo is a very long waterfall dropping 3,000 or 4,000 ft from the glacier down to the river.

While not a strenuous hike it had river and mountain views, was not crowded with other hikers, and had nice fall color.  In the spring there should be plenty of flowers too.