Seattle’s Pioneers of Fremont: B.F. Day – Part Two

The Panic of 1893, a nationwide economic crash, had a chilling effect upon Seattle.  Historian Thomas Prosch wrote that Seattle businesses, banks manufacturers and even churches closed down and went out of business due to lack of money to operate. Rents went down so low that property owners could not make enough profit to pay their mortgages, and so they lost their holdings.  Ten years later, in a court case in 1903, B. F. Day of the Fremont neighborhood in Seattle testified that in 1893 he had been in “financial embarrassment” and he had been left with nothing but his own house.  At that time he had put title to some of the land he owned into the names of other people so that it would not be taken from him by creditors.

The Fremont neighborhood is on the north side of the Ship Canal.

The Fremont neighborhood is on the north side of the ship canal. Here we are standing on the Fremont side, looking east toward the Fremont Bridge and we see a little of Queen Anne hill on the south side.

B.F. Day had come to Seattle in 1880 at age 45 and he quickly became involved in the life of his newly-adopted city.  He worked in real estate and served one term on Seattle City Council before moving out of the city limits.  By or before 1889 B.F. Day and his wife Frances built a big house where they had land holdings in Fremont, a suburb of Seattle.

The history of the Fremont neighborhood closely parallels the ups and downs of Seattle itself.  Although this blog, Wedgwood in Seattle History, is mainly about the Wedgwood neighborhood in the northeast part of the city, I have also enjoyed learning about Fremont and so I am sharing Fremont history here with my readers.  In Part Two of the story of B.F. Day we will read how his life was impacted by the economic crash of 1893.

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Seattle’s Pioneers of Fremont: B.F. Day – Part One

Fremont is easily reached from downtown Seattle by traveling along the west shore of Lake Union.

Fremont is easily reached from downtown Seattle by traveling along the west shore of Lake Union.

The Fremont neighborhood was one of Seattle’s first suburbs, with people moving to the site beginning in the 1870s.   Even before Fremont had an official name, its strategic location at the northwest corner of Lake Union was known to Seattle pioneers who recognized that a waterway there would make it easier to transport heavy products such as timber and coal.

Much of the story of Fremont parallels the growth of Seattle itself, and studying the history of Fremont has given me a better understanding and framework for the history of our city.  In 2009 I participated as a volunteer with the Fremont Historical Society in a survey of Fremont’s residential housing, and today I am still benefiting from that free education in history, architecture and research resources.

The Fremont Project results are posted on Seattle’s Department of Neighborhoods Historic Resources Site where you can read the context statement (a mini-history written by Caroline Tobin) and see the lists of significant houses identified in the survey, with descriptions written by architectural historian Katheryn Krafft.

Fremont in Seattle has a vibrant commercial district with many small, locally owned shops.

Fremont in Seattle has a vibrant commercial district with many small, locally owned shops.

B.F. Day and his wife Frances arrived in Seattle in 1880 and then became residents of Fremont in its early development years.  The Days lived through a series of major events: the Chinese Expulsion of 1886, Seattle’s Great Fire of 1889, the economic crash called the Panic of 1893, and the Yukon Gold Rush of 1897.  In this two-part blog post I will tell about the social, political and economic impacts of Seattle’s tumultuous years of the 1880s and 1890s.  Some themes we will see are the early Seattleites’ eagerness to acquire land and develop it, the desire to reshape the landscape by digging a canal for transportation of products via a waterway, and the pioneers’ struggle to overcome catastrophic events such as political upheaval, fire, and economic depression.

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Seattle’s Immigrant Photographer: Werner Lenggenhager

Werner Lenggenhager (1899-1988) was a Swiss immigrant who lived in Australia and California before coming to Seattle in 1939 at age 40.  A trip home to Switzerland in 1949 made Lenggenhager realize that historic buildings are not always valued until it is too late.  Working at Boeing Aircraft Company in Seattle was Lenggenhager’s “day job” and in his free time Lenggenhager launched a one-man effort to record as much of Seattle’s historic architecture as he could.

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Wedgwood’s Immigrants: the Akahoshi Family

Census records of 1920 show that there were quite a few immigrants living in the northeast Seattle neighborhood of Wedgwood that year.  Germans who built their own houses and settled in Wedgwood included John Herkenrath, Gustav Morris, and William Voss, who all worked as carpenters.  The large extended-family of Joseph Lobberegt had migrated from Holland (a province of the Netherlands) and group members settled along 35th Ave NE in Wedgwood, especially around NE 75th to 80th Streets.  Occupations of Dutch immigrants as listed on the census of 1920 included glass work, sign-painting, tailoring and operation of mom-and-pop grocery stores.

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A Gift from the Past

When I was growing up in the 1950s in Seattle I was fascinated by the stories my elderly relatives told of “the olden days.”  It doesn’t seem possible that I could have known people who were born in the 1880s, but I did, because my grandparents’ generation was of that time period.  They were born in the eastern USA and as young people they journeyed Out West to find new opportunities in the State of Washington.  They told of living through world wars and economic depressions, yet always with faith in God’s guidance and provision for them.

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Seattle’s Nordic Heritage

Nordic Heritage Museum

Nordic Heritage Museum

The Nordic Heritage Museum in Seattle is the only museum in the United States which recognizes the contribution of immigrants from the five Nordic countries:  Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden.  It is particularly appropriate for the Museum to be located in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle where so many Scandinavian immigrants settled by or before 1900, and where their cultural contributions such as coffee-drinking are still part of life in Seattle today.

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Have a Merry Belated Christmas!

Valarie says: Here is a first-hand report direct from our missions partners in Europe about what it means to serve the refugees, in Jesus’ name.

Slow Train Coming

The first thing I noticed as I entered the Refugee Camp in Slavonski Brod, Croatia less than three weeks ago was a big Christmas tree shining in the IMG_7751middle of the camp. It looked as a sign of hope in a place through which thousands of the world homeless journey, day and night, on their way to a hopefully better place and better future.

The second thing that made me think about the birth of Jesus every day in the refugee camp were the two shelters our ROM team was building. We were told that they would be used as the nursing places for the refugee mothers with babies during the cold and wet winter months. In a way they would be to the refugee mothers and refugee babies what the sheltering manger was to Mary and the baby Jesus on the cold and uninviting night in Bethlehem the night…

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