Cover Story Plant Life On Fitness Northwest Living Taste Essay Now & Then


Next Stop, Salvation

William J. Gould, the photographer of this scene, was among a once wide class of rail fans who recorded in detail their love for trolleys, trains and, in this case, cable cars. Gould is long-gone, and the objects of his affections are hard to find outside his pictures.

I took the "now" photograph from the parking lot of the Jefferson Terrace high-rise. Tired of waiting for a Metro bus to enter the scene, I settled for a school bus. But I wonder, are there younger photographers with Metro schedules waiting at corners to photograph buses? Is there now a class of "tire fan"?

A "RAIL FAN" photographed this historical scene so its subject is the James Street Cable Car, not Trinity Church. This block between Seventh and Eighth Avenues was the steepest part of the short cable railway that for half a century, beginning in 1891, ran on James between Pioneer Square and the Union Trunk Line's powerhouse on Broadway.

For years the cable cars used in summer were open and fitted with long benches. The cars gripped a cable that ran at a leisurely 7 1/2 miles an hour, so a middle-aged man, bringing home a bucket of lard for the crusts of his wife's rhubarb pie, could hop aboard a moving car. (Or he might have lingered beside the steep vacant lot across from the church to pick blackberries for a sweeter pie.)

The stone church at the northwest corner of James and Eighth was built in the early 1890s after the congregation lost its frame sanctuary at Third Avenue and Jefferson Street to the city's Great Fire of 1889. In the beginning, Trinity Episcopal Church served its well-off neighbors on First Hill. By the time this photograph was recorded during the Great Depression, the congregation's calling had turned with the neighborhood. A church publication from 1935 describes a community in need of a "free outpouring of service" that would "not add much stability to the parish itself."

Since the February earthquake, it is Trinity that needs stability. The main sanctuary has been closed as the congregation rushes to raise the estimated $4 million required to make safe what the consulting architects have called "vertical rubble." The "social gospel" of this church has consistently served the down-and-out in the central city. It's time for the community to return some "good news" to the congregation by helping restore a great landmark.

Paul Dorpat specializes in historical photography and has published several books on early Seattle.

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