Gargoyle #10

Note: This post was originally published on my personal website, Just Wondering. Some of the links go to that website. In particular, those links referencing the “hunt” post to which this post is the solution, link to Just Wondering instead of back to the home page here on GSGH.

Our tenth installment of the Great Seattle Gargoyle Hunt took forever to be solved. Apparently, no one wanted to be seen as lunging at such an easy win. I finally had to beg readers for someone to please just toss it out there. Past winner Marni responded with the correct answer because she can’t stand to see me suffer. Here’s a wider crop of the contest image:

Gargoyle #10, as it were.

Marni commented correctly that the gargoyle for contest #10 is an element of the Cobb Building on the northwest corner of Fourth Avenue and University Street. Below is a shot I took last spring showing most of the building, with the Indian heads visible around the exterior of the ninth floor.

The Cobb as it looked when I strolled by in May 2011.

Many moons ago, my children, the white father Arthur Denny donated for the Territorial University a big slab of the hillside beside Elliott Bay, of which he owned the central part. It became known as the Metropolitan Tract. In old birds-eye maps you can see University Street charging up the hill only to be interrupted halfway between Third and Fourth by the grounds of the original Territorial University building, which had four columns to its portico and a distinguishing belfry.

A crop from the 1878 Bancroft birds-eye. The Cobb stands in what is here shown as an undeveloped corner of the University’s tract, and partly on top of Fourth Avenue, which at that time jogged around the tract further west than it is now.

A crop from the 1884 birds-eye by H. Wellge. I really should have included these in the Olympic Hotel piece (GSGH #11), since the Territorial University building sat where the Metropolitan Theater and eventually the hotel’s motor entrance were built.

A crop from the Hughes birds-eye of 1891. Now that the Plymouth Congregation Church is installed on Third and University (light red, just left and below center), it’s a good time to segue to the next photo…

Plymouth Congregational Church on Third Avenue, built in 1891, and the Cobb up on Fourth. Compare with the birds-eyes above, and you’ll be able to place the Cobb’s location back through history. Fourth Avenue was previously where the alley between the church and the office building appears, but has been moved east up the hill to remove the jogs in it. Photo by Asahel Curtis used with permission, courtesy of the Lawton Gowey collection via Paul Dorpat, with thanks.

The university moved over to Portage Bay where it blossomed into the huge affair it is now. By early 1909, the Metropolitan Building Company, which was developing the downtown acreage on behalf of the university, felt that Seattle had reached the point where it could begin to “centralize various classes of business” the way other major cities did.* Accordingly it drew up its plans for the Cobb as a building “to be given over to physicians and dentists”. The building was designed (by Howells & Stokes) and equipped to maximize its appeal to practitioners of the healing arts. It was finished in 1910 and billed by the Seattle Times as the “finest physicians’ and dentists’ building that has ever been erected in any part of the world”.

The Cobb (left) and its sibling the White-Henry-Stuart Building, circa 1915. Image property of Museum of History and Industry. The WHS was sacrificed to make way for Rainier Tower, the famous “pedestal building”.

In case prospective tenants needed the idea of a physicians’ and dentists’ building hammered home, a medallion was placed above the door that depicts a profile of Hippocrates. It’s still there. His name arcs above his profile in Greek capital letters (ΊΠΠΟΚΡΑΤΗΣ), so that people like me tend to see the word Innokpathe, which still works in a way, because to my mind it suggests “enough suffering”. (I know, sorry, I’ll stop.)

The medallion over the entryway is a profile of Hippocrates (click any of these images to enlarge, as usual). The Indian head shown below is in the glowing lit vestibule partly visible to the right here.

An envoy representing the austere assembly nine floors above. This one hangs in an external vestibule which is open to the public all the time. Note the depth of the relief.

One of the terra cotta Indian heads is available for study at close range. It’s in an exterior vestibule to the right of the front entrance on Fourth. I don’t know if this was an extra chief, or if this is one that was removed from up above at some point, or if it was always meant to be here or what. It shares the vestibule with a bank machine, but I think the vestibule is not original to the 1910 floorplan. I think there were retail shops in this space, perhaps as late as my own time. If anyone knows, please say. The sculpture is larger than it looks here, a good six to eight feet tall. I wish I had had the presence of mind to stick a tourist in front of it for scale.

I’ll leave you with several more shots of this arresting edifice, one from a bunch that Paul Dorpat sent over when I told him what I was up to (his own treatment of the Cobb in his Seattle Times “Now & Then” series is here), and two that I shot earlier this year. Thanks to Marni for delivering the winning ID, to Paul for historic photo support, and to Pedro for digging up some great old newspaper clippings on the building.

The men trading next to the cart at the left edge don’t seem to realize or care about the sweeping changes overtaking the neighborhood. Rent’s going up, guys! Image courtesy of Paul Dorpat.

The southeast corner of the Cobb against the City Centre Building (née Pacific First Centre) a few blocks away.

One of the Cobb Indians holding on to the last sunlight of the day.

*According to J. F. Douglass, secretary of the Metropolitan Building Company, quoted in an article in the Seattle Times, March 28, 1909.

One response to “Gargoyle #10

  1. Pingback: Gargoyle #10 | The Great Seattle Gargoyle Hunt

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