Saturday, September 18, 2010

Seeing Red

Seeing Red
Photo & Text © 2010 Kim- Seattle Daily Photo. All rights reserved; no use, alteration, reproduction or republishing in any media.
This was a bright corner on a dim day! The Little Red Bistro on Dexter Street is fairly new to the neighborhood and may have taken its color inspiration from the vintage red cast iron street clock by the Joseph Mayer & Brothers Co of Seattle,  probably circa 1915-1930. 

In 1897 German immigrants to Seattle, Markus, Albert, & Joseph Mayer, started a watchmaking and wholesale jewelry business in Seattle just as the Klondike Gold Rush hit. The brothers also hit the trade route north through Canada to Alaska and made their fortune. There is a photo in the Dawson City, Yukon archives of a belt made entirely of gold nuggets that brother Albert Mayer made for a woman customer. Among their lines were silver trade bracelets featuring Tlingit carving designs that they sold to Pacific NW native peoples and curios seekers. Joseph being an entrepreneur, the business expanded and formed divisions. He became an agent of a clockworks company in the east. Joseph had the cast iron street clock casings made by Pacific Car and Foundry & Co in Renton (now PACCAR), and later manufactured his own inner clockworks in Seattle. In 1922 Joseph Mayer & Bros Co became the manufacturing wing of the 3 brother's endeavors and it was this division that made and sold the 10 historic street clocks remaining in Seattle to their original owners, and in some in other western cities such as San Francisco, CA and Victoria, BC. Joseph Mayer & Bros Co. manufactured sterling flatware, hollow-ware, and souvenir spoons that are now highly collectible. I saw a panoramic photo from the UW library image collection of the employees of Joseph Meyer Bros company, and there were over 70 people in the shot. What an indication of Mayer Brothers' industry and success! By 1936, Joseph Mayer had moved his now named Northern Smelting and Refining Company from 81 Marion Street to 400 Dexter Avenue. This clock sits in front of that building, yet doesn't appear in a 1930 photo of the corner. We can assume Joseph may have installed it when he opened shop there. Or, perhaps it was erected as a memorial to him after his death. Sadly, Joseph Meyer took his life in the building in June of 1937. The business survived him and became the Northern Stamping and Manufacturing Company famous for their stamped mark of M&B between a pick and shovel (recalling the Yukon gold rush that got them started). They were purchased by E. & J. Towle in 1945, which later became West Earth through 1980. I don't know if the building was divided up into separate store fronts after that, but Little Red Bistro is at 400 Dexter Ave rather than Joseph Mayer & Brothers' old business address of 406, now just out of sight to the left. Sometimes photowalks reveal more than just a scene :-). 

Want to know more about Seattle's fab public and historic clocks?  Check out the fabulous Clock Walk.


Virginia said...

Seattle Rouge, peut-être??? I knew you' d join me. :)

Kat said...

That's one really lovely spot indeed! I'd be glad if I saw one like this suddenly :). Especially love the clock, it's so beautiful! And the border of the sidewalk is cute as well.

Lynette said...

Oh, boy! What a find you have here! Thanks for the photo and the text.

Chow Down Seattle said...

Great photo! I love the Little Red Bistro.

Anonymous said...

The link to the fabulous clock walk is broken.