History of Aurora Avenue – State Route SR 99 In North Seattle
Aurora Avenue is a vital growing product of consumerism, a history of not only Seattle but also of America and how the automobile changed us all. Aurora Avenue between Green Lake and 145th is one of the oldest business districts in Seattle and is not only a â€œ neighborhood business districtâ€ but also a â€œhistorical pictureâ€ of America.
Green lake to 85th
As you approach the North Section of Aurora Avenue also known as State Route SR 99 with itsâ€™ older name of â€œNorth Trunk Highwayâ€ after passing over the George Washington Memorial Bridge (commonly known as the Aurora Bridge) that was built and dedicated in 1932 you approach the calming waters of Green lake. At the westerly curve of the highway the world famous â€œTwin Teepeeâ€ restaurant was established in 1937. This restaurant was once owned by Seattle restauranteur Walter Clark and one former cook went on to greatness by founding the Kentucky Fried Chicken fast food chain. Today the property is being re-developed.
The easterly curve currently occupied by a â€œ76â€ gas station is the inheritor of the location formerly occupied by â€œDukeâ€™sâ€ which was one of the first gas stations located on the highway.
Before the Aurora Bridge was completed people had to go out Elliott Avenue across the Ballard Bridge, come up the road now known as 15th N. W. and down the valley (Now called Holman Road) and up again to the North Trunk highway (Aurora Avenue) crossing at 105th heading to the Lake City area to join the Bothell Everett Highway and traveled on up to the fledgling cities of Everett, and Mount Vernon.
The area of Winona and Aurora was the â€œhot spotâ€. It had three gas stations,â€ Dukeâ€™s Texaco,â€ a shell station and aâ€ McKale Station,â€ a Buick repair shop, and theâ€œAurora Cycle Shopâ€ established in 1937. It also had a trolly line that ran around Green Lake, up to Phinney Ridge, over to Ballard and back to Seattle. The area had ice cream stores and was a thriving little section of â€œsuburbiaâ€ even before the Aurora Bridge was finished.
Auto oriented businesses also clustered around the Winona intersection, one of which was â€œ Sid McDonaldsâ€™â€ Hudson motorcar company. A current bicycle store is still on Winona and now shares the block with â€œ Aurora Suzukiâ€a motorcycle store. â€œBethâ€™s CafÃ©â€ just south of the intersection was established in 1952 and the McKales Gas Station property is now occupied by a 7-11 store. All McKale Gas Stations throughout the city had as their slogan â€œWhere service is Kingâ€. Al Houdine owned the Buick repair shop and an ice cream store. Many second and third generation owners still run those businesses and in fact Sid McDonald opened his store every day and sold Hudson parts until he passed away in 1996.
On the corner of 80th and Aurora was a â€œFlying Aâ€ gas station. This building is still preserved. In the 30â€™s and 40â€™s there was aâ€ Bartell Drug Storeâ€ just south of the â€œFlying Aâ€ and the â€œChubby and Tubbyâ€ store (now closed) together with aâ€ Safeway â€œstore to serve the pioneers residing out of town around the Green Lake area.
At the corner of 85th that was once only a dirt road with no stop signs, there was a hardware store on the Southeast corner and the â€œSun Hill Motelâ€ established in the 1930â€™s is still just past the Northwest corner of the intersection.
Until 1957 this was where the City of Seattle ended and â€œcountryâ€ began!
85th TO 105TH
Just outside the city limits at 88th was an out of town hotspot called the â€œWhitestoneâ€ which offered dining and dancing while close by was theâ€ Green Lake Motelâ€ used by travelers heading further North. At 87th on land now occupied by â€œFraserâ€™s Auto Salesâ€ was the first U-pump gas station, a radical innovation called â€œGas O Matâ€. At the â€œGas O Matâ€ customers were actually allowed to pump their own gasoline into their Model Tâ€™s, Hudsons, Studebakers or Buicks.
At 90th and Aurora now occupied by the â€œTaco Bellâ€ wasâ€ Denny Hill Fuelâ€ a business that sold sawdust and coal for the houses around the area. Before that the site was occupied by â€œPasqualeâ€™sâ€ grocery store, a neighborhood type grocery store serving the Green Lake area. On the other corner of 90th you will see â€œAcme Auto Electricâ€ established in 1946 with the same family ownership where second and third generation family members are still helping the motoring public.
Next toâ€ Acme Auto Electricâ€ is the pld â€ House of Pizzaâ€œbuilding, formerly the â€œFlying Boots CafÃ©â€ and across the street is the â€œAurora Seafair Motor Innâ€ owned by John and Annie Min who also own the â€œGreen lake Motelâ€ at 89th, theâ€ Evergreen Innâ€ at 85th and theâ€ Ambassador Motelâ€ at 122nd, making them the largest motel owners along Aurora Avenue.
Occupying both corners of 92nd on the East Side is Aurora Collision Center established in 1952 on the Southeast corner, a leader in the repair of heavily damaged automobiles who has currently expanded to both corners. The Northeast corner of 92nd and Aurora had a long history of car sale lots and was occupied by Lang Towing for some 10 years. On the west side of Aurora at 92nd, where â€œChevrolaneâ€ car sales exists today was an â€œEasy Haulâ€ old time gas station. This gas station was another innovator in that it was the first business to begin renting trailers in the North Seattle area. Also on the west side between 92nd and 93rd is â€œAurora Auto Wreckingâ€ established by the Fitpatrick family in 1934 and currently (since 1963) owned by the Conley family currently managed by third and fourth generation family members. Across the street on the East side is â€œOlson Lumber Companyâ€ established in 1958 which also has second and third generation family members working in the â€œyardâ€.
On the West side of 94th the current â€œKlose Innâ€ motel was established in the late 1930â€™s right next to the old roller skating rink called â€œThe Roller Bowlâ€. Many a soldier and sailor during the 2nd World War years skated the evening away at the â€œRoller Bowlâ€. The Bekins family now owns the site. On the Southeast corner of 94th currently occupied by â€œJapan Auto Serviceâ€ was a great business called â€œThe 3 G Iâ€™sâ€™â€ which was established in 1946 by three former GIâ€™s who put up a tent and sold â€œwar surplusâ€ They had a really great radio jingle that went like this
â€œWe are the 3 G Iâ€™s those happy go lucky guysâ€ We donâ€™t pay no rent, cause our business is in a tent!â€
Moving up the east side of Aurora we come to â€œQuiring Monumentsâ€, founded in 1925. This company is an innovator in monument building, has won many national awards, written up in the Wall Street Journal and Time Magazine and discussed on the Paul Harvey program. â€œ Quiring Monumentsâ€ was a winner of the Mayorâ€™s Small Business Award in 1999 and is managed by the original ownersâ€™ son, Dave Quiring.
On the West side of Aurora between 95th and 96th is the newly re-developed â€œCrown Motor Innâ€ which was re-built in 1998 and replaced the older landmark â€œAurora Tavernâ€.
Just south of 100th we see theâ€ Burgermaster Drive Innâ€œ. This â€œBurgermasterâ€ has been at this location since 1960. Prior to â€œ Burgermasterâ€ the site was occupied by â€œShadow Towingâ€. The strip center across from the Burgermaster between 98th and 100th replaced the former â€œMcAlister Motel and Trailer Parkâ€. Built in 1985 it started the renewal of this section of Aurora. After it was built, Oak Tree Shopping Center was built with â€˜Larryâ€™s Marketâ€, â€œStarbucksâ€ and â€œOak Tree Cinemaâ€ as well as many other fine stores. The site was previously the site of the â€œOak Lake Schoolâ€ which had been closed down by the Seattle School District and had become a serious blight along Aurora Avenue
The area above 100th during the 20â€™s and 30â€™s was â€œcountryâ€. The Johnson family owned a large farm before Oak Lake School was built and there was a feed store on the west side, together with â€œNorth Park Heatingâ€ and a lumber yard. Today the building (rebuilt after a 1994 arson fire) houses the famous â€œRichâ€™s Custom Upholsteryâ€ Corvette sign, the â€œFuton Factoryâ€ and a fine Szeuchan restaurant “Asian Pearl”
As we move up to the wonderful intersection of 105th and Aurora we recall that on the Southwest corner was the â€œNorth Star Motor Courtâ€ build in the 1930â€˜s to rent units to travelers going to Everett. The property is still owned by the daughter of the original owners, Dr. Evelyn Richter, who until 1987 practiced medicine in the building located on the Northwest corner of 105th next to â€œCyndyâ€™s House of Pancakesâ€ in a building that was formerly known as â€œGillyâ€s Hardwareâ€ and the â€œNorth Park Post Officeâ€. On the Southeast corner was a Shell Gas Station (built in the 1930â€™s) and the currentâ€ Shucks Auto Supply Storeâ€ was formerly a â€œSafeway Storeâ€ built in 1936.
105TH TO 130TH
The history of this area begins in the late 1800â€™s when â€œOak Lake Cemeteryâ€ was founded by David Denny in September of 1884 on the east side of 110th and Aurora. David Denny was forced to sell his cemetery in 1893 due to a stock market crash in which he lost â€œeverythingâ€. The name of the cemetery was changed to â€œWashelliâ€ by the new owners.
In the early 1900â€™s a group of business people purchased the property on the west side of Aurora at 110th and tried to sell land for a housing development. This development failed because it was â€œtoo far out of townâ€ and so in 1919 the group formed â€œEvergeen Cemeteryâ€. In 1927 the two competing cemeteries were joined and become â€œEvergeen-Washelliâ€ Today some 3rd and 4th generation family members of the original groups still own stock in the corporation but the major owner is Dave Daley who has been involved with the cemetery since 1964. â€œEvergeen-Washelliâ€ is a green oasis along the Aurora Corridor that is appreciated by all who drive along the street.
In the late 1920â€™s â€œPlaylandâ€ was developed. Playland was located between Aurora Avenue and Greenwood Avenue and encompassed Bitter Lake. The current street known as 130th going East and West did not exist as a main arterial during the years that â€œPlaylandâ€ existed. Along the Aurora edge of â€œPlaylandâ€ was the â€œAurora Speedwayâ€ dominated for many years by race car drivers Shorty Templemen, Allen Heath (a one-armed race car driver) and Logan Harter (called Lovely Logan). The raceway also included some dog races besides the car races on a circle track. Many a Seattleite got their first taste of speed watching cars race around the track at â€œPlaylandâ€. Also included in this â€œfantasy landâ€ was a Ferris Wheel, a midway, hot dog stands and of course many, many rides for young and old alike. â€œPlaylandâ€ for many years was a favorite outing place for Seattleites. After â€œPlaylandâ€ was developed the surrounding area also became a place to go for fun and entertainment. Where â€œSamâ€™s Clubâ€ is at 135th was the â€œAurora Drive In Theatreâ€ where families came to be entertained by the new fangled â€œmotion pictureâ€. At 127th there was a â€œTriple XXXâ€ and many dance halls including â€œBert Wheelersâ€ and the famous â€œPalladium Ballroomâ€ located on the corner of 125th and Aurora currently occupied by Cochran Electric
â€œPlaylandâ€œ was sold in the early 50â€˜s to Howard Parker. Today there is a school on the Greenwood Side of Bitter Lake, and tennis courts and a community center on the east side of Bitter Lake. At one time the building currently housing the â€œRite Aidâ€ store, â€œBallyâ€™s Fitness Centerâ€ â€œRossâ€™sâ€, and all the stores along Linden Avenue was used by â€œGov Martâ€. This business was a huge store and the forerunner of todayâ€™s â€œbig box storesâ€,â€Lowe’s” ,” Home Depot â€ and â€œSamâ€™s Clubâ€™sâ€. A person had to join â€œGov Martâ€ on a yearly basis and could then purchase goods at a reduced rate. It was called â€œGov Martâ€ because the low prices and memberships were first offered only to government workers at itsâ€™ downtown store on 4th Avenue in the old Trianon Ball room Building. When the â€œGov Martâ€ opened along Aurora Avenue the owners decided to open the stores to any and all!.
130th to 145th
Auto dealerships began their move to the area along 130th in the 1960â€™s. This area was then considered the suburbs. â€œOlympic-Lincoln-Mercuryâ€ moved from the University District in 1967. â€œ Westlund Buick-GMCâ€ was an older dealership that began in 1936 as â€œHal Steinerâ€™s Hudsonâ€ then became â€œHal Steinerâ€s Studebakerâ€ and in 1952 became a Buick dealership. â€œWestlund-Buick-GMCâ€ moved into the area in 1983 was considered the â€œnew guyâ€ on the block for dealerships at that time, even though the dealership building was previously occupied by Lillis Olds. â€œTown and Country Jeep/Chryslerâ€ moved into the area in 1966. Dealerships moved out to Aurora Avenue to answer the needs of the population explosion out to the suburbs. Lynnwood, Mountlake Terrace, Richmond Beach, and Edmonds all were experiencing huge growth as residents were all looking for their own little piece of â€œheavenâ€. They all needed cars to get themselves to their places of employment. Along with the new car dealerships along â€œthe Aurora Corridorâ€ came the used car lot owners. Thus the â€œAurora Corridorâ€ continued its destiny as an auto-oriented street.
Today the 114 year history of auto-related businesses is changing and yet not changing.
Most businesses along Aurora depend on customers driving to their establishment. Goods and services offered may have changed but along Aurora the automobile is still appreciated, provides a large number of jobs along Aurora Avenue and contributes greatly to the tax base of this city.
Recent surveys taken by the Aurora Avenue Merchants Association indicate that gross sales along Aurora Avenue equal and sometimes surpass the gross sales from Seattleâ€™s downtown core. Employment exceeds 5,000 along Aurora Ave.
Aurora Avenue (old Highway 99) plays a very important part in maintaining the economic vitality of Seattle. The recent opening of a new â€œcrispy Kremeâ€ donut shop at 125th are continuing examples of the importance the Aurora Avenue Corridor plays in the vitality of the region. The recent additions to Aurora such as Home Depot, Lowesâ€™, Les Schwab, Crown Inn, Oak Tree with itsâ€™ Larryâ€™s Market and Theatre, Best Western Hotel, Samâ€™s Club, Extended Stay America, Albertsons, Pet Smart, Staples and the upgrading of the K-Mart together with many other businesses and investments made and currently being made indicate that â€œAurora Avenueâ€ ole â€œHighway 99â€ is alive and well after 114 years.
One interesting facet of Aurora Avenue is the co-existence of small neighborhood stores with large corporate and big box stores. The diversity of the businesses is amazing while all work together to protect the economic vitality of the street.
The Broadview Historical Society has many pictures of the area and occasionally the Shoreline Museum features an exhibit of the area.
Beyond Playland were family farms mixing in with the businesses being developed, among those businesses were the equally famous Bert Wheeler Dance Club (143rd on the west side). Later the Big 4 auction house was established in the area and the Fish Bowl Restaurant opened up on the east side of Aurora at approximately 135th. The Fish Bowl was actually shaped like a fish!
In the 30′s and 40′s 130th was a long, long way out of town, but as the soldiers came back from the war, homes were built and people began to populate the area. Many business people located along Aurora to serve those people. The County planned its zoning to recognize that Aurora (Highway 99) while being the main north/south highway to Canada and Mexico, could provide jobs for the surrounding neighborhood citizens.
In 1922 when the Haller Lake Community was established one of their first projects was to build a corduroy road out to Aurora (Haller Lake neighborhood is between 125th and 145th on the East Side of Aurora and, yes, it does have a lake!
Today the 114 year history of auto-related businesses is changing and yet not changing.
Most businesses along Aurora depend on customers driving to their establishments. The type of goods and services may have changed but along Aurora the automobile is still appreciated, still provides a large number of jobs and still contributes greatly to the tax base of this city. Recent surveys taken by the Aurora Avenue Merchants Association Inc. indicate that the gross sales along Aurora Avenue equals and sometimes surpasses the gross sales from Seattle’s downtown core. Aurora Avenue today provides 5,107 jobs, and a secondary means of traveling North/South when the I-5 corridor is tied up with traffic due to accidents. Aurora Avenue (ole Highway 99) continues, after 114 years to play a very important part in maintaining the economic vitality of Seattle.
Aurora Avenue is not only a state and city highway but is a neighborhood of businesses and nearby residents. The draw to Aurora Avenue shopping opportunities is hugel. The recent additions to Aurora Avenue such as Lowe’s (formerly Eagle Hardware), Home Depot, Les Schwab, Crown Inn, Oak Tree Shopping Center with its own Larry’s Market and Theatre, Best Western Hotels, Sam’s Club, Krispy Kreme with the many small diverse businesses and strip centers together with many different types of restaurants indicate that by these investments in Aurora Avenue “ole 99″ is alive and well!
Today business has replaced the farms along SR 99 (Aurora Avenue). So come drive our street and appreciate itsâ€™ development with us. As with all things in this world, Aurora Avenue is constantly changing but for today, it is a well preserved piece of America so come and appreciate it!
It is the history of our country!
Aurora Avenue Merchants Association, Inc.
951 North 100th, Seattle, WA 98133