In 2007, while doing research for one of my books on sled dog history, I found a short article and a photo about a dogteam in stained glass which once graced a building in downtown Seattle, Washington. The image is compelling, and utilizes an advanced stained glass technique which includes painting the faces of the driver, his passenger, and the huskies which make up the dogteam. Intrigued by the piece, I wrote to the photographer in Seattle, Joe Mabel, who kindly gave his permission to use his photo, and he offered some history of the glasswork:
“It dates from about 1910 and until some time in the 1980’s it was part of the Alaskan Cigar Store in the building that was originally the old Arctic Club and is now low-income housing and a shelter, under the name Morrison Hotel (across Third Avenue from the King County Courthouse). Two companion stained glass pieces are still there, but they are less interesting.
“Seattle’s Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI) probably knows a bit more, and definitely has a “wall text” placard that shows a photo of the stained glass piece in its original location; the store itself had a bit of a setback from the street (with a sidewalk-facing display window), and the dog-sled piece now at MOHAI was about 8 feet away from the sidewalk, over the actual door.”
It took some sleuthing to unravel the puzzle from Joe’s clues, but eventually, at the National Register of Historic Places for Seattle, I found an interesting description of the Arctic Club which was originally housed in the building:
The Arctic Building is associated with one of the lesser-known facets of the Klondike gold rush–the formation of social institutions for the men who returned from the Yukon gold rush after “striking it rich.” Though most who headed north found no gold, a small percentage did return to Seattle with more than just memories. The Arctic Club, originally located in the Morrison Hotel, provided an exclusive social community for those Seattleites who had returned from the Alaska Gold Rush with money in their pockets and a repertoire of stories to tell about their adventures in the Yukon. In 1916, they commissioned A. Warren Gould, one of the city’s most prominent architects, to design the building that would become their institution’s new home.
This was fascinating stuff to a historian, but what about the stained glass dogteam? I couldn’t find anything more than what Joe Mabel had shared about the artwork. There were brief mentions of the secondary stained glass pieces, such as this one in the Seattle Dept. of Neighborhoods Historical Sites Summary for 501 3rd Avenue:
“Other notable exterior features include the stained glass window in the transom of the southern storefront on Third Avenue, featuring a mountain range above forest and the word ‘Alaskan…’”
It didn’t mention that there were two such windows, nor the dogteam which had probably long since been moved to the MOHAI. The history of the building is an interesting bit of Alaskana, as The Alaska Club was organized in 1903 with the object of promoting Alaska and its resources, an idea which grew to include the Yukon and the entire Pacific rim. This was the group largely responsible for the famed Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition, which opened in Seattle on June 1, 1909.
When my article about the stained glass dogteam appeared in the online newsmagazine Alaska Dispatch, a reader in Seattle, Justin Ivy of Seattle Stained Glass, explained in the comments what happened when the artwork was removed from the building: “My studio did the restoration of these windows for MOHAI prior to them being installed there. They were completely disassembled and rebuilt with new lead. We were required to heavily document the process, due to their historic nature. They were in pretty bad shape, with a fair amount of missing and broken glass.”
I paid a visit to the Seattle Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI) in 2011 and found the window prominently displayed, with a placard which reads: “Stained Glass Windows, ca. 1910. Conservation of stained glass supported in part by Seattle Stained Glass. These stained glass window panels graced the front of the Alaskan Cigar Store and Cafe in the original Arctic Club building near Pioneer Square. It is also believed the windows once hung in the Snoqualmie Bar, a local saloon that operated at the corner of First Avenue and Pike Street.”
In my book The Stained Glass Dog Team I’ve traced the history of the era in a story which involves two social organizations, three hotels, and peripheral forays into the Klondike gold rush, the 1909 Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition, and Seattle’s Museum of History and Industry. With dozens of photographs and images, the patchwork history comes together to offer a fascinating look at the unique forces which helped shape the city of Seattle and the futures of Alaska and the Yukon Territory.
The Stained Glass Dog Team, by Helen Hegener, (Northern Light Media, 2014). 90 pages, full color, ISBN-13: 978-1500498443, ISBN-10: 1500498440. $16.00 plus $4.00 shipping.
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