Emilie Makes an Elegant Escape to the Northwest

1907-great-northern-railway-route-of-the-oriental-limited-timetable_1963363The summer of 1907 was exceedingly hot. The thermometer on Court Street in Boston registered 98.5, Portsmouth reported 95, and New Haven reached 100. Record humidity brought the heat index to 125 degrees in many places. From Pennsylvania to Maine, New York to Cape Cod, there was no direction one could go to get away from the discomfort—except, perhaps, west.

Emilie, Victor, and their two sons boarded the train in Boston and rode two days to reach St. Paul, Minnesota. After a day’s rest, they boarded the elegant, olive green cars of the Great Northern Railway’s new “Oriental Limited,” bound for Seattle.

Porters wearing that air of authority and responsibility for which one might justly look in a premier or secretary of state, came and went; conductors punched tickets and answered questions more or less amiably; the wheels rattled and roared and ground ceaselessly… The Trail of Conflict, p. 42

This was the beginning of their remarkable Alaskan adventure, a steamship cruise through Alaska’s Inside Passage. But they had two days to spare in Seattle, and their photos tell the story.

Version 3
Emilie Loring’s photograph of Seattle, 1907

Seattle’s population had tripled since 1900, and its land area had doubled. Along Lake Washington, construction proceeded on the 1909 Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition, and the Pike Place Market was set to open for its first day of business.

 

Positioned neatly between the steamship docks and city hotels, these stores at the corner of Second and Madison catered especially to travelers. The Frederick & Nelson department store sold ready-to-wear fashions for men and women, and A. J. Lennon’s specialty store sold travel essentials: gloves, umbrellas, parasols, and hosiery. I’m especially taken with those, so easily left behind on a train seat or dropped along the way, far more gentile versions of what pass for accessories in my closet.

Seattle Madison St 1907
Madison Street, 1907

Did the Lorings stay nearby? This photo was also taken on Second and Madison, looking uphill, where the trolley line was under construction. At the top of the hill, you can see just a brief glimpse of Seattle’s original, Carnegie Library, but there’s no hotel in the photo.

 

 

Version 2There was this image, however. Emilie is sitting under a pergola in a garden setting. Maybe that was a clue. I searched hundreds of eBay postcards and Seattle images in online repositories before I found a group of images like this one. It is clearly the same place: the rooftop garden of the Lincoln Hotel. And not just a rooftop garden but a tea house pergola. You just know Emilie would find a special place to have tea.

roof garden
Lincoln Hotel rooftop garden

The Lincoln Hotel, as it turns out, was directly opposite the Carnegie Library at Fourth and Madison. Seven stories tall, it claimed the “best table on the coast,” “brass beds, luxurious hair mattresses on box springs… rich carpets, dainty walls.” Seattle’s Historic Hotels by Robin Shannon says the hotel catered to “middle class gentility.” That’s an interesting term, “middle class gentility.” It seems indicative of both income—a comfortable amount–and social class—a fair degree more.

I have some perspective here, because my own family settled in Seattle in 1901, a few years earlier than Emilie’s visit. My great-grandfather, an immigrant from Sweden, laid paving bricks on the city’s downtown streets. Our family story says that he was laying brick on Marion Street when my mother was born, and that’s why she was named “Marion.” My grandpa is the little boy standing at the left.  He later ran the Depot Garage across from Union Station on Fourth and Jackson in Pioneer Square. They were not “gentility,” but hard work earned them a brand-new bungalow near Green Lake by the time the Lorings visited the city.

Mrs Anderson her house
Mrs. Agnes H. Anderson,  1907

On the wealthy end of the spectrum was Mrs. Agnes Healey Anderson, “Rich Mrs. Anderson,” as she has always been called in our family. Mrs. Anderson’s husband, Alfred H. Anderson was a lumber baron, the same for whom the University of Washington named their forestry building. When he died in 1914, he left his wife $3,500,000. She was the richest woman in Seattle—and likely among the top anywhere in America. Her grand home had seven bedrooms lined with exotic woods, four onyx fireplaces, and five marble toilets.

 

Version 2
Freda Johnson

My family knew rather a lot about “Rich Mrs. Anderson,” because my Great-Aunt Freda was her live-in cook and personal maid for all of the decades until Mrs. Anderson’s death in 1940. They seem to have been rather close, and Mrs. Anderson gave Freda an assortment of fine gifts over the years. When they traveled to New York, Freda returned with a leather trunk. One Christmas, she gave Freda a silver vanity set engraved with her own monogram, AFJ, for Anna Freda Johnson. (She was actually Anna Alfreda, but I can’t imagine suggesting the correction, can you?)

 

At any rate, the Lorings seemed comfortably positioned between the working class and the elites, something like upper-middle or lower-upper class financially, with both earned and inherited social position.

“…but right then and there I learned the difference between mere money and money with family behind it.” The Trail of Conflict

Their two-week cruise to the wilds of Alaska introduced them to natural wonders that Emilie chronicled in a wonderful set of lantern-slides, but you needn’t worry for their comfort. Alaska was wild, but the Lorings’ accommodations were elegant. Here’s a little excerpt from the biography:

Dr. Edward Everett Hale was supposed to have said that “the good Bostonian is one who, when he is in Rome, does as the Bostonians do.” The truth of his observation was borne out in five meals prepared daily by the Spokane’s excellent chef and served by “agile footed and attentive waiters.” To maintain personal appearances, a barbershop was provided for the gentlemen and ladies’ maids for their wives. Well dressed and groomed, the passengers gathered for afternoon tea and enjoyed evening musicales provided by the ship’s stringed orchestra.

Happy Landings, The Life Behind Emilie Loring’s Stories

But the story of that part of the journey will wait for another time…


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