Events marking the centennial of the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition have wound down at last (see reading calendar, “The Legacy”). On the publishing side of the observances, “Picturing the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition: The Photographs of Frank H. Nowell” stands out in capturing the story of the great Seattle summer of 1909.
Nowell was official photographer of the exhibition. The 128-page hardcover book contains 120 of his striking duotones.
Nicolette Bromberg, visual materials curator in Special Collections at the University of Washington Libraries, wrote the informative text that tells the tale of A-Y-P-E and its origins, an exhibition designed to put Seattle “on the map.”
It all happened on the present-day University of Washington campus under the designing hand of the Olmsted Brothers. After the exhibition closed in October 1909, the fabulous, temporary city that was part Roman Forum, part Xanadu, went the way of the bright snows of yesteryear.
On campus, only two buildings remain intact from A-Y-P-E: Architecture Hall and Cunningham Hall Women’s Center. What is now Drumheller Fountain (Geyser Basin in 1909) occupied center stage for the proceedings.
Many of the fair buildings themselves were naively grandiose, as pumped up with pretension as a provincial French mayor on a podium. Flush from the Klondike Gold Rush, Seattle was out to show the world… something. Those who remember the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair have a useful window into the Seattle of 1909.
A bit of prose in the book from Clarence Bagely, Seattle pioneer and historian, captures the spirit of 1909: “It is hard for us to believe that those graceful temples, those fire-lit waters, those magic gardens may soon return to the wilderness….Yet well we know that all such memories must go the road of the unremembered past.”
Looking at Nowell’s stunning
. BOOKBEAT, Page 17