A Memorable Enterprise: The AYPE and the City of Seattle

The Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition, held in Seattle from June 1 to October 16, followed on the heels of the 1906 Lewis and Clark Exposition in Portland, Oregon. Initial inspiration for the fair came from a group of Alaska's gold rush pioneers in 1905. In 1906, Seattle businessmen altered the original plan, postponed the 1907 date (so as not to conflict with the Jamestown, Virginia tricentennial celebration) until 1909, and sought financial support for an enlarged scope. The AYPE followed a tradition established in 1876 when Philadelphia held a Centennial Exposition. It was an opportunity for Seattleites to display pride in their heritage and their patriotism.

Although funding was provided at the state level, much of the financial burden for the Exposition fell to the City of Seattle. Many city departments worked tirelessly before the AYPE to secure funding or put personnel in place to ensure the fair's success. These departments expressed their concerns, ideas, and requests to City Council and the Mayor through various communications and reports.

Alaska Yukon Pacific Exhibition Logo  Map of Grounds
AYPE logo, 1909
Clerk File 37233, Seattle Municipal Archives
Map of AYPE grounds, 1909
Clerk File 33542, Seattle Municipal Archives

 

Parks: Boulevards, Rocks, and Plants

 Frink Boulevard, 1911
Frink Boulevard, 1911
Item No. 29054, Seattle Municipal Archives

Completing the "boulevard system," originally laid out by the Olmsted Brothers (who also designed the AYPE grounds), was the goal of the Parks Department. The department's 1908 Annual Report described the boulevards as a priority because they would enable tourists to drive from the Bailey Peninsula, near what is now Seward Park, to the Exhibition grounds. By the end of 1908, however, the report stated that "a great deal remains undone. The immediate desire is to have the system in such condition that it will prove a credit to Seattle during the visit of the many visitors to the Alaska Yukon Pacific Exposition..."

The Board of Park Commissioners assisted the Exposition planners in other ways. Stone was needed for constructing roads on the Exposition grounds. The State did not have funds for a stone quarry, so the Board of Park Commissioners approved $8,333.33 on January 30, 1908, for "the erection of a rock-crushing plant on the Military Reservation at Deception Pass, Skagit County, Washington." City Council approved the rock quarry and appropriated $30,000 on June 15, 1908; the Mayor signed the ordinance on June 30. The plant was leased to the State of Washington until August 1909 when the law was repealed.

The Park Board also directed the Superintendent of Parks to provide the Exposition with plants and shrubs, "as much stock as could be spared," which was noted in the Park Board Minutes on November 2, 1908.

Police, Fire, and Water

 AYPE Under Construction  Committee Letter Fire and Water Committee
 AYPE building and grounds construction, October 1908
Courtesy University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections, AYP503
Recommendation of Fire and Water Committee, June 28, 1909
Clerk File 37233, Seattle Municipal Archives
Recommendation of Fire and Water Committee, June 28, 1909
Clerk File 37233, Seattle Municipal Archives

The Police Department expressed concern for adequate security not only at the fair grounds but also around the city, given the large number of expected visitors. In its request for additional funds, the department stated, "The Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition will be held in this city during the coming year, and as a result numbers of the best pickpockets, confidence men and criminals will flock to this city. The exposition grounds will be amply protected both by uniform men and detectives from the east who are familiar with eastern crooks and criminals; but no provision has been made to protect the city."

An AYPE Committee met with Mayor Miller to voice concerns about having an adequate police force on the Exposition grounds. The AYPE originally planned to police the grounds and use the city's police department to patrol "the approaches, entrances, street car termini, etc.," but came to the Mayor with a request for the city to assume complete charge, "police the grounds, bear the expense and assume the burden thereof." The Mayor was willing to declare an emergency in order to put an ample police force in place. He agreed to provide 75 uniformed "emergency men," and asked the Exposition to "bear the expense of the ten men constituting the detective corps or plain clothes men," all under the authority of the Chief of Police.

 Mayor to City Council Memorandum Mayor to City Council Memorandum  Mayor to City Council Memorandum
Mayor to City Council, April 19, 1909
Clerk File 36747, Seattle Municipal Archives

The Lighting and Water Department met with the AYPE Committee regarding pipe, hydrants, and other water equipment needed for use on the Exposition grounds, reporting that the AYPE did not want to buy the pipe outright "but wish to arrange for having it loaned to them by the City." The AYPE's Division of Works agreed that of the 21,000 linear feet of cast iron pipe, 62 hydrants, and seven or eight stand pipes, whatever was not paid for at its cost value would "be removed by the exposition management and delivered in good order to the City of Seattle."

The City also agreed to provide the exposition with "Cedar River water" at a rate of $15.00 per million gallons.

 Mayor to City Council, April 3, 1909 Clerk File 36601, Seattle Municipal Archives  Mayor to City Council, April 3, 1909 Clerk File 36601, Seattle Municipal Archives  Mayor to City Council, April 3, 1909 Clerk File 36601, Seattle Municipal Archives
Mayor to City Council, April 3, 1909
Clerk File 36601, Seattle Municipal Archives

 

Citizen Concerns

Many Seattle citizens communicated to City Council and the Mayor their concerns, complaints, and suggestions on a wide variety of issues related to the AYPE.

The Yukon Pioneers, who inspired the fair, commissioned a statue of William H. Seward, the man who many pioneers felt made their adventures in the Yukon possible. Together with the Chamber of Commerce, the pioneers funded the statue, which was created in Paris by American Richard Brooks. The work was unveiled at the Exposition on September 10, 1909. It subsequently became property of the City of Seattle and currently resides in Volunteer Park.

Seward statue in Volunteer Park, 1910 Item No. 30467, Seattle Municipal Archive  T.S. Fancher to City Council, November 23, 1907 Clerk File 33542, Seattle Municipal Archives 
Seward statue in Volunteer Park, 1910
Item No. 30467, Seattle Municipal Archive  
 T.S. Fancher to City Council, November 23, 1907
Clerk File 33542, Seattle Municipal Archives

 

T.S. Fancher wrote to request a refund of a license fee he paid for an amusement on First Avenue on the same day that it was condemned for the Exposition. The money was refunded.

 

Seattle Federation of Women's Clubs to City Council, June 27, 1908 Clerk File 34881, Seattle Municipal Archives  Superintendent of Buildings to City Council, July 6, 1908 Clerk File 34936, Seattle Municipal Archives  Superintendent of Buildings to City Council, July 6, 1908 Clerk File 34936, Seattle Municipal Archives 
 Seattle Federation of Women's Clubs to City Council, June 27, 1908
Clerk File 34881, Seattle Municipal Archives
 Superintendent of Buildings to City Council, July 6, 1908
Clerk File 34936, Seattle Municipal Archives

 

The Seattle Federation of Women's Clubs stressed the "imperative and urgent importance" of additional comfort stations (restrooms). The petition was endorsed by the Board of Public Works.

 

 AYPE welcome arch on Second Avenue, 1909 Courtesy University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections, SEA2233  Mayor to City Council, May 3, 1909 Clerk File 36790, Seattle Municipal Archives
AYPE welcome arch on Second Avenue, 1909
Courtesy University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections, SEA2233  
Mayor to City Council, May 3, 1909
Clerk File 36790, Seattle Municipal Archives  

 

On April 30, 1909, the Seattle Chamber of Commerce requested that "a sufficient sum of money be appropriated with which to construct a Welcome Arch, to be located on or near Fortson Place." With the Mayor's approval, the City Council's Finance Committee approved a $4,000 appropriation for the project. Strehlow, Freese and Peterson contracted with the city to build an arch at Second and Marion designed by Somervell & Cote. The city authorized funds for its construction.

 

 Mayor to City Council, May 3, 1909 Clerk File 36790, Seattle Municipal Archives Mayor to City Council, May 3, 1909 Clerk File 36790, Seattle Municipal Archives 
Victoria Realty Co. to City Council, May 29, 1909
Clerk File 36962, Seattle Municipal Archives

 

The Victoria Realty Company proposed installation of about 300 American flags on First, Second, and Third Avenues, so that the city "appear in gala attire." City Council rejected the proposal.

 

Vendors to City Council, June 23, 1909 Clerk File 37235, Seattle Municipal Archives   Vendors to City Council, June 14, 1909 Clerk File 37116, Seattle Municipal Archives Vendors to City Council, June 14, 1909 Clerk File 37116, Seattle Municipal Archives 
 Vendors to City Council, June 23, 1909
Clerk File 37235, Seattle Municipal Archives
 Vendors to City Council, June 14, 1909
Clerk File 37116, Seattle Municipal Archives

A petition was submitted in June 1909 from "owners and lessees of booths, amusement places and refreshment stands on the through fares and streets near and leading to the AYP Exposition" complaining of harassment by the police force "from a source unknown to us." The merchants wanted their right to pass out cards, play a phonograph, and "cry their wares and attract the buying public" just as the vendors inside the Exposition were able to do. The Council took no action on that petition. A second petition was filed a few days later from vendors who also complained that the police would not allow them to sell their wares on the streets and avenues leading to the Exposition. City Council denied their petition for greater leniency.

Meet Me at the Fair

Cactus Dahlia Promotion  Nordic Day Festivals 
AYPE Cactus Dahlia Promotion Committee to Mayor and City Council, August 11, 1909
Clerk File 37566, Seattle Municipal Archives

Norway Day parade at AYPE, August 30, 1909
Still from Film 509, Seattle Municipal Archives

 

The AYPE was a success by most standards. Commemorative days were set aside to honor organizations, professions, and ethnic communities. The Mayor was invited to a celebration of the Official Exposition Flower, the Cactus Dahlia. There was an Ellensburg Day, an Idaho Day, and a Fisherman's Day. More than two and a half million people visited the fair from the State of Washington and the rest of the country. On Seattle Day, the parade blocked streetcar service to the Exposition "for more than an hour, preventing thousands of people from attending the Exposition," according to the Public Utilities Department Annual Report.

The City, responsible for coordinating street railway service, stated that "with a few notable exceptions on special days, travel to and from the Exposition was well handled." Special staff or "traffic aides" kept officials informed of heavy traffic and were able to put on more cars when they were needed.

After the AYPE

 Mt. Rainier and Exposition Grounds
Mt. Rainier over the exposition grounds, 1909
Courtesy Jeff Ware

The AYPE closed on October 15, 1909. Most City departments considered it a success from their perspective; the Seattle Public Library was perhaps the exception. The library noted that the unusually small increase in circulation for 1909 over 1908 was probably due to "the fact that many of the library patrons were busy attending the AYP Exposition." The reference department did note in its 1909 Annual Report, however, that the Seattle Authors' collection proved "one of the main drawing cards to the Library during the Exposition."

Some departments were left with much to do and many decisions to make after the fair closed. Over five miles of new street railway track was laid in preparation for the Exposition and ridership experienced a huge increase. A decrease in ridership following the fair was noted by the Superintendent of Public Utilities: "It is doubtful if any established business has felt more keenly the reaction following the Alaska Yukon Pacific Exposition of 1909 more than has that of urban transportation." The Seattle Electric Company had a thirty per cent loss in business in August 1910 compared to the same month in 1909.

Parks: A Banner Year

The Parks Department noted in its annual report that "1909 was the banner year of the department as regards extension and development" and that costs for 1909 almost exceeded 1907 and 1908 combined. The goal of completing the boulevard system "so that our Eastern visitors might enjoy the beauties of our lake and mountain scenery" was "crowned with considerable success."

The Park Board was asked about the disposition of many items after the Exposition. The City was asked if it wanted to retain the United States Government Buildings.

Benches near the fountain, AYPE, 1909 Courtesy Jeff Ware U.S. Government Building, AYPE, 1909 Courtesy Jeff Ware   Custodian of Public Buildings to Mayor, December 6, 1909 Clerk File 38606, Seattle Municipal Archives
 Benches near the fountain, AYPE, 1909
Courtesy Jeff Ware
U.S. Government Building, AYPE, 1909
Courtesy Jeff Ware  

 Custodian of Public Buildings to Mayor, December 6, 1909
Clerk File 38606, Seattle Municipal Archives

 

A discussion was ongoing for several months regarding the purchase of a government aquarium at the Exposition. In October, Superintendent J.W. Thompson recommended purchase of the aquarium and of the building housing it as well; the proposal included tanks, fish and pumps. He wrote, "I would like very much to have the Park Commissioners go out and look over this matter for themselves, as it is a very interesting exhibit and would be a great benefit from an educational point." The Commissioners placed the report on file, an action that ensured the proposed purchase was not made. City Engineer Samuel C. Lancaster explored the possibility of a joint arrangement with the University of Washington. J.E. Standley offered the loan of his exhibit of 1,000 specimens of corals and shells if the Board took the AYPE aquarium. The Board wrote back that the project was abandoned because of the University Board of Regents' "lack of cooperation."

The Park Board was also offered a herd of six camels "from the streets of Cairo" in October for $1,000 but turned them down. However, the Board did purchase the remaining 2400 benches from the exposition for $1,000 in January 1910.

Fire: A Memorable Enterprise

 Fire Chief to City Council letter
Fire Chief to City Council, October 25, 1909
Clerk File 38193, Seattle Municipal Archives

In his 1909 annual report, the Fire Chief wrote, "We all take pride in the success of this memorable enterprise, and congratulate ourselves that it ran its allotted time under such favorable circumstances and without disaster. It was the first of the great fairs to have fire protection furnished to such a large extent by the city."

The Exposition sponsors built the engine house and supplied fuel, feed, and lights, while the City of Seattle supplied and funded the officers and men, the horses, and the apparatus. The alarm telegraph system was rented to the Exposition on the understanding that the city would take it afterwards.

The Fire Chief claimed Seattle had the best track record of all previous fairs because with "a smaller number of men and apparatus on the grounds than at any other of the expositions, the Fair just closed had the least fire loss of any of them. It was farther from the city protection than other expositions, the buildings were closer together and the water supply more precarious; the weather was continuously dry (except for three or four days) and the composition used as a substitute for glass on the roofs was unusually combustible. Yet the appearance of none of the buildings was marred by fire at any time." There were only two fires of consequence: one on March 30 alongside the Forestry Building in a contractor's shed, and the other on September 18 in the foundry.

The Fire Chief expressed concern that there was no fire protection after the close of the Exposition. He requested that the city purchase the alarm boxes in order to avoid the fire hazard to the empty buildings. City Council granted him $5,000 for purchase of the boxes.

Police: Free from Crooks

The Chief of Police requested that the additional police force be retained for at least two months after the end of the Exposition because "we will need them to clean the town of disorderly people; particularly on account of the fall migration of the yegg or hobo element which will flood the city at that time."

Chief of Police to Mayor, September 17, 1909 Clerk File 38015, Seattle Municipal Archives  Chief of Police to Mayor, September 17, 1909 Clerk File 38015, Seattle Municipal Archives Chief of Police to Finance Committee, December 2, 1909 Box 1, Folder 3, Record Series 1802-E8, Seattle Municipal Archives Chief of Police to Finance Committee, December 2, 1909 Box 1, Folder 3, Record Series 1802-E8, Seattle Municipal Archives 
 Chief of Police to Mayor, September 17, 1909
Clerk File 38015, Seattle Municipal Archives
 Chief of Police to Finance Committee, December 2, 1909
Box 1, Folder 3, Record Series 1802-E8, Seattle Municipal Archives

He wrote again on December 2, 1909, to thank the chairman of the Finance Committee for approving his request for additional detectives during the Exposition. He stated that the city was thus kept "free from crooks during the duration of the Fair; and Seattle has set a mark, that has been freely and extensively commented on in police circles all over the country, for the almost entire absence of crime." He provided a statement of expenditures which listed payments to the detectives, their names, and from where they were detailed. Several were from Pinkerton's, while others were from Denver, San Francisco, Kansas City, and St. Paul.

 
Statement of expenditures, December 2, 1909
Box 1, Folder 3, Record Series 1802-E8, Seattle Municipal Archives  

 

University Park

The University of Washington was appreciative of the City's support for the Exposition. The Board of Park Commissioners noted in its minutes that it received a letter from the Board of Regents extending thanks for "the efficient manner and friendly spirit manifested in the care of the portion of the campus cared for by the board during the past summer. This being the site of the A.Y.P. Exposition."

For years after the close of AYPE, the Seattle Parks Department leased the property from the University and maintained the grounds. The 1912 Parks Department annual report stated, "While a great many of the Exposition buildings have been removed the beautiful landscape work was not impaired to any appreciable degree, and the tract is a valuable adjunct to the park system of the city." About 60 acres in size, University Park could be reached by University street cars on Third Avenue.

Exposition grounds (later University Park), 1909 Courtesy Jeff Ware   Board of Park Commissioners to City Council, October 11, 1909 Clerk File 38123, Seattle Municipal Archives
 Exposition grounds (later University Park), 1909
Courtesy Jeff Ware
 Board of Park Commissioners to City Council, October 11, 1909
Clerk File 38123, Seattle Municipal Archives

 

The Regents of the University of Washington assumed maintenance of the grounds in April 1915. Bursar H. T. Condon thanked the Board of Park Commissioners for its "cooperation and assistance in connection with the maintenance of these grounds during the past five years."

With the University's assumption of the maintenance of the Exposition property, the City's involvement with the AYPE ended. Although the anticipated influx of people and the anticipated stimulus to economic growth did not materialize as a result of the Exposition, the City and others counted AYPE as a success. Traffic was handled well, the boulevard system was completed in time for visitors to enjoy the scenery, and the police ably protected "the lives and property of the citizens and visitors during the Exposition." The University benefited by the expansion of its campus. Permanent benefits for the city included many additional miles of streetcar tracks, additional fire alarm boxes, a boulevard system, and a statue of William Seward.