Now & Then -- University Book Store

  • By Paul Dorpat
  • Posted 2/26/2001
  • Essay 3000

This essay comprises Seattle historian and photographer Paul Dorpat's Now & Then photographs and reflections on the University Book Store in Seattle's University District.

University Book Store

University of Washington president Henry Suzzallo was clear that an off campus move for the University Book Store would be temporary. The shift was made necessary by a coincidence of fire -- actually the threat of it -- and a preoccupation by student government with balls -- footballs and basketballs -- more than books.

A 1924 conflagration in the Mines Building stirred a campus-wide search for fire hazards -- like stacks of paper bound and unbound. The bookstore was then three years in the basement below the school's largest auditorium -- Meany Hall. With a two week eviction notice and no sign of the long-promised student union building -- ASUW leaders were preoccupied with constructing sports pavilions -- the University Book Store was allowed to make a provisional home in an "Ave" storefront made available by the eviction of a pool hall.

It required three days and 45 truck trips to haul the stock -- mostly text books and student supplies -- off campus to 4326 University Way. Doors first opened on January 28, 1925 -- the bookstore's 25th year. In 2000, University Book Store celebrated its centennial on the "Ave."

President Suzzallo's worries of 1924 were soon drowned in the generally happy reviews sent the store from all quarters. Sales jumped 23 percent in the first year. And "Ave" merchants were pleased that the bookstore both added charm to the University District's increasing cosmopolitan mix of shops and was also paying rent like the rest of them.

This view of it was photographed sometime between 1927 when architect Bebb and Gould's elegant facade first distinguished the store (note the Husky gargoyle above the sign) and 1930 when yet another Academic Gothic front was constructed for a store by then many times larger than the pool hall -- but still smaller than Husky Stadium.


Paul Dorpat, "Now & Then: University Bookstore Centennial," The Seattle Times, Northwest Magazine, August 2, 1999.

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