Now & Then -- University Station

  • By Paul Dorpat
  • Posted 2/27/2001
  • Essay 3023

In 1895, when the University of Washington moved its campus to "Brooklyn" (now University District), very few students moved with it. With no dormitories and few rentals, the center of Brooklyn was where trolley conductors called "all out for University Station." There, one block off campus at the corner of Beacon (42nd Street) and the "Ave" (University Avenue) the school built an open shed where its commuting students and faculty could wait for the electric cars of the Third Street and Suburban Railway.

In the years when "University District" was being increasingly substituted for "Brooklyn," University Station became a metonym for the entire neighborhood. For many years the University of Washington's stationery gave its location as, simply, "University Station, Seattle." And, in 1902, the meaning was doubled when the Latona Post Office was transferred to just across the Ave from the Station. As late as 1940, the University's retired Dean Padelford wrote that "old timers still use the term when speaking. "I'm going down to the Station to do some shopping." Padelford never could get used to the expression "The Ave."

No doubt the dean had a few dinners at the Station's Varsity Inn. This combination store, hotel, and restaurant managed to bake its way into the hearts and stomachs of North Seattle. In between the salted peanuts and the bon bons, the Christmas dinner advertised for 1907 included cheese straws, bouillon, spiced pears, veal with currant jelly, roast turkey with dressing and cranberry jelly, broiled chicken, oyster sauce, French peas in cream, asparagus on toast, a choice of fruit or lobster salad, and a variety of home-made pies (see the sign over the door), velvet cream with coconut macaroons, and Christmas plum pudding with hard sauce.

In 1905 the waiting station was moved directly onto the east side of the Ave until it was removed in 1907 for the double-tracking of the street in preparation for the summer-long 1909 Alaska Yukon and Pacific (AYP) Exposition on the University of Washington campus. After the AYP, the University District's center moved two blocks north to 45th Street and soon the term "University Station" was little used -- except by old timers.


Paul Dorpat, "Now & Then: University Station," The Seattle Times, Northwest Magazine, July 30, 1995.

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