Seattle and the Atomic Age

Before Seattle was a city that couldn’t get anything done (thanks, NIMBYs!), there was a time when Big Things happened here.  Like building a big phallic space tower for the World’s Fair.  Now Seattle Center is mostly home to that arena nobody wants and your odd music festival.  Tucked into the nooks and crannies are still memories of that big celebration.  In the northwest corner are some dilapidated conference rooms.  The courtyard outside is illuminated with these.

Image file not found(ImagePath:/volume1/web/wordpress/

Shooting up into the sun at mid-day, I decided to turn it into an HDR to bring out more of the tone in the shadows.  I love these lights though – they should put them everywhere.

Welcome to the Thunderbird Motel

Aurora Avenue seems like it probably has a storied past.  These days, the story is urban highway and blighted business districts.  At one time, it seems like everyone decided it would be a great place to build glorious old-timey motels.  Back before the Motel 6s and Holiday Inns, everyone had cool names and even better signs.  At present, most of those places are out of business, but some remain, and better yet, they haven’t torn down the relics quite yet.  I don’t think they’ll last long, so this will be the first in a series of what is left.  All of these are on Aurora Ave N (State Route 99) north of downtown Seattle.  First up, the Thunderbird Motel.

thunderbird motel, aka fremont inn

Image file not found(ImagePath:/volume1/web/wordpress/

Most recently, this place was actually called the Fremont Inn, but I’ll defer to the huge neon thunderbird.  This was actually one of the first of the motels to be forcibly shut down under the nuisance laws.  I can’t say I’m sad that it isn’t up and running but I hope they turn it into something worthwhile instead of just another vacant lot or hole in the ground.

I think it’s safe to say, this place has seen better days.

Thunderbird Motel, fenced and vacant

Diesel – A Reason To Advertise

Commercial detritus has always been a fascination of mine, especially things like old signs.  I’m not the only one – you see the pictures everywhere.  If I was making one up in my mind, I’m thinking a rough kinda industrial product, big letters, old peeling paint, decrepit building.  I’m thinking something like this:

Image file not found(ImagePath:/volume1/web/wordpress/

That wasn’t really how things started.  If you want to see the original and hear a little more, hit the jump.

Continue reading →

This Elephant Wants To Wash Your Car

It must be one of the most iconic signs in Seattle.  The car wash itself?  Pretty plain.  But the sign… the sign!  There are other locations.  There are better car washes.  But this one is by Seattle Center and this one has the sign.

Pink Elephant Car Wash neon sign

Image file not found(ImagePath:/volume1/web/wordpress/

I was in a big hurry.  I only had my 50mm, which makes it hard to frame something this big from up close.  Unfortunately, farther away means standing in the middle of a major street or getting some unfortunate buildings and power lines in the background.  You shoot now and decide what you like later.  I surprised myself and liked the one shot I got with a very partial view of the sign.  I gotta remember that.

Leaping Dogs – Too Apt?

Nothing says Americana like neon signs, right?  This is one from my trip to Corvallis from a few posts back.  Downtown Corvallis has a few blocks of old-timey cute, and although they don’t have much that ties them to the rest of the world, I suppose Greyhound still counts.  These days, the reputation is that of the crazy and the can’t-afford-Amtrak, so maybe a leaping dog doesn’t have the cache it used to, but the signs always make me think of a time when it meant a lot more.


Image file not found(ImagePath:/volume1/web/wordpress/

I would have liked to come back and shoot this at night, but we didn’t have time.  Also, hanging around a bus station at night with a camera?  Not necessarily the best idea.