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Goings-on at the cricket club were frowned upon


RVHS Phot: 93.01.260


Residents of Rainier Valley are blessed with many beautiful parks and green spaces in which to play.  This area was important to Seattle as a recreational area at the turn of the century.


The following excerpts from an essay tell a little about our sports history, giving us a feel for what life was like about 100 years ago.  The essay was written in the 1960’s by Bernie Jacobsen, after his retirement from his job as managing editor of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer:


“Before 1890 and the birth of Columbia City (with the building of the Rainier Valley, Renton and Southern Railway), there was a dirt road that wound out the valley from the small town of Seattle to the Cricket Club.


“The Cricket Clubhouse stood at the edge of a green meadow at what is now the southwest corner of Rainier Avenue (South) and South Charlestown Street.  The Clubhouse was an impressive two-story, gabled-roof structure with a veranda that ran along the full length of the sides that faced south and west.


“From the veranda, the club members, seated on wicker chairs, watched the play on the field and cheered the performance of bowlers and batsmen in the game whose beginnings are lost in antiquity.  There must be, somewhere in Seattle, a record of how cricket got its start here and why the whole thing was finally abandoned, leaving a really lovely clubhouse staring out through broken windows at the empty playing field grown up in buttercups and thistles.  It is known,  however,  that Seattle’s First Hill families frowned on “the goings-on” at the Cricket Club and many would not permit their daughters to attend night events and dances at the club.  Perhaps the reason for this attitude lay more in the isolation of the place and the long trip home than anything that occurred at the parties.


In any event, by 1912, the club had been abandoned for some years and residents in the area grazed a few milk cows and horses on the meadow-like grounds that extended from what is now (South) Charlestown Street on the north to just beyond (South) Andover (Street) on the south and from Rainier Avenue (South) to 36th Avenue South.  The cricket grounds at that time (1912) were about 15 feet below the level of the Rainier Valley car tracks.  The supermarket, liquor store, restaurant and other buildings now on the site are on a landfill that raised the area to the level of the avenue.  (Columnist’s note:  The site is now occupied by Rainier Plaza).


“It was about 1918 when Mr. Mackey, a neighbor who had a beautiful home, a barn, tool shop and workshed at 36th Avenue (South) and South Andover (Street), announced that he had a contract to tear down the old Cricket Club.  He said he would be selling the lumber from it.


“This was interesting because it was the first time any of the neighbors had ever known Mr. Mackey to do any work for money.  He kept himself busy with his horses, cow, garden, large yard and workshop.


“Using horses and block and tackle, he pulled down  the clubhouse rapidly.  He hired the boys of the neighborhood to pull the hand-forged old square nails from the lumber, which he sold, some to neighbors, some elsewhere.  There was a lot of tongue and groove Port Orford cedar in the wall paneling and some beautiful oak flooring.”


MANY CLUB USES

That is the end of Jacobsen’s discussion of the Cricket Club.  Other notes from historian Carey Summers indicate that the club also was used for baseball, football, meetings, and dances.  Boaters also used the property, as a creek ran through there from Hillman City on its way to Puget Sound.


One can only speculate as to the reason for the lack of interest in the Cricket Club, but it is interesting that the Columbia City Athletic Club, formed in 1909, had baseball and basketball teams sponsored by the Columbia Congregational Church.


In 1913, the land for Columbia Playfield was purchased, and the Lakewood Civic Improvement Club built their clubhouse in 1914.  This was a period when Columbia City changed and grew very rapidly, with progress the goal of the day.


Jacobsen, the writer of the essay, had lived in Rainier Valley since 1912 and had served as a president of the Pioneers of Columbia City.  The Pioneers met annually from 1891, when the first lots were sold in Columbia City, until 1993, when the organization evolved into the Rainier Valley Historical Society (RVHS).  The Pioneers’ extensive collection of photos and printed material, now known as the Hall Summers Collection, was deeded to RVHS and is available for public viewing during the Society’s office hours. Benefits of membership include quarterly newsletters, volunteer opportunities, and a wonderful time at our annual meetings, held in the tradition of the Pioneers. 



Days Gone By 

South District Journal 7/24/1996

By Mary Ann Balch

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