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‘Ghost signs’ uncovered during Capitol Hill post office demolition

A history-minded construction worker shared this old tax assessor’s photo of the site, as it looked in the early 1930s. (Feliks Banel/KIRO Radio)

When the old US Post Office on Capitol Hill at Broadway and Denny was torn down last week, the demolition revealed several “ghost signs” on the brick walls of the building immediately to the north.

The signs advertise at least one automotive repair business that occupied the building, originally constructed as a garage roughly 100 years ago. The old six-digit phone number visible on the brick wall likely means the painted signs date to the 1940s, before Seattle converted to seven-digit numbers.

The “Broadway Branch Postoffice” was built in the early 1950s after a decade-long campaign by local residents for a new facility larger than the 1920 post office a few blocks to the south. Senator Warren Magnuson was credited with bringing home the federal dollars to fund the project.

A quick check of business records and a glimpse of a photo from the early 1930s shared by a construction worker shows Washington Automotive Service and a mechanic named Joe Buttera in the space in those Great Depression years. Buttera moved his business to Kirkland in 1940, but it’s not clear when Washington Automotive Services moved away or what replaced it. The top portion of the sign appears to have been painted over many years ago and is not decipherable what that automotive business was called.

The current occupant of the old garage at 109 Broadway East is a tavern called EuroPub. The space housed Howard-Williams Furniture throughout much of the 1960s, then Kelley’s Fine Furniture in the early 1970s; then another furniture store called Mr. Esky’s in the 1970s, and then a women’s clothing store called Metamorphosis around 1980.

Construction is already underway at the site of the former post office. Soon to rise there, and this is a shocker, will be a six-story building with ground floor retail and residential units above.

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