Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Crematories of Seattle

Though the cremation movement in the Pacific Northwest began with the completion of the Portland Crematorium in 1901, Seattle certainly saw more growth in the number of crematories. Beginning with the Washington Cremation Association in 1905 until 1922, seven crematories were established in the city of Seattle alone. The number of crematories added was due to the fact that Washington's first crematory, begun by the Washington Cremation Society, went into the Undertaking business in 1911 - and was renamed for its manager and operator, Arthur Wright.

The Crematory of the Washington Cremation Society, later renamed
the Arthur Wright Company. (Built 1905)

More photos may be seen here.
Shortly thereafter, four of the funeral homes in Seattle, including Butterworth, Bonney-Watson, Bleitz, and Home, added their own crematories in the basements of their establishments. Additionally, King County discontinued the use of pauper's graves and built a crematory to take its place.
The Butterworth Mortuary at 1921 1st Avenue added a crematory
in their basement in 1912.

In 1923, Butterworth Mortuary moved to a new modern, purpose-built
funeral home at 300 E Pine Street.
The Bonney-Watson Company added a crematory to their facility at
1702 Broadway in 1913.
Bleitz Funeral Home at 316 Florentia Street added added
a crematory in 1915.
The Home Undertaking Co. was the last funeral home to follow suit
in adding a crematory, theirs in the basement of their establishment
at 9th Avenue and Union Street, added in 1916.
Unfortunately, other funeral homes that were in operation were forced to take their cremations to their competing Undertakers, as King County only did cremations for indigent individuals - so a number of these approached the Washelli Cemetery to open a crematory. In 1922, the Washelli Crematory & Columbarium was opened adjacent to Washelli Cemetery.
The Washelli Crematory and Columbarium shortly after its construction
in 1922. Washelli had the only complete cremation facility with committal
space, crematory and columbarium.
The cremation movement in Seattle was frequently disparaged by cremationists from other parts of the country, especially during the Memorial Idea period, because the Undertakers of the city often encouraged the idea that cremation was the final step - no memorialization was necessary. One cremationist in Seattle offered to "destroy" cremated remains for families - all others offered "permanent storage" in community storage. It was estimated at one time that the number of unclaimed cremated remains in Seattle outnumbered the number that were claimed by family or that were permanently memorialized.
 
Today, according to the statistics of the Cremation Association of North America, Washington has one of the highest cremation rates in the country. Families choosing cremation there are unlike many others in the US, as the cremation movement in Washington is now more than a hundred years in the making and families have chosen this method of disposition for generations.

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