Seattle, Washington

The Old Red Robin Tavern has to be included in this selection of historical hangouts, as it was a major Seattle gathering spot in the 1960’s and had quite a previous history at its location next to the south side of University Bridge on Fuhrman Avenue E and Eastlake Avenue.  It subsequently went through some shocking changes that altered its character forever, and even today is continuing to shock – myself at any rate as this property is now being converted to a large apartment complex and retail space to be ponderously perched over Portage Bay.

The original Red Robin Tavern.  Year of photo unknown, but old sign on right side parking lot,
new dorm across Portage Bay at UW, phone booth might hold some clues
Red Robin With Classic Car

The Robin was my first real hangout as well as that of many friends who found their path to that front door.  I never worked there but certainly knew quite a few who did.  Perhaps you bartended there in that timeframe and can tell us your rendition of events.  In case you didn’t read the main introduction to Historical Hangouts, this is meant to be an interactive site.  Please feel free to add your memories and photos, and music!

This building had quite a history before our time in the 60’s, although some records are a bit sketchy as to ownership changes.  Mainly it was a restaurant and lunchroom from around 1926, becoming a beer parlor in 1940 and named the Red Robin by a J.R. Raymond in 1948.  Samuel Caston and his wife Rachael show ownership from at least 1952, bringing in his brother Sol (Soloman) as bartender and calling it Sam’s Red Robin.  Sol also brings his wife “Diamond” Dorothy in to help out.  Records show Sam born in Italy around 1903 and immigrating to the US in 1909.  He apparently first worked as a wholesale baker before he and Sol both got involved in running taverns.  Sam is mentioned in conjunction with the Holly Park Tavern and Sol with the Arlington Tavern previous to the Red Robin – in earlier Seattle times and neighborhoods.  But Sam and Sol are a huge part of this quite large family that grew in their living room/tavern for over a decade – the 60’s.

This photo from 1937 shows the name on the side “Bees Corner” and “Open All
Night.” Records show that this site had been a restaurant from 1926 with various owners and became a “beer parlor” in 1940.  It is said this building was constructed in 1916 and might have been an ice cream parlor and also a bakery.
Bees Corner 1937

Gerald Kingen enters the scene sometime in 1969 changing the look from funk to fern bar and also changing much of the clientele.  His plans were threatening to many who liked this most unusual tavern just as it was.  He adds a deck off the back, puts shakes on the exterior siding and eventually tears most of the old building down and starts the first of many in the Red Robin hamburger chain.  Property records show Rachel Caston as a widow and grantor and Gerald Kingen as grantee to the property in 1974, although it is unclear how he could have already made so many changes without complete ownership, or maybe this is when he became sole owner.

Seattle PI Photo from 1970 shows part of Old Red Robin and New Additions and 2nd photo shows beginning of Red Robin hamburger chain – same location
Kingen's First Additions 1969
First Red Robin In Chain


Red Robin Freeway Hall PosterThis first poster is from John Caldbick who put on these parties for several years at Freeway Hall with the help of Doug Fast (artist of poster).  Notice the floor layout of the Old Red Robin.  The poster below with photo by Paul Gillingham shows a Robin that appears to be in the first stages of deconstruction –i.e.  being torn down.Freeway Hall Poster With Gillinham Photo

And now in 2017 (almost 50 years ago from its demise as Sam’s Red Robin and several other property owners later after Gerald Kingen), it is now proposed to erect a 4 story building with 52 apartments, a 3 story connecting building with 9 apartments and 1,950 square feet of retail space, all with underground parking, supposedly entering from Portage Bay. It will be on that same corner of Eastlake and Fuhrman adjacent to the University Bridge.  There has been quite a bit of controversy (once again).  Neighbors have appealed.  I understand the lots were just recently bulldozed, summer of 2017 and construction will soon begin.

Proposed New Construction Photo submitted for permitting in 1913
New Proposed Construction

Next Red Robin Post
“Those Were The Days My Friends, I Thought They’d Never End”
Please Share Your Memories Here Too

Sams Red Robin 1957

Sam’s Red Robin 1957 (Puget Sound Archives)