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Monday, November 25, 2013

#2107 - Woody's, Shoreline, WA - 3/10/2013

It's been a long time since this stretch of Aurora Avenue -- and the triangular building that now houses Woody's, just two and a half miles north of the current Seattle city limits -- was an entryway to the wholesome family pleasures of the "Echo Lake Bathing Beach." But that's what it was back when Carl Melby and his wife Lillian lived in the upstairs and ran Melby's Tavern below. The building was constructed during prohibition and Carl Melby died in 1942, but the place was Melby's Tavern from the 30s into the 70s. In the 80s, it was Joe's Tavern, then Echo Lake Tavern, and Woody's as of 2011.
Melby's Tavern c.1938, WA State Archive via pauldorpat.com
"After a new route for Aurora was graded here in the mid 1920s, Echo Lake resident Theodore Millan built the two-story roadhouse in 1928 on its triangular lot squeezed between the new Aurora and the old Echo Lake Pl. N.  Here the latter leads to the canoes, tents and new beds of Scotty’s short-lived Paradise.  With the uncorking of prohibition in late 1933, Millan rented his flatiron to Carl and Jane Melby, for their Tavern." (PatDorpat.com
Seattle Times March 13, 1932
Via Vicki Stiles and PaulDorpat.com
I'm not sure exactly when Melby's was established, but local history buffs have also found that Carl Melby was not content to wait until the repeal of the 18th amendment:
"Vicki Stiles, the helpful and scholarly Executive Director of the Shoreline Historical Museum (nearby at 18501 Linden Ave. N.), had heard rumors that the florist Carl Melby had more than liked his booze during prohibition as well. The sleuthing Stiles discovered that Melby had been arrested at least three times transporting mostly illegal Canadian liquor.  (We follow below with several Seattle Times clips on Melby’s career.) One night at Sunset beach near Anacortes he was chased into the Strait of Juan de Fuca up to his neck, collared and pulled ashore." (PatDorpat.com
In the 30s, before I-5 came rolling through, "Aurora Avenue" evoked the northern lights as it was part of the main local link in a route that ran from Mexico to Canada. Roadside resort cabins and motels to house the increasing numbers of people adventuring out from Seattle and any number of other towns as the automobile boomed. But by the time I moved to Seattle in the early 80s, Aurora had experienced at least a couple decades of decay, known more for cheap, crime-ridden motels, porn shops, small casinos, and chains of tattered strip mall businesses. "Aurora" connoted the sketchy part of town, not a romantic, natural light show.

To some extent it must be this image that Woody's new owners Elton and Heather Roundhill are trying to overcome, balancing preservation with establishing a new reputation. The Echo Lake Tavern was mellow and pleasant, but from the outside it seemed to fit in all to easily with the porn shop and ramshackle apartments next door, under a painted-over sign serving as a constant reminder that people don't care about this place like they once did. Were it in Belltown or Fall City it might become inviting by embracing it's diveyness, but that would be a cheerless approach here. And so the owners have provided some gentle touches of gentrification; it's still a modest neighborhood joint, but it's been painted and cleaned, added a patio, hosts antique car events, added some decent wines and liquor, and serves panini sandwiches. It hasn't got quite the new liveliness of Dan Dyckman's revival of Darrell's Tavern just a mile up the road; but as the larger city to the south has witnessed the disappearance of beloved old joints like the Alki Tavern, the Buckaroo, and the Viking, it's great to another of these places along the old highway happily preserved.


19508 Aurora Ave N Shoreline, WA 98133 - (206) 542-8781
Est. 2011 - Building constructed: 1928
Previous bars in this location: Melby's Tavern (30s to 60s), Joe's Tavern (70s, 80s), Echo Lake Tavern
Web site: facebook
Reviews: pauldorpat -  shorelineareanews - yelp

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