I wrote here a few weeks ago about the venerable Hattie’s Hat on Ballard Ave, mainly about the history of the place and its reflective exterior. The interior is also worth seeing, and not just because that’s where the beer is. The bar itself and the 40-foot-long Scandinavian-themed mural are also pretty cool. The picture below shows the hand-carved bar, reportedly shipped around the Horn, and first installed in the Old Home Saloon, when it was located across the street in the early 1900s. The mural, partially reflected in the mirror above the bar, is significantly younger, dating back to the 1950s.
Painted by local artist Fred Oldfield for around $400 back when Hattie’s was Malmen’s Fine Foods, the mural underwent a significant restoration in 1997, as described at the time in the Seattle Times.
The mural also features in this entertaining slide show from the Seattle Weekly: Bar Murals you Must See Before They’re Destroyed by Condos. The slideshow doesn’t have a date, but the title suggests its probably from 3 or 4 years ago, when condo-related demolition and apartment-to-condo conversions were serious problems. Seems hard to believe now, with brand new empty condo buildings all over the place. Here’s what the Weekly has to say about the Hattie’s mural:
Oldfield was commissioned by the two brothers (the Malmgrens) that owned the bar at the time to paint the Danish scene. “They just paid more to have it cleaned than they paid me to paint it!” laughs Oldfield. The mural was created around a time when the owners were trying to revamp the place but the plan backfired, “Business fell off because local workers didn’t want to go out to a fancy place to drink!” Oldfield recalls.
Captain Sig Hansen in his memoir, North by Northwestern, recalls the time (more than a decade before he was born) slightly differently, suggesting that fishermen, like his Dad, liked Malmen’s just fine, even with the mural:
As last call approached, they’d hike two blocks down to Malmen’s, another Swedish-owned dive .… Though the club closed at two, the restaurant was open all night …. They shoveled the fish into their mouths beneath a mural that spanned an entire wall, a pastoral landscape of blond maidens blowing horns in an alpine meadow beneath jagged snow peaks. Once such fräulein leaned against a fir tree and gazed across the lake at a farmer whipping his buggy horse through the fields, while a white-headed shepherd in suspenders, slumped in resignation, and watched the whole scene unfold.
Hansen appears to think the mural is German, rather than Scandinavian. Nevertheless, the above passage suggests that he (and his ghost writer) might have a future as an art critic if that fishing thing doesn’t work out.