Flower Shop Elephant.

Aurora Elephant

Field review by the editors.

Seattle, Washington

Horrible though it might seem, we wanted to believe the story we'd heard -- that the elephant on top of the Aurora Flower Shop was real, bagged on safari by a previous owner.

As we've witnessed in our travels, elephant history in America is a sad circus of misunderstandings, rampages and executions. And we'd seen more than our share of lesser mammals in posthumous promotional poses...

But the dead elephant on the flower shop seemed to defy logic. How could it survive decades of Seattle weather and Fremont animal activists, yet still advertise cheerful floral arrangements?

Elephant on Hwy 99.

Driving north from Seattle on Hwy. 99, we spotted the elephant, just past the "Googie" Cafe Travelers Lounge, mounted on a steel cross-beam with a sign for the Aurora Flower Shop.

Right away we could tell this slightly misshapen, blobby landmark wasn't a real hunting trophy (though its condition had already been explained by tipsters as a result of decades of stucco and concrete fixes on the decaying beast).

The life-size statue dates from 1926-36, created by mosaic craftsman John Giovanni Braida to promote his tile business in Fremont. Braida and his employees spent nearly a decade building and embellishing the elephant.

The family sold the elephant in 1946, and businessman Denny Grindall got a great deal -- $500 -- to represent his Aurora Avenue flower shop.

The business flourished under the pachyderm, and Denny's son Paul Grindall eventually assumed the mantle.

Since the connection between a florist and an elephant is not apparent to all, the marquee sign on which the elephant stands could aid the conceptual leap: "Elephants have a great memory -- do you? Don't forget your wife's birthday!"

The pachyderm is equipped with an Indian howdah (like Lucy the Elephant) and was constructed from a wooden frame wrapped with chicken wire. At one time, you could climb a ladder and sit in the elephants belly -- but no more.

Over the years, people asked Paul Grindall about future restoration plans, but he pointed out that would cost tens of thousands of dollars, "and were just a little florist shop." He assured us the elephant would be there as long as the business is.

Then, in 2004, the Aurora Flower Shop closed. Fans of the elephant grew anxious. It was fairly certain the aging landmark couldn't survive another move. Since December 2005 the property has appreciative new owners, who plan to renovate the elephant as a symbol of their contracting business -- "The Elephant Among Us."

May 2008: In 2007 the flower shop and restaurant were converted into Aurora Rents (equipment rental). The elephant remains.

May 2006: This story has been updated. Gil Braida, grandson of John Braida, sent us a more accurate history and a recent article from Seattle's Metropolitan Magazine. He writes: "Our fourth generation family owned company, now Braida Fremont Incorporated, has a photographic record of the Elephant's construction. For the Braida Family, the Elephant is a family heirloom that should have never been allowed to escape captivity."

Aurora Elephant

Aurora Rents

Address:
8808 Aurora Ave. N, Seattle, WA
Directions:
Aurora Rents. Hwy 99 and 88th St. on the east side, just south of the Vacancy Motel and next to a googie restaurant.
Phone:
206-522-5336
RA Rates:
Worth a Detour
Save to My Sights

Nearby Offbeat Places

Archie McPhee Catalog StoreArchie McPhee Catalog Store, Seattle, WA - 2 mi.
Wallingford Wildlife Totem PoleWallingford Wildlife Totem Pole, Seattle, WA - 2 mi.
B.F. Day Tile MuralB.F. Day Tile Mural, Seattle, WA - 3 mi.
In the region:
Sleep in a Covered Wagon or Teepee, Vashon, WA - 18 mi.

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November 14, 2019

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