Seattle Now & Then: One STURDY BRIDGE

Walter Ross Baumes Willcox, the architect who planned this 1911 Arboretum aqueduct, went on to design another city landmark mades of reinforced concrete and ornamental bricks: the 1913 Queen Anne Boulevard retaining wall.  (Courtesy, Museum of History and Industry)
Walter Ross Baumes Willcox, the architect who planned this 1911 Arboretum aqueduct, went on to design another city landmark made of reinforced concrete and ornamental bricks: the 1913 Queen Anne Boulevard retaining wall. (Courtesy, Museum of History and Industry)
Built in line with Lynn Street, the trestle through Washington Park is little worse for wear after taking many direct hits from trucks and buses through its now nearly a century of carrying pedestrians and sewerage above the Lake Washington Bouldevard.  (Jean was away.  I took this one.)
Built in line with Lynn Street, the trestle through Washington Park is little worse for wear after taking many direct hits from trucks and buses through its now nearly a century of carrying pedestrians and sewerage above the Lake Washington Boulevard. (Jean was away. I took this one.)

[As always, CLICK the photos to enlarge them.]

Not long after the Aurora Bridge was completed in 1932 its dismal second use was fulfilled and soon described. “If you build a bridge like that people will jump from it.” Similarly, although less tragically, it may be said of the viaduct showing here, “If you build a bridge like that people will run into it.”

Built in 1911 to the plans of architect Walter Ross Baumes Willcox, the Arboretum Aqueduct, also known as the Arboretum Sewer Trestle, was designed to carry the then new North Trunk Sewer over the nearly new Lake Washington Boulevard. A walkway was also laid atop the sewer pipe for the few pedestrians that might find this 180 foot-long viaduct with six equally arched bays more to their liking that the ground route (in line with Lynn Street) through Washington Park. On the viaduct passengers were also safe from the traffic on Lake Washington Boulevard. It passed beneath them, except the part that did not.

For instance, in the Spring of 2008 Garfield High’s girls softball team was returning home on a chartered bus after a 10 to 1 loss to Lake Washington High in Kirkland. The driver explained that he was following GPS instructions when the top of his bus, which was nearly three feet taller than the about 9-foot hole prescribed by Willcox for the motor traffic of 1911, was sheered away.

While the bus lost its roof and several students were sent by ambulance to Harborview Hospital, the reinforced concrete trestle was barely chipped, and the “picturesque qualities” of the trestle’s honored ornamental brick patterning has never effected its strength. Among the several landmark lists that have embraced this artful but sturdy bridge is the National Register of Historic Places.

( For more photographs of the contemporary bridge – and more – click here to link to an earlier photo essay that includes them.)

For comparison a section of the west face of the Queen Anne Boulevard retaining wall (1913), another Willcox design.
For comparison, a section of the west face of the Queen Anne Boulevard retaining wall (1913), another Willcox design.

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