Seattle Now & Then: Union Bay Village

(click to enlarge photos)

THEN: On March 25, 1946, or near it, Wide World Photos recorded here what they titled “University Vet Housing.”   It would soon be named the Union Bay Village and house the families of returning veterans.  The first 45 bungalows shown here rented for from $35 to $45 dollars a month.  It would increase to a “teeming conglomerate of 500 rental units.”  With housing for both married students and faculty. The view looks north over a street that no longer exists.  The homes on the right horizon face the Burke Gilman Recreation Trail on N.E. Blakeley Street near N.E. 45th Place.  (Courtesy Ron Edge)
THEN: On March 25, 1946, or near it, Wide World Photos recorded here what they titled “University Vet Housing.” It would soon be named the Union Bay Village and house the families of returning veterans. The first 45 bungalows shown here rented for from $35 to $45 dollars a month. It would increase to a “teeming conglomerate of 500 rental units.” With housing for both married students and faculty. The view looks north over a street that no longer exists. The homes on the right horizon face the Burke Gilman Recreation Trail on N.E. Blakeley Street near N.E. 45th Place. (Courtesy Ron Edge)
NOW: After 35 years Union Bay Village was razed and replace with Laurel Village.  Mary Gates Memorial Blvd is on the left, and beyond it the University Ceramic and Metal Arts buildings.
NOW: After 35 years Union Bay Village was razed and replace with Laurel Village. Mary Gates Memorial Blvd is on the left, and beyond it the University Ceramic and Metal Arts buildings.

In “Seattle Transformed,” the last of his three-volume history of Seattle in the 20th Century, Richard C. Berner, gives his scholarly summary of the housing crises that greeted “the freshly discharged veterans” of World War Two. The retired University of Washington Archivist explains that Seattle’s dire straits in 1945 were built (or rather not built) upon the war’s own shortages.  Many of the thousands who had earlier come to Seattle to build ships and bombers had great difficulties finding affordable beds.

In spite of those discomforts, at war’s end most of these “visitors” wanted to stay in Seattle or in the charmed land that surrounds it.  Of the 5,352 families questioned by the Seattle Housing Authority, 4,841 answered that they wanted to make this their permanent home.  However, the need for constructing affordable housing got little help with peace. When the War Production Board lifted restrictions on construction materials, developers quickly purchased the released bounty, directing it for the more lucrative construction of commercial structures and upscale housing, of which these uniform huts at Union Bay Village are not examples.

Here from above we see the full Union Bay Village some months later.  The prospect is to the southwest with Union Bay on the left.
Here from above we see the full Union Bay Village some months later. The prospect is to the southwest with Union Bay on the left.  The 12 square blocks, below the scene’s center, are the original plat for Yesler Village.

For every patriotic reason imaginable – including Apple pies in the war surplus ovens – married veterans in pursuit of an education also needed to be sheltered.  Here in 1946 the solution for a least a few of them and their families came  – to not avoid the pun – as fallout from Hanford and Richland where these nifty quarters were first constructed for those who built the first atom bombs without knowing what it was they were doing.

The lucky vets at Union Bay Village knew what they were doing.  However, even with their $90 monthly GI-Bill, and cheap rents, they still needed extra part time work to raise their families.  At night they studied – here in the “Ravenna lowlands” near the north shore of Lake Washington’s Union Bay until 1981 when the Village was razed for another designed community – Laurel Village – with spiffier quarters but also still with controlled rents, late night study and insistent children.

WEB EXTRAS

Anything to add, Paul?  Sure Jean, and again more from the neighborhood.  But first I will register my pleasure and admiration for the song, singing and playing by Pineola that you contributed to the blog one insertion before this.  We will hope that readers who have missed it will go visit it, perhaps first.  They [you] will find it below – at the bottom – the next post in space although the penultimate one in time.  [I honestly learned the meaning of "penultimate" while taking a course in classic Greek at Concordia Academy in Portland Oregon, 1958.]

The map of the union bay and its "connections" drawn from the first federal survey from the late 1850s, but with "modern" features added like the Seattle Lakeshore and Eastern Railroad line.
The map of the Union Bay and its “connections” drawn with the first federal survey from the late 1850s, but with “modern” features added like the Seattle Lakeshore and Eastern Railroad line.

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Plat for the Yesler Town Addition.
Plat for the Town of Yesler Addition.

TOWN of YESLER

[First appeared in Pacific March 24 1996]

            In “A History of Laurelhurst,” author Christine Barrett included the above photograph of the mill town Henry Yesler founded on Lake Washington’s Union Bay in 1888.  Most likely Yesler’s cousin J.D. Lowman, who was by then largely in charge of the Seattle pioneer’s business affairs, was responsible for naming the new town site after his older relative and benefactor. 

            Most of the Lake Washington shoreline was then still sided by old-growth timber.  The building of a mill town on Union Bay was made easier the preceding fall by the completion of the Seattle Lake Shore and Eastern Railroad from the Seattle waterfront as far as the bay, and soon the new railroad continued north to Bothell and from there east into the Cascade foothills and eventually north to the Canadian border at Blaine.  The SLSSE carried logs to the mill and milled timber from it. The railroad, of course, also helped build both the mill and its town.

            This and practically all surviving early photographs of the area north of the then future Lake Washington Ship Canal were taken by a photographer who signed his negatives “Conn.”  He also taught school in a north end that was still mostly undeveloped.  This view dates from the early 1890s.  Conn sights his camera to the northwest, along the tracks that led from the SLSC mainline to the mill.  On the right, the earliest homes and businesses of the town of Yesler are grouped between Northeast 41st and Northwest 45th Streets to the sides of 36th Ave. Northeast, its principal avenue – its “Main Street.”  The line of white smoke behind the settlement is probably drawn by a locomotive heading north on the SLSE line – now the Burke-Gilman Recreation Trail. 

            Yesler’s first mill on Union Bay was destroyed by fire in 1895.  In 1916 this old wharf was exposed when Lake Washington was lowered nine feet for the opening of the Ship Canal.  A second mill, which produced shingles, burned down in the early 1920s.   The neighborhood, of course, survived, transforming from a mill town into a well kept addition of often modest homes, many of them homes for persons connected with the University of Washington.

 

The Town of Yesler
The Town of Yesler
Town of  Yesler, looking south to Union Bay
Town of Yesler, looking south to Union Bay
Town of Yesler wharf and mill, looking north.
Town of Yesler wharf and mill, looking north.
Looking north from Montlake to the mill Town of Yesler on the north shore of Union Bay. (Courtesy University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections.)
Looking north from Montlake to the mill Town of Yesler on the north shore of Union Bay. (Courtesy University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections.)  To the left is the entrance to the east end of the Montlake log canal.
Looking north thru Union Bay from the eastern border of the parking lots that once served MOHAI.   The wet land path to Foster Island appears at the center of the scene.
Looking north thru Union Bay from the eastern border of the parking lot that once served MOHAI. The bridge to the wet land path to Foster Island appears at the center of the scene.

 

The station and spur leading from the main line of the Seattle Lake Shore and Eastern RR to the Town of Yesler and its mill.
The station and spur leading from the main line of the Seattle Lake Shore and Eastern RR to the Town of Yesler and its mill.
First appeared in Pacific, Nov. 28, 1999
First appeared in Pacific, Nov. 28, 1999
Opened in the early 1890s, Yesler School was used until 1918.  It stood on what is now 36th Ave. Northeast, between Northeast 47th and Northeast 48th Streets.
Opened in the early 1890s, Yesler School was used until 1918. It stood on what is now 36th Ave. Northeast, between Northeast 47th and Northeast 48th Streets.

YESLER SCHOOL

[First appeared in Pacific, Feb. 2, 1997]

            Fire stations, churches and schools were common photographic subjects when cameras were still relatively rare.  Schools especially, since photograpahers, first itinerant and later resident, could hope to make as many prints from their negatives as the number of students posing in them.  It was, however, a hope rarely fulfilled unless, of course, the school’s administration was somehow involved in the negotiations.

            Here are the two photographs of the old Yesler School with which I am familiar. There are probably others secreted or forgotten in albums and attics.  This too appears in Christine Barrett’s book, “A History of Laurelhurst.” 

            Yesler School opened in the early 1890s to serve, of course, the families connected with old Henry Yesler’s nearly new company town on the north shore of Lake Washington’s Union Bay.  The site of Yesler’s downtown mill, the first spine in Seattle’s economic backbone (or heart in its thorax), was by then much too valuable for mere log cutting.  In 1888 Yesler moved his saws to this north shore of Union Bay, under the coaxing of his nephew and business manage, J.D. Lowman.  Getting to the mill town was made downright easy a year earlier with the laying of the Seattle Lake Shore and Eastern Railway, again, now the Burke-Gilman Recreation Trail.

6. Yesler-town-school-about-189-WEB

            The Yesler School did not close until 1918.  By then the mill town students –most of them from working families – probably sat side-by-side with those from a nearby neighborhood its promoters promised would be “the chief aristocratic section of the city.”  They called that 100-acres enclave of designer wealth Laurelhurst.

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The Environs from the 1912 Baist Real Estate Map (Courtesy, Ron Edge)
The Yesler Environs from the 1912 Baist Real Estate Map (Courtesy, Ron Edge)
The Town of Yesler neighborhood in the 1929 aerial photo survey.  (Courtesy, Ron Edge and the Seattle Municipal Archive)
The Town of Yesler neighborhood in the 1929 aerial photo survey. (Courtesy, Ron Edge and the Seattle Municipal Archive)
The 1936 aerial
1939 aerial
We have cut the borders of this detail from the 1952 aerial to conform to those in the 1912 Baist Map inserted three subjects up.
We have cut the borders of this detail from the 1952 aerial to conform to those drawn a half-century earlier in the 1912 Baist Map inserted three subjects up.  (Courtesy, Seattle Municipal Archive with help in scanning and merging by Ron Edge.)

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UNIVERSITY VILLAGE

Construction of the 45th Street Viaduct between the "upper" University District and the U.W. Campus and the many plant nurseries fated for the development of University Village.  The Municipal Archive subject dates from 1939 and so too early to find in the distance any traced yet of the Union Bay Village, although its triangle has been cleared, top-right.
Construction of the 45th Street Viaduct between the “upper” University District and the U.W. Campus and below the many plant nurseries fated for the development of University Village. This Municipal Archive subject dates from 1939 and so it is too early to find in the distance any traces yet of Union Bay Village, although its triangle has been cleared, (turn earth) top-right.  What is evident is the commercial strip of mostly gas stations on the north side of 45th Street to the east of the viaduct, and the Laurelhurst horizon.

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An early aerial of the University Village, looking northwest with 45th Street, bottom-left.  Some of the Nursery culture survives above the Frederick and Nelson box and beside the bowling alley, top-center.  (And what a loss!)
An early aerial of the University Village, looking northwest with 45th Street, bottom-left. Some of the Nursery culture survives above the Frederick and Nelson box and beside the bowling alley, top-center. (And what a loss!)
A University Village adver-montage from 1975.
A University Village adver-montage from 1975.

FOLLOWS three Village-related photographs taken by photographer Doyal Cudjel for promotion of what the sign says: a Homecoming Express every ten minutes between Greek Row and University Village.  Cudjel has dated his snapshots, Oct. 7, 1959… (We suspect that these subjects are also cheerleaders.) Note the sign on the front of the bus in the last of the three shots.  It promotes KVI’S “New HI-FI”

7. RD---'Youngsters-entering-a-bus'-for-Kraft-Smith-&-Ehrig-(University-Village)-(a)-10-7-59

7. RD---'Youngsters-entering-a-bus'-for-kraft-Smith-&-Ehris-(University-village-(d)-10-7-59-WEB

7. RD---Youngsters-entering-a-bus'-for-Kraft-Smith-Ehris-(University-Village-(b)-10-7-59-WEB

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Union Bay on Opening Day, by Robert Bradley, ca. 1950
Union Bay on Opening Day, by Robert Bradley, ca. 1950

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