2009-02-01 Green Lake Skaters

(Original title: “Gliding on Green Lake”)

The unidentified postcard artist who photographed Green Lake congested with skaters and their admirers was quick to print and exploit his spectacular recording. This view was copied from a card postmarked Feb. 12, 1916, with a note on the back to one Gunnar Ingman in Juneau: “This gives you some idea of the crowd that enjoyed the skating on Green Lake.”

The likely date for this exhilarating scene is Sunday, Jan. 30, when the Seattle Parks Department counted about 3,000 skaters on the lake. It had been a cold January, with an average temperature below freezing. Almost two feet of snow fell through the month.

That evening the department lit several bonfires along the shores and the skating continued well into the night. This buoyant gliding would, however, soon be over, clogged by the really Big Snow of 1916, the second largest in the city’s history.

It started falling in earnest on Monday. Schools, theaters, libraries, bridges were closed, the trolleys were stuck, railroads “threw up their hands and quit,” and roofs collapsed — most spectacularly the dome on St. James Cathedral. And in its Tuesday, Feb. 1, edition The Times reported that the heavy snow had “ruined skating on the city lakes.”

Inspired by what we may now correctly call the “Big Snow of 2008″ of last December, Jean Sherrard and I have put up an illustrated history of Seattle snows on our blog. There is more to learn there about this 1916 Big Snow and many of Seattle’s other more biting winters. You may find it at pauldorpat.com

Then: The thousands of skaters on Green Lake in this late January 1916 view could not have known that the skating would soon be over, one of the victims of the Big Snow of 1916. Courtesy Fairlook Antiques
Then: The thousand and more cutters on Green Lake in this late January 1916 view could not have known that the skating would soon be over, one of the victims of the Big Snow of 1916. Courtesy Fairlook Antiques
Now: Using Google Earth and visits to an east shore still covered with the "Big Snow of 2008," Jean Sherrard took his repeat photo from near where Kirkwood Place North meets Green Lake Way North.
Now: Using Google Earth and visits to an east shore still covered with the "Big Snow of 2008," Jean Sherrard took his repeat photo from near where Kirkwood Place North meets Green Lake Way North.

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