For the historical construction scene a staff photographer from Webster and Stevens (the studio that the Seattle Times contracted early in the 20th Century to do much of the paper’s photography) stands on a then Fifth Avenue S. trestle a few feet south of King Street to record this work-in-progress on the Union Station, the second of the big “palace stations” built facing Jackson Street and the business district.
The steel supports for the vaulted roof are being set. The waiting lobby below it – what is now called the “Great Hall” – gave Union Pacific and Milwaukee road riders a sublime welcome and/or good bye. At its peak, the Washington-Oregon Station (its other name) employed more than 100 men in the baggage room providing for the almost 40 daily train arrivals and departures.
The station was built in 1910-11 at the corner of the reclaimed tideflats close to what would become the International District, or Chinatown. Because of this location the site was a tidal collector and one of the most polluted parts of the waterfront. Had the photographer stood here three years earlier she or he would have look into the sprawling gas manufacturing plant that then still filled this pit, which was sometimes called Gas Cove. (In 1907 the gas makers moved to Wallingford – Gas Works Park – and lower Queen Anne – the “Blue Flame Building” – to open the cove for the coming railroad.)
Standing on the same spot 29 years earlier anyone would have felt the commotion of the trains loaded with coal charging directly through this scene over a trestle and under full steam to carry them up and on to the oversized King Street wharf where California colliers lined up waiting for the coals of Newcastle and Renton.
Now much of the old cleaned-up cove between 5th Avenue and Union Station is covered with a patio, which itself only partly covers the open-air International District Station. This is the southern terminus for the Downtown Transit Tunnel, and soon Sound Transit Central Link light rail trains will be stopping here as well. A century ago the Union Pacific Railroad still had plans to continue north from here with their own tunnel beneath the city.