TIDEFLATS from the TOWER: a Blogaddendum

Below are a handful of the thousands of photographs taken from the Smith Tower through its now 96 years.  The most popular prospects were north to the central business district and west to the harbor, but if Mt. Rainier was showing this southern view might be captured too.  One could look above and beyond the industrial “park” to the the national park.  (Actually, Mt. Rainier can be seen in only one of the views included here.)  The Frye Packing site can be found in all of them, although not always the same plant.  It is above the Great Northern tower – somewhere above it.   The most recent view is from 1982, and the only one I photographed.  Perhaps we can stir Jean to return to the observation tower for a “now” recording that will display the recent glories of SODO, and the enduring ones of “The Mountain That Was God.”  Watch for “Jean’s Turn in the Tower” coming to this blog soon.

The Smith Tower was dedication on July 4, 1914, however photographers reached the top already in 1913.  Without study (of its "internal evidences") I give this a ca. 1914 date.
The Smith Tower was dedication on July 4, 1914, however photographers reached the top already in 1913. Without study (of its "internal evidences") I give this a ca. 1914 date.
Lawton Gowey took this 1961 view and the two that follow, from 1971 and '76.  Note that the Seattle-Tacoma 1-5 Freeway has as yet "upset" the Beacon Hill greenbelt.
Lawton Gowey took this 1961 view and the two that follow, from 1971 and '76. Note that the Seattle-Tacoma 1-5 Freeway has not as yet "upset" the Beacon Hill greenbelt.
This view from 1971 has its nearly new Interstate-5 but as yet no Kingdome.
This view from 1971 has its nearly new Interstate-5 but as yet no Kingdome.
The nearly new Kingdome in 1976.  Another by Lawton Gowey.
The nearly new Kingdome in 1976. Another by Lawton Gowey.
Looking south-southeast from the Smith Tower in 1982.
Looking south-southeast from the Smith Tower in 1982.

4 thoughts on “TIDEFLATS from the TOWER: a Blogaddendum”

  1. I notice that the water tower in the very bottom of the view was removed sometime in the decade between the second and third images. I took these for granted as a kid, miss them a lot now.

    I love the first image, with the elevated wooden tracks and streets. Because the area is pretty flat and yet there are only a few buildings “on the floor”, it appears as though the photo was take shortly after some serious attempt was made to fill and grade the area, or?

    Thanks for this post, Paul and Co.

  2. Matt
    That was all tidelands once. It got a daily wash of Elliott Bay across it as far east as Beacon Hill. The “serious” filling of the neighborhood began in the mid 1890s and continued into the 1930s – filling in the last “puddles”. So, yes, most of those tidelands or tideflats would have been both filled – built higher above the tides – and graded – smoothed for development by 1914. Some of the trestles across it were put up to separate the grades between the railroads and the motorcars and trucks. It was eventually determined that they could share the same grade. Then the motorcar trestles were dismantled.
    I too remember water tanks on roofs as part of the cityscape. Found art that made fine silhouettes. I don’t know however why or when they stopped being useful. Filled with H20 they were a test of the building’s strength. But was the water primarily saved for emergency use, like a fire or some stop in the normal service? Don’t know.

  3. Matt
    On reading what I wrote – above – I’d added that for most of the time the tidelands or flats were covered with water. It would be better to say that I got regular exposures when the tide went out, especially a low low tide.
    Paul

Leave a Reply