Of all the trestles constructed to cross Alaskan Way the longest-lived is the overpass that reaches Colman Dock, the ferry terminal, on Marion Street. The second oldest is this one on Bell Street. The bridge on Marion was always only for pedestrians. The bridge on Bell was for many years used also by trucks, cars, and in the beginning wagons as well.
Actually, there have been many other overpasses on our waterfront. Those at King and Madison were both used for moving coal to ships. The trestle on Pike was used first for coal and later rebuilt for pedestrians. Bridges at Virginia, Clay and Lenora streets complete the list, but all these are now long gone.
The Bell Street overpass was completed in 1915 soon after the young Port of Seattle’s big Bell Street Terminal opened. The Port was proud of its grand new pier and the bridge helped to safely show it off. Here was an easy way for produce sellers to move between the Pike Place Market and the Port’s dock with the cold storage it offered. And the bridge – its sidewalk – encouraged families shopping nearby at the Pike market to also visit the recreation park the Port built on the roof of the Bell Street pier.
There is one concluding note to pull from the “top” of this subject: the Broadway – Empire Laundry. The name is signed large on the west façade of the four-story red brick power laundry at Bell and Western. It opened in 1914, a year before the Port got settled one block and one bridge away. As with other power laundries it was women who did most of the hard work and at measly wages. Consequently, the women in local laundries went on strike – first in 1917. Eighteen years later, the organized women of this laundry won the strike of 1935 and the union they formed was for two decades Seattle’s largest organized coalition of women workers. See www.66bellstreet.com for the full story.
[Please Remember to Click the images below to ENLARGE them.)
6 thoughts on “Seattle Now & Then: The Bell Street Overpass”
Really enjoyed this Paul. Great images. I particularly love the photos — too rare — that show Railroad Ave with the holes in it down to the tides. I’m surprised we don’t see more of such photos, considering that First Avenue used to be the waterfront, so Post Alley, Western Avenue and Railroad Avenue and their buildings are all located where water once flowed beneath.
Such pictures are rare. Once the waterfront began to be hysterically – nearly – planked over in the late 1880s it was hard to see the tides below the warehouses and timber quays quickly constructed. The 1889 fire revealed all, but only for weeks. What followed was an enlarged effort to cover the tides with planks fit snug to pilings. East of Railroad Avenue the tides were hidden beneath buildings. Only a few of these had foundations in partial fill. But on railroad avenue, well into the 1890s – there were gaps where planks were not needed. By 1900 there were very few of these, say, south of Union Street. North of Union these openings survived and were often criticized by the public. For some progressive preachers it was a moral issue, and they sermonized against the holes on railroad avenue as if they were injuries to the civic soul and God’s interest in progress.
Thanks for “filling in the gap” for me, Paul 😉
Thank you for all your work! I just wanted to note that the Lenora st bridge is featured at 47:40 in this movie.