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.
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