Seattle Now & Then: 'Cyrene' not 'Latona'

(click to enlarge photos)

THEN: The original Cyrene resting, most likely, somewhere on Lake Washington before it was enlarged in 1903. (Courtesy, Museum of History and Industry)
Jean’s “now” was taken in Lake Union’s Portage Bay where, with both the Seattle and Queen City Yacht clubs, there are plenty of sleek vessels. We could not figure who recorded the “then” nor where.

I first enjoyed this vessel’s profile in an old clipping long ago. Pioneer Sophie Frye Bass recounted, that the “handsome Lake Union steamer” Latona so pleased Seattle developer James Moore (of the theatre) that he named his new addition on the northeast “corner” of the lake also for the Roman goddess – and the boat.

Recently Carolyn Marr, MOHAI’s librarian, surprised me with the original print.  It is about the size of a cel phone.  Fortunately there is a hand-written caption on the flip side of the photo’s card stock, which is signed by the pioneer dentist-developer E.K. Kilbourne.  Librarian Marr assured me that it was his hand that wrote it all.   Kilbourne describes how (in late 1888) he bought the Latona on Elliott Bay from James Colman (of the dock) and brought it first up the Duwamish and Black Rivers to Lake Washington, and then carefully thru “David Denny’s ditch” (the Montlake log canal) towed it to Lake Union.  Like Moore, Kilbourne had his own addition on the north shore of the lake, and the Latona was splendid for carrying buyers and commuters the length of the lake.

Discovering that the patch inscribed “Latona,” (again in Kilbourne’s hand) and pasted above the caption had a loose end, I, of course, lifted it.  Below it the letters “ene” are written on the photo card itself but in a different hand.  This fragment was “fulfilled” with a magnified look at the vessel itself.  This is not the Latona but the Cyrene, and “Cyrene” is signed on the bow.  The Cyrene was also built for Colman on the Seattle Waterfront and brought up the rivers to the big lake.  There it stayed and worked for many years running excursions and routine trips between Leschi and Madison Park.   Unlike the Latona, it never went on to Lake Union.

Flip side of the Cyrene/Latona print.

Marine historian Ron Burke reminds me that once again we are left with no known photograph of the Latona.  Burke also reminded me that old age and confusion might explain Kilbourne’s gaff.  He lived to be 103; Burke, as a child, met him.  Also, the lake steamers Cyrene, and Xanthus, were both built to nearly the same plans by the same shipwright, Mat Anderson, for James Colman, from whom, again, Kilbourne bought his Latona.    It may be that if and when we find one, a photo (or sketch) of the Latona will reveal that it looked very much like the Cyrene.


Anything to add, Paul?

Yup Jean, and again more subjects from the neighborhood.  First a couple of Seattle Times clips about the Cyrene, followed by some maps that include Portage Bay and often more.

News on June 17, 1901 that the Cyrene beat the Gazelle in a race between Leschi and Madison Park.
An early use of screen photography show the Cyrene being enlarged in this Dec. 23, 1903 clip from The Seattle Times.
An Edge Clipping (from Ron Edge's collection) that makes a terse but enthusiastic note of the development of both Latona and Brooklyn, ca. 1890. (If Ron can find the date he will probabaly insert it.)
A detail taken from the federal survey of the mid-1850s. Portage Bay is on the left and Union Bay on the right with the Montlake Isthmus between them. Note the Indian trails that pass between the two lakes. Since 1961 the Freeway Bridge would be on the fare left.
An 1889 real estate map that represent the hopes of developers. Note the Latona Addition and, upper right, that the Brooklyn Addition (University District) with an earlier addition name, Kensington, and a grid that offers blocks that stretch east-west rather than north-south, which the Brooklyn addition established later that year. Note Fremont and Edgewater and much else. And compare this speculation with what follows: a 1894 map that attempts to show "real roads" and even small squares marking the development of structures - real ones.
Some of what was "real" about the north end of Seattle in 1894.
Probably the earliest photo of the Latona Bridge seen from the Latona side. Portage Bay is on the left. Ivar's Salmon House would - since 1969 - be just out of frame to the right.



This splendid record of life on Union Bay before its bottom was exposed with the 1916 lowering of the Lake for the ship canal was probably photographed from the old Seattle Lake Shore and Eastern Railroad right-of-way, now the Burke Gilman Recreational Trail.  The boat house in the foreground was built by the school’s associated students in 1906.  It included a dance hall, dresser rooms, lockers, canoe racks and quarters for the keeper and his family.  For the ten years it was moored here the ASUW Boat House was easily one of the most popular campus destinations.  “Canoeing wooing” was then still a commonplace of Seattle dating and courtship.

The occasion for the unusual congestion of Lake Washington “Mosquito Fleet” steamers shown here probably has to do with the commuting of visitors to the summer-long 1909 Alaska Yukon and Pacific Exposition on the University of Washington campus.  There are five lake steamers in the scene, but only four are readily seen.  And, if I have identified them correctly, they are, naming them counter-clockwise from the boat house, the Wildwood, the Fortuna, the Cyrene and the Triton.  All but the Wildwood belong to Capt. John L. Anderson who until his death in 1940 ran steamers and ferries on the lake for fifty years.

During the fair Capt. Anderson and his competitors ran 15 minutes commutes between the fair’s landings on Union Bay and Leschi, Madrona, and Madison parks.  An estimated 1,500,000 passengers were handled for these quick hops and for the longer excursion around Mercer Island.

Except for the Fortuna that is seen coming towards shore behind the Wildwood’s stack, all these vessels are empty.  Perhaps, then in this morning scene, the Triton, farthest left beneath Laurelhurst, is returning to Leschi empty to take on more fair goers.  The smaller Cyrene, at the scene’s center, is waiting for her chance to load up for an excursion, and the Wildwood has just left off passengers walking here towards shore along the north (left) apron of the boathouse.  Perhaps.

Union Bay is now dedicated to student parking and recreation. Much of these park and play acres were reclaimed from bottom land by the Montlake Dump.  The dump closed in 1964.

The Montlake Sanitary Fill, aka Dump, with Husky Stadium on the horizon

(Historical photo from 1909 courtesy Pemco Webster and Stevens Collection, Museum of History and Industry. Dump photo courtesy of the Municipal Archive.)


Another look at the ASUW boat house from shore.


(First appeared in Pacific, May 15, 1988)

Some of the hours they now give to motorcars and music television*, University students used to devote to canoeing. Early-century canoeing was such a popular diversion that in 1906 the University of Washington’s students built their own boathouse. This view of it looks to the northwest from a wetland peninsula that extended into Lake Washington’s Union Bay shallows. Comparing then and now maps of the bay we can be confident that the contemporary view (above)  was shot from very near the historical photographer’s wetland roost. Where now racquets are swung and cars parked, paddles were pulled and canoes glided. It’s a difference made from a nine foot (1916) lowering of Lake Washington and years of sanitary filling at the Montlake dump.

The Interlaken, a North End tabloid of the time, in its February 23, 1907, issue touted the Associated Students’ boat house as “an elegant structure … the best boat house on Lake Washington.” The article also details its functions. “The downstairs contains dresser rooms, locker rooms and a large canoe room where canoe racks are rented to students at a much lower rate than they can obtain elsewhere. The upstairs contains the best dancing floor for small parties in Seattle, also dressing rooms and rooms for keeper and family.”

The smaller boat house to this side of the ASUW’s is for the University crews. Built in 1900, again by students, it survived nine years before larger crew quarters were built on Lake Union’s Portage Bay. We may conclude, then, that this historical photograph was most likely shot sometime between 1907 and 1909. And already in the cold of February 1907, The Interlaken noted that “this boat house constitutes a center for University aquatics,” which, “during the spring will be the center of a great deal of the social life of the University.” The newspaper added that soon electric lights would be strung where before the boathouse had “been compelled to remain dark or be lit with candles and lanterns.” We may imagine the reflecting glow of those lanterns across Union Bay.



Here the distinguished lake steamer Atlanta marks the waters of the Montlake Cut as she ploughs into Lake Washington and before the surviving landmark A.S.U.W. Shell House.  The Atlanta was the first ship built by Lake Legend Capt. John Anderson at the Lake Washington Shipyards after he purchased that fledgling marine ways at Houghton (now the site of Kirkland’s Carillon Point) in 1908.  At 90 feet and 87 tons the Atlanta joined the growing fleet of small and sleek steamers named for Greek deities; e.g. the Fortuna, Triton, Aquilo, Xanthus and Cyrene.

In his 52 years on these waterways following his arrival in Seattle in 1888, the Swedish immigrant Anderson rose from polishing deck brass to running Lake Washington transportation both in competition with and for King County.  His death in 1941 followed quickly after the 1940 opening of the Lacey Murrow Floating Bridge (AKA, the Mercer Island Bridge) the overture to the requiem of regularly floating transportation on Lake Washington.  Long before the bridge disrupted waterborne commuting it was the excursion trade that kept Anderson afloat.

The Atlanta was built to handle the rush of sightseers expected for the 1909 Alaska Yukon and Pacific Exposition on the U.W. campus.  Anderson ran 12 excursion steamers on the big lake throughout the summer-long AYP.   It was however the 1916 opening of the Lake Washington Ship Canal that regularly filled the Atlanta with sightseers enjoying – as the banner on the bow promotes – the “Daily Excursions (through) Sound-Canal-Lakes.” In 1935 Capt. Anderson replaced the Atlanta with the bigger Sightseer, a sturdy vessel that many Pacific readers will have boarded for it was kept in the Sound-Canal-Lake excursion service until 1962.

As revealed by Paul G. Spitzer, past Boeing historian, this scene’s landmark, the old student Shell House, was designed for neither canoes nor racing sculls but rather for seaplanes.  The Navy built it in 1918 while in control of most of the University’s waterfront during World War One.  The sloping walls and oversize hanger doors are enduring signs of its original purpose although, as Spitzer points out “in its eight-four years it has probably never housed an airplane.”

(Historical photo courtesy of Michael Maslan.)



(First appeared in Pacific, Sept. 22, 1985)

A few years back while thumbing through some photos at the Oregon Historical Society, I first discovered this “ideal” scene. This photograph has been made downright sweet by an artist’s creation of some cumulus clouds that resemble cotton candy.  At the bottom of the photo the retouch-artist continued his work enveloping the heads of two women in the fog that surrounds the picture’s caption, “1061 Boat Landing, Leschi Park …”  While on my visit, I made a copy of the artist-photographer’s work, laying it on a tilting table next to a window.  Using a steady tripod, I got a good negative.

The next time I stumbled upon this scene was in Wade Vaughn’s book Seattle­ Leschi Diary. Wade copied his view from a postcard. There are no confectionary clouds and the women have their heads. Instead, it is the postcard’s caption has been decapitated. Vaughn explains below his use of this view, that once a caption did exist, and that it dated the scene 1911.  It also added this stock postcardish description: “Leschi Park is a small picturesque Park bordering Lake Washington at Yesler Way, and is a favorite starting point for excursionists over the beautiful lake.” (Since writing this I have also “witnessed” a hand-colored version.)

Actually, the old Leschi was much more than picturesque. As the dappled light in this photo suggests, in its day Leschi was a resort of fair weather pleasures where the differences between indoors and out, sun and shade, and land and lake were creatively confused by long verandas, arboreal promenades, gazebos, bandstands, ornamental gables and arches.

The Leschi boathouse was a wonderful harbor built beneath eight gables and a decorated tower that covered, but did not hide, rows of wood canoes when they, not motorcars, were the principal means of transport for romance. Here you see only the boathouse sign, far right, on the dock which leads out to the covered canoes.

Nor do you see here the Leschi Pavilion, although the photo was taken from its veranda. (See is directly below.)   The pavilion was immense, extending far out over the water, to the right, and far into the park, to the left. The scene of many dances, romances, and stage shows, its single most famous attraction was the 1906 performance by the “divine” Sarah Bernhardt.

What is in this (top) picture is Captain John Anderson’s landing for his lake excursion launches. Just beyond his depot, and poking its second story above the Anderson sign, is the Lake Washington Hotel and Restaurant. It was built in 1890, or less than two years after a development that turned “Fleaburg” (this spot’s popular name in the 1880s) into Leschi.

An early look at Leschi with the sidewheeler Kirkland at the dock.

The Lake Washington Cable Railway’s formal opening was on September 28, 1888. It took 16 minutes for its open cars to run the three-plus roller ­coaster miles out Yesler Way from Pioneer Square – a fact that encouraged many businessmen to build homes on the hill behind the park. The cable railway’s powerhouse is half-hidden behind the trees on the (top) photo’s left. We can see the smokestacks.

Another early look down to Leschi from the ridge behind it. The cable railway's trestle appears here on the left. That part is a spur or extension off the passenger part of the railway, and allows freight to be lowered to powerhouse and the lakes shore. Note the Pavilion on the far right.

In 1913, or only two years after this (top) scene was shot, the Leschi auto ferry began its 27 years of steaming between here and the east side of the lake. The July 2, 1940 opening of the Lake Washington Floating Bridge put a sudden end to that.  Only five weeks later on August 10, the last cable car to run out Yesler completed 52 years of a service many now wish was still running.

Actually, the end of this old Leschi scene was over many years earlier.  Directly below, I chose a symbolic 1925 when an oiled-gravel surface of Lakeside Ave. was cut down through the center of our historical photo.  After that it was perhaps less likely that any artist-photographer of this view would be inspired to add edible clouds.



(First appeared in Pacific, March 10, 1985)

I first uncovered this romantic river scene in a Post-Intelligencer photo feature titled “Canoeing From Lake To Sound.” Originally published on Sunday, September 9, 1906, it featured 12 illustrations of a relaxed flotilla making its way down the old river route from Lake Washington to Puget Sound. The original story was confined to one page, and so the pictures were both small and grainy. Although I wished to see this scene more clearly – a common desire with old news photos – knew that my chances of ever finding an original print, or even negative, were very slim. Recently (now more than a quarter-century ago), those odds were suddenly “fattened” when a friend, John Hanawalt of the Old Seattle Paperworks in the Pike Place Market, showed me a stack of old photographs he had uncovered, and flipped to an original print of this Black River scene.       This is a truly lost place. The Black River used to run out of the southern end of Lake Washington en-route to its union with the Union River to form together the Duwamish River, which made its serpentine journey of a few miles, concluding in the Elliott Bay estuary of sand islands and tideflats. But before it coursed a mile south from Lake Washington, it was joined by the Cedar River at a confluence which was just a few yards north of what is now the Renton intersection of Rainier Ave. and Airport Way. The contemporary photograph shows the view north through that intersection.

The old Post Intelligencer’s caption for this photograph reads, “Black River, near Cedar River.” If the boaters were “near” to the south of the Cedar River, then they were close to the McDonald’s parking lot printed directly below. If, however, they were “near” to the north of that confluence, then they would be paddling in what is what is now the middle of the main runway of the Renton Airport.

As ever - Click to Enlarge

In 1912 the Cedar River was diverted into Lake Washington and four years later the Black River dried up when its source, the lake, was dropped nine feet with the opening of the Lake Washington Ship Canal. But before all that, this was the way “From Lake To Sound” and it was best done this way, in a canoe or shallow-bottomed rowboat.

And it took all day. As the text to the old photo feature explains, this group started after 11 a.m. and never made it. At 9 p.m., in the dark and exhausted, they stepped ashore at Georgetown, a few miles short of their goal, the Seattle waterfront. In 1906 the Duwamish River was not yet straightened into a waterway, and so ‘ still snaked its way through Georgetown, which it now misses by a mile.

Although the Black River is now lost for good, there is still satisfaction in having found this inviting photograph of it.  (And the two that follow.)

Another scene along the Black River. Photo by Boyd ca. 1890, earlier than the ca. 1911 also unidentified Black River scene printed directly below.



(First appeared in Pacific, 6/21/1987)

Any life-long local over the age of 60 [a quarter-century ago] will know that this is Lake Union. It’s not the shrouded horizon of Queen Anne Hill that gives this scene away, but the three rows of vessels silhouetted by the light scattering through an afternoon haze. Each of these classes of vessels evokes its own well-remembered historical romance.

First are the laid-up sailing ships on the right, the five-and six-masted lumber schooners and barkentines that after the 1917 opening of the Lake Washington Ship Canal regularly slipped into the fresh water Lake Union for a winter’s rest and cleansing. Sailing ships continued to use the lake far into the 1930s, although the 1932 completion of the Aurora Bridge limited passage to those whose masts could slip beneath the bridge’s steel trusses. Anchored side by side, these vessels inspired an annual poetics in the Seattle press. They were a “forest of masts,” “veterans of the seas,” “Seattle’s idle fleet of windjammers,” and towards the end, Seattle’s “warehouse of obsolete sailing ships awaiting refurbishing or destruction.” Usually the latter, they were burned for the little scrap metal they contained.

A second class of disposable ships that crowded the lake were the surplus wood freighters built on Puget Sound during and for the First World War, but never used. Tied side-to-side and bow-to-stem they were known locally as “Wilson’s Wood Row.”

In the foreground, forming this photograph’s third line of recollection, are the muscle-motivated, George Peacock-designed sculls from the University of Washington. The man in the hat standing, grading, and following in the powerboat is probably Coach Ulbrickson. This view is used courtesy of Jim Day, boat-builder and competitive sailor, whose father Herb Day, now deceased, is pulling in one of those crews. Annis Day, Jim’s mother, is confident that this scene was shot before the Aurora Bridge opened in 1932. Since the freshman Herb Day began his UW rowing in 1931, that must be the year of this view. And a very good year it was for the freshmen. Day’s crew started by beating the varsity crew, thereby winning the Seattle Times Trophy and ended it by winning the national championship in their class.

In 1932 Herb Day and a few other sophomores joined the varsity crew but, unfortunately, not the Olympics of that year, losing to the University of California in the trials.  However, in 1933 they rebounded, first defeating California by an “almost unbelievable 10-length margin” in the West Coast Regatta, and then Yale by eight feet, thereby winning the national championship. The returning champions were given a mid-day victory parade aboard flower-decorated floats through downtown.

On the last day of 1933, Ulbrickson lamented to the press, “We lose Polly Parrott, Herb Day and Herb Mjorud. They rowed in the waist of the shell. They were a combination a coach gets only once or twice in ten years.”  Ulbrickson’s second such combination came soon enough and included Herb Day’s brother James as part of the 1936 Varsity Crew that won the 1936 Berlin Olympics.



This photograph – it seems as much a painting – of two women relaxing in a forest of cedars and firs was found in a nearly century-old album of grainy and often faded prints. Luckily, this scene is captioned, “West Side, Lake Union.” The album includes another Lake Union view, and that second record is also dated 1887. Both prints were exposed on photographic paper of the same size, texture and weight, we may almost assume that the scene of the two women was and other were photographed during the same visit to the lake, which in 1887 would have been an adventure.. These may be the earliest close-up records of the lake, which the Indians and settlers, using the Chinook trade-talk, called Tenas Chuck, or Little Water, to distinguish is from the Big Water: Lake Washington.

Lake Union may be said to have two west sides – the greater and the lesser. The lesser is the shore that runs to the northeast from Gasworks Park along the channel that leads to the University District bridge and Portage Bay. I think it unlikely that the caption writer was referring to this short west side.  It would normally be considered part of the lake’s north side. The longer west side of the Lake extends from its southern end north below Queen Anne Hill to the Fremont Bridge, where, before the ship canal widened and straightened it, a stream joined the lake to Salmon Bay on Puget Sound. It seems likely that the photographer recorded this scene of lakeside repose close to that outlet. There, like in the photograph, the distance across the lake narrows. Lake Union also narrows some at its southern end, but by 1887 the Western Lumber Mill had already been manufacturing there for four years. The mill is not in the picture.

If these deductions are correct, then the two women are posing beside an old cedar near the point where Westlake A venue North now begins its long approach to the Fremont Bridge. Across the water is a district near the present Stone Way North that developed its own community called Edgewater. If we are right in that description then we can also come closer to dating the scene. If it had been photographed in the fall of 1887, the wooden trestle of the Seattle Lake Shore and Easter Railroad would be visible across the lake on its northern shore. The trestle was constructed during the summer of that year. With the railroad came the platting and settlement of Fremont, but the trestle is not there and neither is Fremont. Also, judging from the leafless twigs and the women’s wraps, the photo was taken either early or late in the year, which in this instance means, given the rest of the evidence, early in the year.

One can also see from the photo that the north shore has been cleared some of its timber, which was most likely directed towards the lake in its felling and then floated to the Western Mill at the lake’s southern end. It was a typical practice of most pioneer lumbering to take the easier shoreline timber first. By 1890 most of the forest on the far side would be cleared. But even with the clear-cutting an occasional tree would be left standing because it was irregular and difficult to mill. So the leaning, rough and, perhaps, crooked old cedar may have survived for a few more years – a hope we hold also for the two women.



We may expect that the sides of these two five-mast barkentines are painted some shade of forest green.  These and a third sister were raised together at Grays Harbor in 1919-1920.  Built for the offshore and coastal trade of the Forest Line, their names were Forest Pride, Forest Dream and Forest Friend.   The ship on the right is either the Pride or the Dream, for the other is surely the Friend; when magnified, the name appears on the starboard side.  Designed to carry lumber, they were 242 feet long and 44 feet wide.  In 1923- about the time this view of it was photographed – the Forest Friend was the first ocean vessel to reach the south end of Lake Washington when it loaded cargo at Taylor’s Mill near Renton.  This scene was photographed from the end of the Lake Union Cargo Co. dock where Westlake Ave. begins its last long section before reaching the Fremont Bridge (hidden here behind the barkentines); the Aurora Bridge is not yet in place.  When it was completed in 1932, ships as tall as these were not able to pass beneath it.



(First appeared in Pacific, July 15, 1992)

On March 25, 1931, after standing idle in Lake Union for three years, the Monongahela was towed to Eagle Harbor, its four masts slipping between the closing cantilevers of the Aurora Bridge. Built in Glasgow in 1892, it was named Balasore for the town beside the Bay of Bengal where British imperialism was introduced to India in the 17th century. The steel-hulled vessel was later sold to a German company and renamed the Dalbek. In 1914 the Dalbek was sent on a journey from which she did not return. Arriving on the Columbia River on Aug. 2, she was stranded there by the opening of World War I. In 1917, when the United States entered the war, she was seized for the U.S. Shipping Board, which ran her between San Francisco and Manila as the Monongahela.

When the Charles Nelson Company bought her in 1922, she was used at least once on the shipping firm’s intercoastal trade. It towed West Coast lumber to Florida and returned to San Francisco through the Panama Canal with sulfur from Galveston, Texas.

After ending a trip with lumber to Australia in 1928, the Monongahela was anchored in the southeast comer of Lake Union. It stayed there, in the early doldrums of the Great Depression, until it was forced out by the mounting obstruction of the Aurora Bridge. Eventually sold in bankruptcy to a Seattle company for $8,600, the Monongahela was towed from Eagle Harbor to Smith Cove. There it was converted to a barge and sold to the Kelly Logging Co. of Vancouver, B.C., where it survived for a few more years hauling logs before it was scrapped.


UNION BAY ca. 1909

When the University of Washington moved north in 1895 from downtown, the new site was commonly referred to as the Interlaken Campus.   Views such as this confirm the name.   Most likely this scene was photographed during or soon after the makeover of the campus for the 1909 Alaska Yukon Pacific Exposition (AYP).

With the campus to his or her back, the unnamed photographer looks southeast across Union Bay.  Madison Park is right-of-center, and Webster Point, the southern extremity of Laurelhurst, shows itself on the left just above the stairway that descends from the pedestrian trestle.   Between them we look across the main body of Lake Washington to an eastside waterfront softly filtered by a morning haze that hangs over the lake on what is otherwise a bright winter day.  This is Medina – or will be.  In 1909 there are as yet no palatial beach homes and/or bunkers to attract our modern flotilla of waterborne life-style hunters.

Lake Washington is here at its old level before it was slowly dropped nine feet between late August and mid-October 1916 for the opening of the Lake Washington Ship Canal.  At the old lake level the small unnamed island, right of center, was still separated from Foster Island, behind the screen of trees on the far right.  Now joined, they can be explored on the Arboretum Waterfront Self-guided Trail.

We might have wished that the photographer had shown more of the trestle.   It was mostly likely constructed for access to the shore groomed as a picturesque retreat for visitors to the AYP.   The construction of both peeled and unhewed logs repeats one of the Expo’s lesser architectural themes – the rustic one.  The trestle, of course, spans the old Seattle Lake Shore and Eastern – the railroad that opened up the hinterland of King County in the late 1880s.  It first reached this point beside Union Bay in the fall of 1887.

In 1916 Lake Washington was dropped nine feet and the campus waterfront on Union Bay has since been extended with fills and the construction of oversized sports facilities like the 1927 Hec Edmundson Pavilion and the 1920 Husky Stadium.  The timber trestle has also been replaced with a concrete one that passes over both the old Seattle Lake Shore and Eastern Railroad right-of-way (now a portion of the Burke-Gilman Recreation Trail) and Montlake Blvd. N.E.    (Historical pix. courtesy Michael Cirelli.)



(First appeared in Pacific, June 2, 2002)


This is surely the most intimate record of the locks on the old Montlake Log Canal that has ever been shared with me.  It is one part of a stereo recorded by Frank Harwood around 1907. When properly spied through stereoscope optics, the floating logs in the foreground of the original actually seem to be wonderfully in the foreground. With this third dimension, the logger near the locks’ guillotine gate needs considerably more skill to ride his log.

Like the Indians before him, Harvey Pike first saw the importance of this isthmus as a low and short portage between Lake Union’s Portage Bay and Union Bay on Lake Washington. He was paid with this land for painting the original University of Washington building in 1861. Pike platted and named his prize Union City, and soon he also began excavating a ditch for moving logs. The big lake was then ordinarily around 9 feet higher than the small. Predictably, Pike soon gave up this digging. Still, he kept an eye open for opportunities, and in 1871 transferred his deed to Californians with deeper pockets. They laid a narrow-gauge railroad tracks across the isthmus. Between 1872 and ’78, these rails carried cars filled with the black gold of Newcastle.  In those years coal, not lumber, was Seattle’s principal export.   For pulling the coal cars across the isthmus the coal company employed the cattle of the Brownfield family, and their sons to guide them.  The Brownfields were the first farmers to homestead the future University District.

IN 1878, the coal company abandoned this Lake Union route for a more direct route around the south end of Lake Washington to the Seattle waterfront.  Next, the Montlake Isthmus was at last channeled for logs in 1883 by Chinese laborers. This guillotine lock was built near the Portage Bay end of the cut, within a frog jump of the University of Washington’s row of odd-shaped fish hatcheries set today beside Highway 520. (And when we can find our picture of the hatcheries we will put it up.)

An early recording of the log canal with Webster Point left of center on the Laurelhurst horizon, and some of Foster Island (I believe), taken perhaps from a small bridge that spanned the ditch. Compare this "original size" log canal with the same but greatly enlarge ditch featured next with the canoes. The bridge is bigger too - and swinging. (Courtesy, Museum of History and Industry)


The Latona Boat House photogaphed from the Latona Bridge, ca. 1911. Since 1961 the I-5 Lake Washington Ship Canal Bridge passes directly overhead.


(First appeared in Pacific, Oct. 6, 1996)

This view is a one-of-a-kind record of the Latona waterfront, circa 1911, or at least that part of it east of the Latona Bridge, from which it was photographed.

This captioned commercial view was included in a packet of snapshots, postmarked 1911, which depicted a summer day of canoeing and courting – judging from the messages written on their flip side – on Lake Union, Portage Bay and through the old Montlake log canal. The speculation is that the couple’s canoe was rented from the Latona Boat House.

In 1911 Orick and Florence Huntosh were proprietors there. The listing from the city directory that year reads in part, “Fishing boats and tackle in season, storage and boats to let, Latona Station, 651 Northlake Ave, Phone No. 148.”

Other landmarks include the faded roof line of the University of Washington’s Parrington Hall (upper right), and the Cascade Coal Company’s bunkers and spur (upper left) off the Seattle Lake Shore and Eastern Railroad (Burke-Gilman Trail) right-of-way. Cutting through most of the view, the black line of the city water department’s 32-inch wood-stave pipeline completes its bridging of Portage Bay and goes underground again at Seventh Avenue Northeast.   We will insert here another look at the pipeline and also from the Latona Bridge.

By 1911 it was known that both the trolley and pipeline bridges would need to be removed for the Lake Washington Ship Canal. In 1912 water superintendent L.B. Youngs recommended that a tunnel replace the pipeline bridge – one big enough to also carry streetcar lines and other traffic. Young’s ambitious solution to cross-canal traffic would have precluded the need for countless motorists to wait on the University Bridge, since it replaced the Latona Bridge in 1919. Three years earlier, the water department’s tunnel carrying a 42-inch steel pipe replaced the old timber trestle seen, in part, here as well.

Struggling with the canoe on the widened Montlake cut. The new water gate to Lake Washington is evident below the suspension bridge.

"Daring Kids" still struggling with the canoe. This looks west into Portage Bay.
Back in Latona and looking east along the north shore of Lake Union, past the Wayland Mill (now the site of Ivar's Salmon House) to the University Birdge. The date is circa 1925. On the right horizon the steel frame for the Suzzallo Library on the U.W. Campus is up. The steel tower the escapes the frame at the top carries power to Seattle from City Lights then new Gorge Dam on the Skagit River. The power was turned on - by wire and Calvin Coolidge from Washington D.C. - in September, 1924.
Still in Latona but not with the missing steamer Latona - rather the missing Kalakala.




2 thoughts on “Seattle Now & Then: 'Cyrene' not 'Latona'”

  1. Hey the Cyrene was pretty obviously the boat shown. Researching same from my extensive files downstairs more to follow. You could have asked

  2. City of Latona, length sixty feet, beam twelve feet was smaller than the Cyrene at seventy five feet (before 1903 rebuild to 100 feet). Discrepancy: the name of the lake boat was City of Latona, or Latona? At one point a MF Kunkler owned the City of Latona. Anybody bothered to check the US records? BP Kunkler of Bainbridge was a major player in NW steamboating. Also, I see reports that the Latona worked on Lake Washington. Kunkler established the first shipyard in Eagle Harbor perhaps 1888. I am sure he was the owner operator of the Latona early on. More to follow.

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