Seattle Confidential – Early Maps

A few years back we published this early "found" map of Africa on this blog - or rather the first run of this blog, all of which was lost in one of those ineffable digital snafu's that tests one's virtual composure. Although we lost the insertions we still have the raw materials - when we remember what they were - including this map of what was once commonly referred to as the "dark continent" and actually seemed darker on the window-shade map of the world that was attached at the top of the blackboard in primary school. Now we pull on a few more maps - early ones - beginning with a really primitive map of Washington State, (also found while picking) followed by another state map, also an early one: the map prepared by Washington Territory's first governor, Isaac Stevens in 1855. It is survey map - his assignment from the other Washington.

The mountains - Cascades and Olympics - are mere impressions in this 1855 map, but the waterways are almost faithful. The pioneers, of course kept close to the waterways. Most importantly, Stevens map shows the first efforts of surveying the land into claimable and taxable real estate. That work extends here north out of Oregon and thru what is now the 1-5 north-south corridor of Washington's denser populations.

Above, are three of the earliest maps of Seattle, and at the bottom is its first real estate map, showing the sectioned fruit of the towns 1853 survey, its first additions on which Arthur Denny, Carson Boren and David “Doc.” Maynard expected to sell lots – and did.    The above maps all put east at the top.  The top one dates from the 1841 navy survey of Puget Sound, and includes a peninsula, Piner’s point, which when the tides were high and the wind strong out of the west could become an island.  It covers an area that now extends from about one-half block south of Yesler Way to King Street, and from the Alaskan Way Viaduct (for a while yet) to some little ways east of Occidental Ave.  The tides then also splashed against Beacon Hill.   The middle map above dates from 1854, and is the fruit of another federal survey.  It includes a few marks for buildings, but none yet for blockhouses.  Those troubles came a year later.  The bottom of the three maps dates from the mid-1870s and shows as yet no King Street coal wharf.  That was built in 1877.   The 1870s map also features topo lines.  This last map (of the three) marks Mill Street – later renamed Yesler Way – and that line can help one get oriented with the two earlier maps above it.

Finally, and again, the map below is a rationalization of land as marketable.  And they didn’t even own it.

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