Seattle Now & Then: Coming Home to Riverside

(click to enlarge photo)

THEN: Propping the game’s head on the erect barrel of his rifle, Riverside resident John Edgar Vincent poses with his fall quarry, circa 1946. (Courtesy of Hazel Vincent)
NOW: Reared in the Riverside neighborhood, Jerry Vandenberg, returns to the Vincent driveway to repeat the Vincent family snapshot about 65 years later. The top of the closed railroad bascule bridge on the Duwamish Waterway is evident on the left of both scenes.

As Barbara Vincent Johnson remembers it, her older sister Hazel Vincent Munro excitedly snapped this askew picture of their father John Edgar Vincent soon after he returned from a hunting trip to the Okanogan around 1946.   Her machinist dad and her younger brother “drove at night to keep the meat cool.  The catch was butchered on the oak table in the family dining room, wrapped and then sped to a cold storage on the waterfront below the Pike Place Market.”  For the Vincent family, deer was the “meat of necessity,” along with backyard chickens that were no longer laying eggs.  Okanogan venison was especially sweet, their dad explained, because the deer there dined on apples and grain.

The Vincent family lived in Riverside, one of the Seattle neighborhoods uniquely shaped by the city’s hills and waterways.  Riverside is nestled – or squeezed – between the Duwamish River, at its mouth, on the east and Pigeon Point on the west.  It is small and depending on how you wrap them shaped something like a bouquet of long-stemmed flowers.  It comes to a point at its north end, where since 1983 it is hidden below the high bridge to West Seattle.

Next Saturday, January 28, at noon, representatives of the Vincent family and about 60 other historical Riverside families will be “Coming Home to Riverside.”  It is a memorial celebration about five years in the making, thanks in large measure to Frank Zuvela, the Budinich family that donated the triangular lot (like the neighborhood), brothers Jerry and Ron Vandenberg, who built there the Riverside Plaza, a monument to the neighborhood and its families.

Jerry Vandenberg standing amongst the pavers, engraved with family names

Frank Zuvela is now 89 but vigorous enough to lead yearly walking tours of the neighborhood.  His family arrived at the mouth of the Duwamish in 1904.  Like the majority of Riverside’s fishermen families, his forebears came from Croatia.  Many owned fishing boats, moored them on the river, and hired Croatian crews from, yes, Riverside.  It was a very organic and helping neighborhood even for those like the Vandenberg brothers whose family was Dutch.

With multi-colored commemorative tiles for both families and home sites that are faithfully arranged to repeat the patterns of the neighborhood, this Riverside creation is better visited than described.  You may find it at next Saturday’s dedication – co-sponsored by the Southwest Seattle Historical Society – where Marginal Pl. Southwest meets West Marginal Way Southwest.


Here’s another shot of Jerry, posed above the Vandenberg paving stone.

Jerry's childhood home was on the side of the hill above his right shoulder

Anything to add, Paul?  Sure Jean, and we will begin with the “other” photo from the same driveway, or very near it, where John Edgar Vincent stands with his catch propped by the barrel of the rifle that felled it.  Here’s John Edge Vincent’s daughter Barbara Vincent Johnson, who has told us that she was standing near the spot her dad stood, although not on it, and on a different day.   You noted that when Jerry Vandenberg visited the site with you for the “now” he pointed out that the same house appears in the shots of both the “dears” as you so cleverly punned it.  So here is Barbara with whom I had a long and delightful telephone conversation when researching this story.


The feature that follows is “about” the photograph shown above, which I copied from a print.  In 1978 or thereabouts I went through all the Engineering Department’s (city of) nitrate negatives, pulling the bad ones.  I found among them the negative for the 1918 Riverside scene above.  It  had  gone the way of all nitrate – eventually.  It is sort of explosive too. Indeed there is a law against having nitrate film in the city.  On that prohibition I once spent a week in the basement of the Whatcom Museum in Bellingham going through thousands of feet of nitrate film of the northwest filmed by Pathe Newsreel Photographer Will Hudson.  I could not do the work in Seattle – by law. My selections were transferred to safety film.


We will grab a page from "Seattle Now and Then, Volume One" to show that we used a different title there, and also to share the "now" that appeared first in Pacific.
Photographed the same Feb.27, 1918 as the view above it, here the business heart of Riverside is not obscured by the trolley. (Courtesy Municipal Archives)


(First appeared in Pacific, Dec. 18, 1983)

The contemporary photograph was shot at 11:30 in the morning of November 10, 1983. At that moment 140 feet overhead, the inaugural ribbon was being cut atop the new high bridge to West Seattle. And through the opening rushed the storm-tossed music of the Sealth High School Band, the wind-lifted cheers of West Seattle boosters in their red and white Hi-Yu uniforms, and the “ultimate solution” to 132 years (less about 68 hours) of the often frustrating task of getting to and from West Seattle. (This problem could be said to have begun in the early morning of November 13, 1851 with the landing of the Denny, Boren, and Low families at Alki Point.

This high bridge (the western approach cuts across the top of the “now” scene) is the most recent of six bridges that have crossed the Duwamish here at Spokane Street. The historical scene was photographed from near the western end of the second bridge (and the “now” takes the same line of site). Designed in 1910 and built shortly thereafter, it was given no name but “temporary” in the engineering department’s original plans. All of the first five bridges were, obviously, temporary, and it’s both an engineering and philosophical certainty that the sixth will also be.

This detail from the 1918 Kroll Map shows the swingbridge turning Spokane Street to make a shorter span across the West Waterway. We put the red arrow beside it not to suggest that it was a one-way bridge.

The first bridge was simply a swinging gate in the long viaduct built about 1900 along the future line of Spokane Street from Beacon Hill to Pigeon Point. It crossed above the tideflats and shifting sand islands that irregularly formed the Duwamish River’s estuary into Elliott Bay.  (The Spokane Street trestle as seen from Beacon Hill is included in another feature included here below.)  Grand plans to build the “world’s largest man-made Island, Harbor Island” and dredge a wider, deeper, and straighter Duwamish resulted in Temporary Bridge No.2 – the one pictured.

Bridge 2 was a swinging bridge. It opened to commerce on the West Waterway by pivoting on a central turntable. But in doing so it also shut off the water supply to West Seattle. The pipes are evident to either side of the roadway. Thus, bathing West Seattle citizens understood that when the bridge was closed, they would temporarily suffer for the long good of Duwamish Valley commerce.

A public works department sketch from Jan. 1, 1917 shows the line of what we call "Bridge #2" on the top and below and paralleling it the plans for "Bridge #3." The next photo below shows Bridge #3 next to Bridge #4, the first of the two Bascules. (Again the red additions are our own. "3." refers to the line of Spokane Street.)

Partly hidden behind streetcar 689 is the sometimes-rowdy barroom business district of Riverside. The ridge behind it is Pigeon Point. Knowing the date of this scene, February 27, 1918, we also know that its rural qualities are deceptive. Directly behind the engineering department photographer, things are quite frantic. There on Harbor Island the largest government contracts in the region’s history were financing the construction of thousands of WWI steel-hulled ships.

After "bridge No. 3" on the right was replace for motor traffic with the first bascule bridge, on the left, No. 3 continued to be used for trolleys. That stor is told below with the feature titled "Shoe Fly."
Swing Bridge #3 seen from the Riverside side of Bridge #2 on Feb. 1, 1918.

Looking west to Riverside and in line with "temporary" Bridge #3 on April 12, 1923.
The third bridge was much like the second only a little higher and longer. It too swiveled for ships (but no longer carried West Seattle water) and was also labeled on its 1917 plans “temporary” as well.





Looking east from Pigeon Point towards construction work on the second or south bascule bridge (our "Bridge #5) on Spokane Street and over the West Waterway. The date is July 11, 1929. The railroad bridge, on the far right, still stands. Jean's up-close look at it is printed near the bottom of this contribution.

On November 30, 1924, a Miss Sylvia Tell led a group of interpretive dancers from Cornish Arts School to the top of the then brand new steel bascule bridge for some christening choreography. The crowd expected for the official December 21st dedication was more than the bridge could handle, so the entire show was first broadcast the night before on Radio KFOA. The ceremony, both in the studio and on the bridge, was a mix of inspirational music, including a rousing rendition of “Ole South” by the West Seattle Community Orchestra and, of course, speeches. That was bridge number four, although it was named Bridge No. 1 to indicate its hoped-for permanence. Its other name, ” North Bridge” declared that it was only half the story. Within five years Bridge No.2, the South Bridge, was alongside it.

Side by side for the next 48 years, they acted permanent until that lucky morning of June 11, 1978 when local hero-scapegoat, Captain Rolf Neslund, ploughed his gypsum ship, Chavez, into Bridge No. 1 and made it temporary too. Now a ride to West Seattle atop Bridge 6 has the high altitude ease of Cloud Nine. This is the kind of trip that is next to eternity.


Lawton Gowey, who shared this image with us, captions it "W. Spokane Street from Riverside." We are using it for itself but also as a substitute for the image used in Pacific to cover the text below. When we find it, we will attach it. Tis looks west with Pigeon Point behind Hotel West.
Lawton Gowey's recording of the West Hotel in Riverside with the flyover on May 30, 1968.
Jean's record of what now covers Riverside's old commercial strip at the west end of the bridge.


On April 12, 1923, with his or her back to the West Waterway a municipal photographer recorded this look west into the West Hotel anchored business district at the north end of Riverside.


(First appeared in Pacific, July 28, 1991)

Squeezed between the west bank of the Duwamish River and the steep eastern side of Pigeon Point, the business heart of the Riverside community was once the junction for the streetcar lines that branched to Alki Point, California Avenue, Fauntleroy and Lake Burien. The “then” photographer stood on or near the timber approach to a temporary bridge that once crossed the Duwamish at Spokane Street. Dated April 12, 1923, the scene was recorded more than a year before the first of West Seattle’s two bridges was dedicated.

This subject looks back from west to east thru the Riverside businesses greeting the traffic off the bridges. The bridges showing here, left of center, are the railroad bridge and what we are calling "Bridge #3." Courtesy, Lawton Gowey

Riverside had a collection of storefronts and the Riverside Restaurant. Next to the trolley transfer station was a soda fountain and adjoining waiting room for riders. The Hotel West, the strip’s dominant structure, was used mostly by single men who worked in the sawmills and canneries nearby. The Duwamish was first spanned at Spokane Street in 1902, and the bridges that followed were all necks to an urban hourglass through which traffic moved between Seattle and West Seattle. When the first streetcar lines crossed the bridge in 1907, Riverside was enlivened, and the neighborhood’s vitality was given an old-world charm by its large community of immigrants, many of them Yugoslavians.       Riverside’s business fortunes were largely dependent on its role as a junction – a function that was first seriously eroded by the cessation of the city’s trolleys in 1939 and later by the steady conversion of Spokane Street into an elevated speedway. The 1965 opening of the Fauntleroy Expressway, which moved traffic above and by Riverside, was protested by the community for its combined effects on their businesses, their access to the city’s transit and their view of the city across Harbor Island. In the early 1980s most of the site of Riverside’s old business strip was finally surrendered to the high-level West Seattle Bridge.

Hotel West and part of the north end of the Riverside business district appears on the left of this look across the West Waterway during the construction of the first bascule bridge. The Municipal Archive photo is dated April 12, 1923. Again, the West Seattle ridge is on the right horizon and Pigeon Point on the left.



(First appeared in Pacific, April 19, 1987)

One might call this scene “crossing the T’s.” In the historical view, taken circa 1906, two timber-trestle streets intersect. Looking west from Beacon Hill, we see the trestle built above the tide flats south of Pioneer Square on Grant Street, now called Airport Way, running parallel to the tideland shore. If you follow the second trestle, Spokane Street, it leads to the dark peninsula in West Seattle called Pigeon Point.

The first West Seattle bridge across the Duwamish River’s main channel is half hidden behind the screen of steam escaping the engine on the distant track that runs parallel to Spokane Street.

The original negative is part of the Webster & Steven Collection at the Museum of History and Industry. Perhaps the commercial W&S studios photographed this scene for Emmett Nist. That’s his Seattle Tacoma Box Co. sitting on pilings in the center of the photo. The Nist company moved to 401 Spokane Street from its Lake Union plant around 1900 and stayed until 1975, when its Seattle and Tacoma divisions joined in Kent.  The old tidelands site at Fourth Ave. South and Spokane Street is now a City Light lot.

Another trestle on Spokane Street although a later one. This subject looks east from the bridge toward Beacon Hill. (Courtesy Lawton Gowey)



(First appeared in Pacific, June 16, 1996)

On June 27, 1907 the new and larger ferry West Seattle took the place of Puget Sound’s first ferry, the City of Seattle, for the short hauls across Elliott Bay between the Seattle and West Seattle waterfronts. This was one of several developments that summer that drew these neighborhoods together. Two days later, in a weekend election, the citizens of West Seattle voted for annexation to Seattle. Then came the opening of Luna Park, a gaudy illuminated pier at Duwamish Head, with sideshows, exhilarating rides, an indoor natatorium and “the longest bar in the West.” Yet it was the opening of trolley service to West Seattle over the Spokane Street Bridge that would steal away the new ferry’s passengers and dissipate the commercial joy of its first summer. Purchased by the Port of Seattle in 1913, the West Seattle ferry continued to lose money. Eventually it was given to King County, which leased it to the Kitsap County Transportation Company as a relief ferry on its Vashon Heights run.

This scene is part of a stereograph photographed by Capitol Hill resident Frank Harwood in 1908 or ’09. Its other endearing quality is the confrontation between the prop wash of the ferry as it leaves its slip at Marion Street and the audacious rowboat heading into it.

The West Seattle Ferry dock on Harbor Ave. during the 1916 snow.
From bottom to top: Harbor Avenue, the West Seattle ferry terminal with the West Seattle Ferry in its slip; the Seattle Yacht Club; Novelty Mill (some of the pilings are still used for Salty's); Pigeon Point (upper right) and, it seems, the earliest of West Seattle Bridges on Spokane Street, circa 1907.
Approaching the its Seattle waterfront slip at the foot of Marion Street and hand-colored by Robert Bradley.

At 328 feet, the modern-day ferry Chelan is more than twice the length of the 145-foot West Seattle. One of the “Issaquah class” ferries constructed for the state in the early 1980s, the Chelan and its five sisters were plagued by glitches in their innovative computer controls. Since their overhaul in the late ’80s, however, the Chelan and the rest have been the reliable mainstays of the system. Smaller than either the jumbo or super ferries, they are able, with the help of variable-pitch props, to quickly pull in, unload, reload and pull out.



(First appeared in Pacific, Dec. 4, 1994)

Side by side for nearly a half-century, the bascule bridges across the west waterway of the Duwamish River opened for shipping and closed for West Seattle commuters. The steel-and-concrete twins were favorite subjects for photographers and the occasional painter, though they were rarely depicted from between them, as shown here.  The painting by Takiuchi Fujii dates from the 1930s. The bridge’s monumental forms are made intimate by the artist’s rendering, which is at once tender and confident.   The Seattle Public Works photograph is dated Feb. 8, 1933.

Fujii’s canvas is one of 40 paintings and photographs included in the exhibit “They Painted From Their Hearts: Pioneer Asian-American Artists” showing at Wing Luke Museum through Jan. 15. [A reminder that this dates from 1994.]  Many of the 18 artists included, such as sculptor George Tsutakawa, painter Paul Horiuchi and photographer Johsel Namkung, are widely known and collected. But not Takiuchi Fujii.

In the early 1930s Fujii and his wife operated a flower stand near Providence Hospital. They had two daughters. In his prime, Fujii was well-known among local artists and was a member of the Group of Twelve, artists who met, exhibited and published together. He was especially close to Kamekichi Tokita, another member of the group, and the two would trek about the city sketching and painting. They were almost certainly painting together when Fujii made this rendering of the bridges.  A canvas of this subject from this perspective was painted by Tokita and is part of the Wing Luke Museum’s permanent collection.

Mayumi Tsutakawa, the show’s curator and the sculptor’s daughter, says Fujii appears to have taken his internment at Minidoka Relocation Camp in Hunt, Idaho, very hard. Allowed to take only what he could carry, the 50-year-old artist may well have left his easel and oils behind, and certainly his paintings. Fujii was later described by friends to have fallen into a deep depression, and at war’s end he moved to Chicago. After the war Fujii wrote a few letters to his friend George Tsutakawa, but nothing since is apparently known of his fate.

Fujii’s canvas – and six others, including a self-portrait – survive by the good fortune of being discovered recently, lying bound beneath a dealer’s table at a local swap meet, by Seattle artist – and a sensitive collector too – Dan Eskenazi, who learned that the seller had purchased them at another flea market.

The two bascules side-by-side spied from the Pigeon Point greenbelt. (Courtesy, Ron Edge)



(First appeared in Pacific on Aug. 7, 2005)

The modern squabbling over monorails and other rapid-transit fixes is prefigured by the politics that built the wooden trestle shown here. Three mayors – Gill, Hanson, and Fitzgerald – suffered from it, and the Whatcom Avenue Elevated ran for just 10 years.

After the U.S. entered World War I in 1917 and Seattle’s shipyards began getting big orders, the Emergency Fleet Corp. let Mayor Hi Gill understand that Seattle had better figure out its woeful transportation problems or it would get no more munitions money. Gill agreed to this “Whatcom Avenue Elevated” (Whatcom was later renamed East Marginal Way) to speed the workers to the yards south of Pioneer Square.

Looking north on the elevated with his or her back to the curve at Spokane Street on Oct. 1, 1919, less than a month since the line first opened on the 4th of September.

The problem was that when the line opened on Sept. 4, 1919, the armistice was nearly 10 months past and the shipyards were ghost yards. Seattle was then burdened with another responsibility: the vastly overpriced trolley system that the city purchased from its private owners. The sellers had gotten Gill’s successor, the gregarious Ole Hanson, to pay $15 million for a system worth $5 million. Hanson held on for a year, then resigned and left town. His successor, C.B. Fitzgerald, proposed a subway system and was soon voted away.

The viaduct in its last weeks in 1929 where it took is exciting turn from Marginal Way to Spokane Street.
Looking west on Spokane Street from First Ave. S. Feb. 20, 1929. The curving trestle where it turns from W.Marginal Way to Spokane Street can be seen in the distance. (Courtesy Lawton Gowey)
W. Spokane Street looking west from First Ave. s., like the subject next above it, but from a few months later, Sept. 7, 1929, time enough to begin construction of a timber trestle on Spokane Street, at the scene's center.


For nearly three years, West Seattle-bound trolleys were routed over the first of the West Seattle bascule bridges: the “North Bridge. ” The “Shoe Fly” (the curving contraption on the right) carried the streetcars to the level of the bridge. The contemporary photos were taken from the 1991 swing bridge that replaced the north bascule after the old bridge was knocked from service when a freighter rammed it in 1978. The “High Bridge” on the right was completed in 1984.


(First appeared in Pacific, Sept. 19, 2004)

They call it the “Shoe Fly,” and for the nearly three years that it routed streetcars onto the first of the West Seattle bascule bridges (the north one) it was famous for its cheap thrills and intimations of disaster. When the temporary wooden trestle opened in the winter of 1928, West Seattle resident Aura May Mitchell described the thrills in a poem published in her neighborhood newspaper, the Herald: “It twists, and it turns, and it groans, and it cracks,” the poem said. “The strain is most awful! A climbing those tracks.”

The rough exposure of this image is the result of the again in or on its nitrate emulsion.

Many years later, in his book Digressions of a Native Son, Emmett Watson recalled the Shoe Fly and the rest of the trestle. “The way you got to First Avenue from West Seattle was by thumb or streetcar, those rattling old orange things. They clanked and swayed over an incredible old wooden trestle, high above Spokane Street, weaving and shaking until you had to close your eyes to keep from getting a headache.”

An orange trolley somewhere in West Seattle or on its way to or from it, probably from the late 1930s before they were scrapped.

When it was completed in 1924 the bascule bridge was for auto traffic only. The municipal streetcars continued to use a swing bridge that crossed the West Waterway a few hundred feet south of the new steel teeter-totter bridge. However, after it was determined that the pilings for the swing bridge were honeycombed with bore holes compliments of teredo worms, Mayor Bertha Landes closed it down, and the trolley service to West Seattle was cut off. For the few weeks needed to build the Shoe Fly, trolley riders were required to walk across the bascule bridge to board streetcars on the opposite side.

Chilly bridge work on the West Waterfront dated December 1922. Beyond is the swing bridge, (our Bridge #3) which was used exclusively for trolleys once the first bascule was completed.

The Shoe Fly arrangement lasted until the twin West Seattle Bascule Bridge opened Sept. 30, 1930. Thereafter, westbound trolleys used one bridge, eastbound trolleys, the other. And the thrill was gone.



(First appeared in Pacific, Oct. 2, 1994)

One of the most common recollections of Seattle’s “old timers” – anyone active here before the Second World War [I may need to adjust this qualification since 18  years have passed since this first published.] – is the elevated trolley ride along the Spokane Street viaduct and its old bascule bridges to West Seattle.

That the experience of riding the rumbling and swaying electric cars along the exposed wooden trestle could be more than thrilling is proved in this view of the worst street-car wreck in Seattle history. At about 7:30 on the Friday morning of Jan. 8, 1937, with its air-brakes frozen open, car 671 inbound on the Fauntleroy line lost control as it descended 30th Avenue Southwest and flipped to its side where the track curved sharply onto Spokane ‘Street. Derailments on this old system were not that uncommon and flips not unprecedented. Upended, car 671 did not skid to a grinding stop, however, but collided suddenly with a concrete pillar.

The afternoon Seattle Times listed the dead – Lee Bow, a 50-year-old city fireman, and William Court, a 39-year-old-mechanic – and the 60 West Seattle commuters who were injured with breaks, bruises and lacerations. Of these, one died the next day.

The derailment might have been even more deadly. The pillar that injured some might have saved others when it· prevented the car from falling to the railroad tracks below, the lowest level of this three-tier grade separation at the western end of Spokane Street.

This catastrophe became an anxious symbol for the entire municipally owned trolley system that was in physical, fiscal and political tatters. The coincidence of this tragedy with the campaign to tear up city-wide the system’s rails aroused the hysterical rumor that this wreck and others were planned by those who favored gas engines and rubber tires over electric motors and trolley tracks.

[We will show next a few looks at this tragic intersection through it’s life – with little comment or captioning.]

Looking in line with Spokane Street east to Pigeon Point. Seattle Steel at Youngstown is far right.
Dated, June 13, 1929
June 26, 1929
Circa 1930, the corner begins to take the shape it held for the 1937 crash.

On his May 30, 1968 tour of West Seattle sites for "repeats" of historical views he had collected, Lawton Gowey included the intersection of Avalon Ave. and S.W. Spokane St.




(First appeared in Pacific, 2-15-1998)

The architectural footprint of the Star Foundry, according to the 1912 Baist Real Estate Atlas, faced what were still the tidelands north of Spokane Street. The actual address is 2111 W. Spokane St., a site now part of what may be Seattle’s most confounding intersection: where industrial traffic from Harbor Island, Delridge Way, Admiral Way and Terminal 5 converge beneath the high bridge to West Seattle.

In the older view, the greenbelt of Pigeon Point ascends behind the foundry through property owned, the Baist map says, by Timmerman and Westerman. At what was then still a bulge in Spokane Street, the Star Foundry was on the cusp between two historical neighborhoods, Riverside to the southeast and Youngstown to the southwest. Timmerman and Westerman were foundry men but not at the Star Foundry in 1912. Clyde Dodds, the Star’s proprietor in 1911, was probably also around a year later, offering – as the sign reveals -an impressive array of services in phosphor, aluminum, brass, bronze and, no doubt, iron. The boxes piled in front and the side were used in forming molds.

In 1918 the Star was purchased by German immigrant and foundry molder Wilhelm Jensen. His son, William Frank Jensen, ran the foundry, as did his son, William F. jr., and grandson, Frank Wayne Jensen, who worked for metallurgist Bill Gibbs. Gibbs leased the Star from the Jensens in 1972 and then purchased and renamed it the North Star. At its present south Seattle location (3901 Ninth Ave. S.W.), the North Star works in steel, casting specialized trailer hitches, railroad switches and other railroad crossing parts. Gibbs, with others, is gathering stories and materials for a history of Seattle’s foundries; he can be reached at 206-622-0068.  [A reminder that this story was first printed 14 years ago.  I think that the Foundry book was either recently published of hoped to be.]



(Feature first appeared in Pacific, August 29, 1993)

When City Architect Daniel Huntington’s Fire Station 36 was opened Jan. 15, 1919, it was the smallest facility in the department, but a Spanish jewel. The view of it here with the engine was probably photographed in the summer of its first year. The station’s staff of five poses with their brand new American La France pumper, engine 10.

Station 36 was only the city’s second built exclusively for motor apparatus. This view of it looks east from 23rd Avenue Southwest toward the north end of Pigeon Point, the ridge, that divides West Marginal Way from Delridge Way Southwest.

Station 36 covered Harbor Island and West Seattle’s burgeoning industrial district south of Spokane Street, now the site of Salmon Bay Steel.  The station was built on fill above the tideflats that once made Pigeon Point a peninsula beside the Duwamish River’s estuary. {In the “now” when we find it, the Kenworth wagon at Station 36 barely fit its tiny quarters and crews often found it more comfortable to walk the rig’s tailboard to move from the watch office (here on the left) to the officer’s room at the rear of the station’s garage.

West Seattle fireman John Buckley came to this station in 1947 and stayed until retirement in 1971, the year the landmark was razed. Buckley remembers that one of the last big fires it fought was first sighted from the station itself. “The whole neighborhood was red” when the West Waterway Mill across Spokane Street caught fire and burned to the ground.

The new Station 36 is larger, but undistinguished. Even its size was cut back in 1984, when the station lost its wings to ramps for the new West Seattle bridge. One local example of Huntington’s Mediterranean motifs does survive: his library in Fremont, which opened in 1921.

Here we have found the "now" that appeared originally with the feature on Station #36 when it first appeared years ago.

Here follows three photographs shared by Lawton Gowey, who also took the two Kodachromes in 1968.

Fire Station #36 with the Youngstown Viaduct on Nov. 5, 1930.
Lawton Gowey's repeat of the 1930 subject with his own on May 30, 1968.
Lawton Gowey looks around the corner "n.e. at 23rd. S.W. to W.Spokane toward Chelan Ave. May 30, 1968" is how Lawton captioned it.



(First appeared in Pacific, March 30, 1997)

Seattle’s municipal power utility opened its South End service center on Spokane Street in 1926 – the year of this photograph – on land recently reclaimed from the tides. Seattle architect J.L. McCauley’s public building was not only functional but attractive. As the historical scene reveals, the restrained ornament used in the service center’s concrete forms has been enhanced with a skillful wrapping of the building in a skin of stucco and off-white plaster.

Signs for the structure’s principal roles -warehouse and shops – adorn its major division, to the sides of a slightly off-center tower where “City Light” is tastefully embossed on the arch just beneath its flag pole. The name is promoted twice on the roof, with block letters about nine feet high illuminated at night with about 400 bulbs for each spelling of CITY LIGHT.

The building survives, although its north wall facing Spokane Street was hidden in the 1960s by the textured concrete panels evident in the “now” scene. [When we find it.]  A new north wall is in the works.  It will show off to visitors and Spokane Street traffic a curvilinear facade ornamented with public art made from recycled glass. Inside, a two-story skylit atrium will repeat the roof forms incorporated in the building’s original design. This sawtooth roof, which runs nearly the length of the center’s west (right) wall above the shops, is to these eyes the historical plant’s strongest architectural feature.

The electrically roaring twenties were a decade of endless tests for City Light, as it developed the first of the Skagit River’s generators, Gorge Dam, and fought a service war with Puget Power when competing lines for the public and private utilities were still duplicated throughout the city’s streets.



(First appeared in Pacific, June 1, 2003)

Here is a Seattle sesquicentennial puzzle for “Now & Then” readers: What do the initials “SWSHSBSLHM” mean? The answer will be revealed for those who continue (or jump) to the end of this feature on what – its graduates claim – is the high school with the largest alumni association in the country. There are about 18,000 with confirmed addresses, and many will be attending the All School Reunion on Friday. A record turnout is expected because this is the first reunion since the school was reopened.  [A reminder – this was first published in 2003.]

This week’s comparison reveals that the two-year renovation of West Seattle High School under the supervision of architect Marilyn Brockman was also a restoration. Besides the landscaping, little has changed between the 1937 scene and the “now” view that West Seattle historian Clay Eals photographed. The observant reader might notice that the cupola is different. A 1983 fire burned a hole in the roof, and the original cupola went with it. The new cupola was built to the full size – 6 feet taller – described in the original architect Edgar Blair’s blueprints but not followed in the first construction.

West Seattle High School opened in 1917 to about 400 students, most of whom were girls because many of the boys were either enlistees or working in the mobilization for America’s entry into World War I.

The stories of the West Seattle Indians (this past April renamed the Wildcats) will continue to be told after Friday’s reunion with cherished artifacts, ephemera and photographs in the new exhibit “Rich Traditions” just mounted at the Southwest Seattle Historical Society’s Birthplace of Seattle Log House Museum. And that is SWSHSBSLHM for short. The address is 3003 61st Ave. S.W. Call 206-938-5293 for times.

This is but one of a few hundred negatives I acquired in a garage sale all of whose subjects were of student life at West Seattle High, sometime in the 1970s, if memory serves. I remember scanning at least a dozen of them, but this is the only one that came forward with my first search. There are no captions for them. We may wonder is this table in a lab, home room, or school kitchen?


CLICK TWICE to ENLARGE - We pulled this detail from an aerial taken looking northwest into Seattle from somewhere above Tukwila. The surviving greenbelts of Pigeon Point and West Seattle can be found. The I-5 Freeway is under construction.

(CLICK TWICE to enlarge)   This two part pan looks northeast into the city from a place on Pigeon Point that is a few blocks south of the point itself.  The two bascules over the West Waterway appear on the left.  The Seattle horizon included the Seattle Tower at 3rd and University so this dates from sometime after its completion in 1928.  Given time we will figure it out.  Or you may.

The birdseye view artists who signed their work Kennedy were mildly prolific hereabouts during the early part of the 20th Century. They were the last of such and most of their work was limited to smaller creations that this one, which was paid for by persons interested in developing the Duwamish Waterway. Not how the river and practicalliy every shore space on Elliott Bay is stuffed with piers and crowded by factories behind them. Here Pigeon Point is on the left.
For the better part of the 20th Century the Argus was Seattle's best read weekly journal of news and opinion. It expired under the pressure of the several weekly tabloids - most notably The Weekly - that proliferated later in the century. This fantasy of a West Seattle "high bridge" - airplanes and luxury steamers too - appeared in an early issue of the Argus from the 1890s when the difficulties of reaching West Seattle by any means other than water became a common concern and frequent complaint.


While Jean was busy with his “repeat” of the hunter he took a moment to approach the west approach of the railroad’s old bascule, a surviving feature of the neighborhood,  and record both ways – into the bridge and into the industrial side of Riverside with Pigeon Point on the horizon.





5 thoughts on “Seattle Now & Then: Coming Home to Riverside”

  1. Nice work. I know that took a lot of time. (1) I wondered if there would be any one who is alive who I could speak with that would have taken the Highland Park – Lake Burien Trolley discontinued in the 1930’s . (2) Also I am looking for any photos that capture the Trolley line and Riverside area. The Riverside section of the line connected with the municipal system at the West Seattle Bridge and went south up the green belt at Pugetsound Way and West Marginal Way. (3) Does anyone know someone who would have worked at the brick companys that were south of Riverside on West Marginal Way? Joe Finelli Jr. (206)601-5160 Southwest Seattle

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