This, I believe, is the oldest surviving photograph of the Latona Bridge. For the 27 years following 1891 it was the only span where Lake Union conveniently channels into Portage Bay. The pile-driven bridge was constructed to carry David Denny’s electric trolley into the then new Latona and Brooklyn (University District) additions and to real estate as far north as Ravenna Park, the trolley terminus.
The state legislature’s Feb. 23rd 1891 recommendation that this “Interlaken” neighborhood become the University of Washington’s new home was encouraging to all north end developers, Denny included. After the university’s 1895 move to the new campus most of the students rode the trolley to school. However, by then the earnest but in the end naïve younger of the pioneer Denny brothers, was bankrupt.
A combination of the nation’s 1893 financial panic and poor investments quickly led to what Seattle trolley historian Leslie Blanchard rates as “unquestionably the most disastrous venture of its kind in the city’s history.” Much of the route was “inhabited only by squirrels and gophers.” In 1890 David Denny, with Henry Fuhrman, opened the 160 acres of their namesake addition at the north end of Capitol Hill, here on the far south side of the Latona Bridge. But where are the homes? It is hard to find here any potential passengers or purchasers.
But then where are the trolley wires on the Latona Bridge on our “first picture” of it? Perhaps the photo was taken before the poles, rails, wires and hopes were in place for the bridge’s July 1, 1891 dedication. Is that snow in the foreground or an extended spring puddle chilling enthusiasm? By 1913 the spot got hot. The Super of Public Utilities then counted an average of 23,058 passengers crossing the bridge every 24 hours, with the ironic result that in 1919 the at last bustling Latona would lose its bridge on 6th Avenue to the University District and its new and surviving cantilever span on 10th Avenue.
Anything to add, Paul? Surely Jean – a few more pictures and stories from the neighborhood – my neighborhood too, now for more than 30 years. I was awakened by Mt. St. Helens in a Wallingford bed. We wlll begin again with Ron Edge’s enterprise. Ron shook this blog for past features that best fit this feature, which he introduced immediately below with three photo-links. Following those we will lay out more from North Lake.
BRIDGE to BRIDGE
(First appeared in Pacific, Jan. 13, 1991)
The Latona Bridge, in its 11th hour, was two bridges whose antipathetic designs were best detected when they were opened – a here – to permit passage of any vessel that required the bridge tender to plod through the steps required to one bridge(for trolleys) and swing the side (for everyone else).
The original Latona Bridge was simple, with a fixed span.The complicated mechanics shown here were required when the completion of the Ship Canal in 1916 opened Lake Washington to ocean-going ships. (The canal was dedication on July 4, 1917, but its use earlier, in the fall of 1916.)
The Latona Bridge was dedicated July 1, 1891 – 28 years to the day before the University Bridge, which replaced it, was opened with m8sic and speeches.University of Washington history professor Edmond Meany was at both dedications and was the principal speaker at the second.
The above view (with two bridges) was photographed from the University Bridge while it was under construction.(The accompanying photo directly below looks north through the line of the University Bridge during its construction.)The ridge lines of Wallingford and Queen Anne Hill are in the background.
One thought on “Seattle Now & Then: The Latona Bridge”
When my father attended UW in 1946-49. He recalled picnicking on the golf course (where the medical center is now) with my mother and a fellow engineering student when the other man began telling of the great plans in store for a new bridge. He waved at the area above University Bridge and said someday there would be a much higher, bigger bridge crossing the canal going right up into the hillside. It seemed unbelievable at the time that there could ever be a need for such a big bridge project, and anyway, what road would ever connect to either end?? They figured he was spinning a tale.