(click to enlarge photos)
In The Seattle Times classifieds for February 7, 1958, the state highway department advertised: “…men wanted…to do design work in connection with the Seattle Freeway… First project is the Lake Washington Ship Canal Bridge.” Later that summer, local contractors Scheumann and Johnson’s low bid was awarded the contract to build the seven piers required to support the steel truss portion of the bridge, and the first concrete was poured on the 24th of September.
At least parts of six of the seven piers can be found in this construction photo by Victor Lygdman, admiringly described in his Times obituary dated March 23, 2010, as the “unofficial Mayor of Wallingford.” Born in 1927, Lygdman became an artist in several media, including watercolors, cartoons, fiction and sculpture. (When my left knee complains, I carry a Lygdman cane, skillfully carved as a snake spiraling the shaft to the handle.)
Jean and I figure that Lygdman recorded the historical view from where the bridge meets the hill near 42nd Street and Pasadena Avenue. [Reminder! We are off by one block. See below, under “anything to add.”] Pasadena was a busy commercial street in the Latona neighborhood until 1919, when the Latona Bridge was replaced by the University Bridge. The freeway bridge, with its 2,294 feet of steel trusses crossing the canal, conforms to what was the north-south line of the Latona Bridge, about 125 feet above it.
The I-5 bridge opened to traffic in December 1962, with only 2.2 miles of approaches. On December 18th, Times reporter Marshall Wilson reported on his test drive. “For the time being commuters in both directions may find that it’s quicker traveling their old and accustomed routes.” Wilson added, “The view is better on the freeway route. From high atop the Lake Washington Ship Canal Bridge, the old Aurora Bridge looks almost like a miniature. Even the Space Needle appears to be at eye level.”
After the bridge was painted “Washington Green” with brushes, it sat idle for more than a year waiting for the freeway to catch up. Plans to use it for Century 21 Worlds Fair parking were first approved and then dropped. As historian Genevieve McCoy remarks in her book “Building Washington,” published in 2000, “Today, frustrated motorists crawling across the span could surely advise future fair planners that you don’t need a world’s fair to turn a bridge into a parking lot.”
Anything to add, Paul? Surely Jean, but first we must gathered it up.
Directly below are three picture links to other blog features that relate to our primary subject. The second of these, about the Latona Bridge in its last days, we printed in Pacific only two weeks past. It is still relevant. The third link starts with a feature of the split in the path of Lake Washington Bike Trail and its repeat looks north on the Lake Washington Ship Canal Bridge from the Roanoke Street overpass. The first link we were surprised to discover with our own “key word” search. It’s the same Victor Lygdman snapshot of the bridge supports printed on top, and it appeared first with two other relevant photos by Lygdman as an installment of a series we were running in 2011 called “Seattle Confidential.” The title is apt, for now – if you open the top link – you will find our caption from then, and may compare it to the one near the top here. But this requires another confession – now. The “then” feature this week – on top – is not given good service with its “now.” I may in the call of “team work” claim that WE – Jean and I – made a mistake. But it was really I who was “most” responsible. The “now” should have been taken one block further south where the bridge makes a big change to its center cantilever section. And it should have been taken from the top of the bridge (dangerous), and not from the lower express lane, or beside it with a sleeping bag. ( When we first reflected on this feature, Jean remarked that the Lygdman photo seemed closer and higher to the canal than the prospects I was promoting. And so once more, mea culpa.) You will find some of the evidence for this change in one of the two other Lygdman bridge photos included in the link directly below. It is a snapshot looking due east from the top of the bridge at that same time – 1959/60. Here it is again.
Another revealing photograph – a panorama over Wallingford to the Cascades – by our old friend, Lawton Gowey, looks west from near the south end of the Aurora Bridge. It is dated Jan. 1, 1960 and shows the “stub” of the Ship Canal Bridge when the top lane is a work-in-progress and aside from the concrete piers the cantilever work for the center span has not begun. It is from there – high and open on that south end – that Victor took the photograph that we feature at the very top and directly below. But first here is Lawton’s distant look at one high bridge from another, or near another: the Aurora Bridge. [CLICK to ENLARGE]
MORE TO COME
We have other extras from the neighborhood to insert tomorrow Sunday Morning after a late breakfast.
Above: May Day festivities, like these at Latona School, were once a regular feature on the calender of many Seattle schools. Below: Latona graduates Dorothy Lunde and her youngest sister, Marcella Fetterly, far right, stand beside a moving football formation of Latona students in 1993, with a glimpse of the ship canal bridge to the east.
THE DAHLS at HOME on EASTERN