This picturesque pioneer snapshot was copied from a family album filled with prints, interpreted with terse captions hand-written on their borders. It reads simply “Salmon Bay, 1887,” a date used on several other photographs protected within the album’s covers. If correct, then this is a rare early photographic record of Salmon Bay.
To the inevitable “where on Salmon Bay?” there are two choices. The forested hill across the waterway must be either Queen Anne or the part of the Magnolia headland above where the Salmon Bay channel begins out of Shilshole Bay – near Ray’s boathouse. Both sites would have required James Lowman, the owner of the photo album and probably both the camera and the sailboat, to reach the bay by sailing from the Seattle waterfront around the Magnolia peninsula. The voyage may well have begun at Yesler’s Wharf, which Lowman managed for his uncle, Henry Yesler.
Jean and I chose the Queen Anne site, largely on the evidence of the timber trestle that runs beside the distant shoreline. It was also in 1887 that the Seattle Lake Shore and Eastern Railroad completed its line from the Seattle waterfront north through Interbay to Salmon Bay, and then east to Lake Union along Ross Creek, the lake’s outlet below the north end of Queen Anne Hill. In 1887 there may have been some settlers’ docks beside Salmon Bay, but no extended trestles except this one.
In 1946, after greeting his 89th birthday with a morning visit to his barber, James Lowman returned to his First Hill mansion, The Seattle Times reported, to spend “several hours . . . reminiscing over a volume containing pictures of Seattle’s pioneer residences. In it is a picture of his home.” Somewhere between “very likely” and “highly possible,” the album that Lowman lost himself in was the one uncovered by friend Michael Maslan, a collector and dealer in vintage photographs and posters.
In the early 1980s Mike shared the Lowman album with me for copying and study. I have often used it in these pages. Included are pictures of Mary Emery Lowman, whom James married two years after he, we assume, photographed this Salmon Bay scene. Perhaps Mary is sitting in the sailboat and being courted. She would have been 24 years old. Married in 1889, they lived together for a half-century on First Hill, until Mary’s death in 1939. Still living in his mansion, James died eight year later at age 90.
Anything to add, Paul?
Jean I hear the pacing of soft pads with retracted claws signaling me to nighty-bears. It is 3am, but Ron Edge will be up soon – most likely around 5am – and put up, I believe, no less than NINE relevant links. Early Sunday afternoon I’ll return for proofreading and with two features printed now long ago in the Times, and one of them also in the second Seattle Now and Then volume. Both are short essays on two more of Lowman’s nature subjects – Lake Union shorelines – and like our feature at the top, both are dated from or in 1887.