This look west on NE 40th Street is not as sharp as desired, especially to reveal what the 1912 Baist Real Estate Map marks simply as the “wall” that separates the upper and lower grades of 40th in its atypical four block run between Latona and 7th Avenues NE. I’ll add great – the ‘Great Wall’ – the Great Wall of Latona. (Still this is sharper than two others of the “Wallingford Wall” lifted directly from the municipal archive, and attached below this first paragraph.) Except that “The Great Wall of Wallingford” is both appropriate and euphonic. About a century separates the historical photograph from Jean Sherrard’s repeat. Most likely the featured view, like the two immediately below, was also recorded on May 12, 1921.
The earliest photo evidence I’ve seen of this ‘great wall’ is included in a 180-degree panorama that was recorded from a tethered balloon high above the 1909 Alaska Yukon Pacific Exposition (AYP), Seattle’s first world’s fair. The pan extends from Lake Washington’s Union Bay through all of Portage Bay and into the Latona and Wallingford neighborhoods. In the pan, the dark stained retaining wall on 40th that we use in our ‘then,’ appears to be whitewashed. It gleamed when new. The wall’s construction was part of the city’s both ambitious and anxious effort to prepare the “north end” of town for the upcoming Exposition.
During the summer of 1909 an estimated four million people crossed the Latona Bridge: most of the visitors rode the trolleys, which reached the Exposition through this intersection. Moving the multitudes from the bridge to the AYP held on the grounds of the University of Washington, the trolleys followed a new route that began with a one block run on 6th Avenue north from the bridge. The new tracks were aimed directly at the great timber wall and the Latona Knoll above it. Just before reaching the lower half of NE 40th Street, the cars first passed under the then new Northern Pacific railroad trestle and then made a right-turn east for the fairgrounds.
While the lower and upper halves of the NE 40th Street grade separation are glimpsed, respectively, to the left and right of the couple walking in front Jean Sherrard’s camera, (in his repeat for the featured photo at the top) the trestle and the trail are hidden behind the landscape and signs on the left. (A later – and yet early – “repeat” or return to the corner by a public works photographer is printed directly below. A steep grade has replaced the Wallingford Wall and the upper or northern part of 40th Street has been moved farther north with some new structures on it’s north side.)
The importance of this arterial to the Expo grounds was accompanied during its construction by a flood of anxious speculations about the likelihood of its not getting done in time for the Expo’s June 1, 1909 opening day. The local press maintained its critical eye with skeptical reports. For instance, less than two months before the AYP’S opening The Seattle Times for April 11, reported, “The exposition management was promised a year and a half ago that Sixth Ave. NE would be pushed under the Northern Pacific tracks and Fortieth would be graded and paved six months before the AYPE opened . . . Even now the tunnel under the railroad tracks is incomplete; grading teams are working both on Sixth Avenue and Fortieth Street and there is not a great prospect that the street will be opened for general traffic by June 1.”
In spite of the anxious doubts expressed by the press, the improved trolley service was ready for the June 1 opening of the AYP, although on this stretch it had required eleventh-hour-help of a chain gang from the city jail. The Times complimented the prisoners for their “able assistance.” By mid-July the Seattle City Council was sufficiently aglow with the fair’s success and the early evening light shows that outlined the many grand – if temporary – Beaux-Arts buildings, that they found an additional $300 to extent the string of carnival lights along NE 40th Street and so through this intersection.
POSTSCRIPT: The post-expo grandeur of this promenade from the Latona Bridge to the U.W. campus and Brooklyn and 14th Avenue (University Way) the “main streets” of Brooklyn (the University District), was short-lived. Neighborhood anxiety – especially among the businesses – came with the building of the Lake Washington Ship Canal in 1911. The bridge at Latona would clearly need to be enlarged for the canal, but if the pioneer bridge was moved as well, then the Latona community, the first addition developed near the northeast corner of Lake Union, would surely also lose its commercial influence, although not yet the sole abiding significance of its primary school. (That threat came much later with the school’s conversion to the John Sanford School, which it was carefully explained was renovated and enlarged on the “Latona Campus” in the 1990s.) On June 7, 1908, a year before the AYP, The Times noted that both the road on 24th Ave. N.E. over “the portage,” and a proposed bridge via 10th Ave. N.E., might replace the bridge at Latona. Both of the proposed bridges crossed the canal at higher elevations and so allowed for more vessels to pass below them without the bridges needing to open. And so it was. The bridge on 10th took the place of the bridge at Latona in 1919, although as late the 1922 the new bridge was sometimes identified as the Latona Bridge. The Montlake bascule over the canal followed in 1925, largely on the hustle of Husky promotions to make it easier for citizens to reach sporting events on campus.
Anything to add, lads? Lots of Edge Links Jean, directly below.
One thought on “Seattle Now & Then: The Wallingford Wall at the Latona Knoll”
All these years later, we’re STILL complaining about late public works projects.