Seattle Now & Then: Ballard’s Bascule Bridge

(click to enlarge photos)

THEN: James Lee, for many years an official photographer for Seattle’s public works department, looks south over Ballard’s Salmon Bay a century ago. Queen Anne Hill marks the horizon, with a glimpse of Magnolia on the far right. (Courtesy, Museum of History and Industry)
THEN: James Lee, for many years an official photographer for Seattle’s public works department, looks south over Ballard’s Salmon Bay a century ago. Queen Anne Hill marks the horizon, with a glimpse of Magnolia on the far right. (Courtesy, Museum of History and Industry)
NOW: Ballard’s bascule bridge opened on 15th Ave. N.W. in 1917.
NOW: Ballard’s bascule bridge opened on 15th Ave. N.W. in 1917.

We can be pretty confident about why James Lee photographed this look south across Ballard’s Salmon Bay to the Queen Anne Hill horizon. Lee has dated his negative – and presumably his visit here – June 23, 1915.  That was one month before the city’s public works department opened bids for the construction of two bascule bridges, of the department’s own design, both of which are still lifting, one in Fremont and the other here in Ballard.  Through his long service as a employee of public works, Lee’s efforts as a photographer of the city grew into one of the greater collections of Seattle subjects.  And, like this view, nearly all had some public works purpose, and were in focus, too. Many examples of his work can be studied through on-line links with the Seattle Municipal Archives.

The Public Works Dept. call for bids on both the Fremond and Ballard bridges, in the Seattle Times for June 8, 1915.
The Public Works Dept. call for July 23  bids on both the Fremont and Ballard bridges,  announced in the Seattle Times for June 8, 1915.

The featured photograph at the top is the photographer’s record of the path that the Ballard Bridge would follow by continuing 15th Ave. N.W. from Interbay north to Ballard proper. It would replace the 14th Ave. Bridge, the clutter of contiguous spans on the left, whose first trestle was pile-driven into the shallow Salmon Bay in 1891. It was built for the West Street Electric trolley line, the first streetcar railway from the Seattle Waterfront to reach Ballard, which was then promoting itself as “the Shingle Capitol of the World.”  The industrious community’s first lumber mill was built on Salmon Bay in 1888, and by 1890 there were seven more – at least.   

An early look across Salmon Bay from the northwest corner of Queen Anne Hill. The curving Great Northern Railroad trestle (1892-3)
An early look across Salmon Bay from the northwest corner of Queen Anne Hill. The curving Great Northern Railroad trestle (1892-3) easily reached the Ballard waterfront over short pilings.  The railroad then snaked along the north shore of the bay and behind the several mills built along the waterfront in order to receive lumber and ship  finished products like cedar shingles.  The trolley and wagon bridge along 14th Avenue n.e. is out of frame to the right, but can be seen in several photos included below.  .

I think it likely that it was the Phoenix Shingle Co. mill where Lee found his high prospect for shooting south through the line of 15th Ave. N.W., although some Ballard mills changed names and positions often enough to be confusing.  In the 1912 Baist real estate map, included on the blog listed at the end of this feature, the Phoenix footprint is shown just east of a short wharf that extends 15th Ave. about 200 feet into Salmon Bay.  The map reveals that Lee’s chosen overview is a few yards east of 15th Ave.  For his “now,” Jean Sherrard has nestled above the east side railing of the Ballard Bridge.  Although separated by a century, I think James and Jean are close.

The Phoenix Shingle Co. mill is footprinted on the Baist map framed here beside another photograph of the site, but one that looks back - and north - at early construction on the north pier for the new Ballard Bascule Bridge.
The Phoenix Shingle Co. mill is foot-printed on the Baist map framed here beside another and somewhat later James Lee  photograph of the site, one that looks back – and north – at early construction on the north pier for the new Ballard Bascule Bridge.   This alternative photo is discussed in Jean’s video that introduces this “bascule blog.”  I was also tempted to choose it for this week’s historical photo printed in The Times, but dismissed it for that primary role because we were not secure about where to put Jean and his Nikon.  I imagine that Lee was aboard a boat for this shot, a few feet west of the future western margin of the 15th Ave. Bridge. .  (To read the map click the mouse.)
Again, this "other" look of the north end is featured with some talk in the video. Saint Alphonso's tower on 15th just punctures the far left horizon. The mill burning tower on the left and the metal warehouse right-of-center, both appear in the later photo that follows. It was recorded looking north at the bridge's north pier from below its south pier.
Again, this “other” look of the north end is featured with some talk in the video. Also noted there is Saint Alphonso’s tower on 15th, which here   just punctures the far left horizon.  (We include an Alphonso girls school sotball team feature below) The burning tower on the left and the metal warehouse, right-of-center, both appear in the later photo that follows. It was recorded looking north at the bridge’s north pier from below its south pier. (Courtesy, Lawton Gowey and the Seattle Municipal Archive.)
Dated April 24, 1917, the piers, north and south, are up, but not the teeter-totter wings for the bascule, and the bridge would consequently not be ready for the Lake Washington Ship Canal's July 4, 1917 inaugural opening. Again - as noted in the caption above this one - note that the burning tower and chimney on the left and the metal warehouse on the right, both appear in the earlier photo above this one. This photo then was our primary clue for locating the photo above it.
Dated April 24, 1917, the piers, north and south, are up, but not the teeter-totter wings for the bascule.  Consequently, the bridge would  not be ready for the Lake Washington Ship Canal’s July 4, 1917 inaugural opening.  (The Fremont Bridge was completed in time.) Again, the burning tower and chimney on the left and the metal warehouse on the right, both appear in the earlier photo above this one. This photo then was our primary clue for placing the photo above it.

The bridges at Ballard and Fremont (and soon the University District) were built for the Lake Washington Ship Canal.  Ballard had long campaigned for a canal, not to reach Lake Washington but for dredging to deepen Salmon Bay in order to move more lumber off and on to its waterfront.  In the spring of 1915 City Engineer A.H. Dimock calculated that once the bids were in and the contractors chosen it would take about a year to build the new bridges.  Here in Ballard Dimock was half right.  Work started on Sept 1., 1915.  However, a Times headline, “Ballard Viaduct Thrown Open to Traffic,” did not appear until Dec. 1, 1917. 

This 1908 Baist map may be compared to the 1912 map printed above. Some of the milll names are different, but the relationship between the curving Great Northern trestle and the 14th Ave wagon and trolley bridge is the same.
This 1908 Baist map may be compared to the 1912 map printed above. Some of the milll names are different, but the relationship between the curving Great Northern trestle and the 14th Ave wagon and trolley bridge is the same.
Looking north from Interbay to the Ballard side led by familiar lines made by the Great Northern bridge, on the left, and the 14th Ave. trolley bridge on the right.
Looking north from Interbay to the Ballard side led by familiar lines made by the Great Northern bridge, on the left, and the 14th Ave. trolley bridge on the right.
First appeared in Pacific, January 29, 1987.
First appeared in Pacific, January 29, 1987.
Looking east from the 15th Avenue Ballard Bridge's north approach to the Bolcom-Canal Lumber Company at the southeast corner of Salmon Bay in 1923.
Looking east from the 15th Avenue Ballard Bridge’s north approach to the Bolcom-Canal LumberCompany at the southeast corner of Salmon Bay in 1923.   The 8th Ave. W. Railroad bridge reaches the horizon near the scene’s center. 
The Bolcom-Canal mill looking southwest from the Ballard side.
The Bolcom-Canal mill looking southwest from the Ballard side.

WEB EXTRAS

More to add, my droogs?  First, Ron Edge has posted eleven other blog features that will get one somehow to Ballard and/or Magnolia – sometimes with transfers.  We will also add a few more past features scanned from clippings.

THEN: Captioned Salmon Bay, 1887, this is most likely very near the eastern end of the bay where it was fed by Ross Creek, the Lake Union outlet. (Courtesy, Michael Maslan Vintage Posters and Photographs)

THEN: A Seattle Street and Sewer Department photographer recorded this scene in front of the nearly new City-County Building in 1918. The view looks west from 4th Avenue along a Jefferson Street vacated in this block except for the municipal trolley tracks. (Photo courtesy Seattle Municipal Archive)

17web

mountaineers-westpt-curt-mr2

THEN: Looking east from the roof of the still standing testing lab, the Lock’s Administration Building (from which this photograph was borrowed) appears on the left, and the district engineer’s home, the Cavanaugh House (still standing) on the center horizon. (Photo courtesy Army Corps of Engineers at Chittenden Locks)

THEN: Long-time Wallingford resident Victor Lygdman looks south through the work-in-progress on the Lake Washington Ship Canal Bridge during the summer of 1959. Bottom-right are the remnants of the Latona business and industrial district, including the Wayland Mill and the Northlake Apartments, replaced now with Ivar’s Salmon House and its parking. (Photo by Victor Lygdman)

THEN: With his or her back to the original Ballard business district, an unnamed photographer looks southeast on Leary Way, most likely in 1936.

THEN: Built in 1910, Ballard’s big brick church on the northwest corner of 20th Avenue NW and NW 63rd Street lost the top of its soaring tower following the earthquake of Nov. 12, 1939.

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clip DRAVUS-to-Ballard-WEB

First appeared in Pacific, March 9, 1986,
First appeared in Pacific, March 9, 1986,

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clip Ballard-Bridge-TrolleyWEB

A "now" from thirty-two years ago.
A “now” from thirty-two years ago.
First appeared in Pacific, July 15, 1984.
First appeared in Pacific, July 15, 1984.

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clip 15th-nw-nF-ca.48th-w-Wayfarer-sign-z&-Alphonso-steeple-WEB

clip-15th-ave-n-fm-Ballard-Bridge-Now-web

 first appeared in Pacific, October 31, 2004.

first appeared in Pacific, October 31, 2004.

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X-Profile-Ballard-B-2-24-1917-web

The Ballard Bridge profile from the east.  ABOVE, on February 24, 1917, with the piers but not the wings.   BELOW, on September 14, same year, 1917, now with the completed wings.

x-profile-01d.-Tug-Pioneer;-ship-Abner-Coburn,-Salmon-Bay-ballard-bridge-9-14-1917-AMES-web

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CLIP-Ballard's-Seattle-Cedar-

CLIP-Ballard-stacks-of-drying-lumber-SNT-cWEB

First appeared in Pacific, December 11, 1988.
First appeared in Pacific, December 11, 1988.

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clip-pan-of-salmon-bay-factory-smoke-web

First appeared in Pacific, October 20, 1996.
First appeared in Pacific, October 20, 1996.

CLIP-salmon-bay-pan-web

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First appeared in Pacific, January 6, 1985.
First appeared in Pacific, January 6, 1985.

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Ballard-Mill-siloet1-TurNER-WEB

First appeared in Pacific, August 19, 2001.
First appeared in Pacific, August 19, 2001.

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Seattle Cedar looking west from the Ballard Bridge.
Seattle Cedar looking west from the Ballard Bridge.

CLIP-classic-Ballard-Bridge-with-Fisherman's-wharf-and-Seattle-Cedar-across-the-way-WEB

First appeared in Pacific, June 24, 1984.
First appeared in Pacific, June 24, 1984. ======

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ECUMENICAL BALLARD

First appeared in Pacific, March 10, 1996.
First appeared in Pacific, March 10, 1996.
First appeared in Pacific, November 18, 2007
First appeared in Pacific, November 18, 2007

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THE END

x-worn-ballard-bridge-ca.1938-web

clip-Ballard-Bridge-5-31-39-removing-trollley-tracls THEN-web

clip-ballard-bridge-pulling-up-trolley-tracks-WEB

Measuring for the flood coming with the closing of the Chittenden Locks and the lifting of Salmon Bay "around" Nine Feet to the level of Lake Washington - and the rest.
Measuring for the flood coming with the closing of the Chittenden Locks and the lifting of Salmon Bay “around” Nine Feet to the level of Lake Washington – and the rest.
Jean's FINI
Jean’s FINI

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