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 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.
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 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.
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.
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.