Seattle Now & Then: Lake Union

(click to enlarge photos)

THEN: Samuel McKnight’s early 1890s panorama of Lake Union also looks north into most of Seattle’s seventeen square-mile annexation of 1891, when the city limits were pushed north from McGraw Street to 85th Street. Fremont, Edgewater, the future Wallingford, Latona, and Brooklyn (University District) were among the neighborhoods included. (Courtesy, Dan Kerlee)
THEN: Samuel McKnight’s early 1890s panorama of Lake Union also looks north into most of Seattle’s seventeen square-mile annexation of 1891, when the city limits were pushed north from McGraw Street to 85th Street. Fremont, Edgewater, the future Wallingford, Latona, and Brooklyn (University District) were among the neighborhoods included. (Courtesy, Dan Kerlee)
NOW: The atmospheric splendor of Jean Sherrard’s repeat was made with no plans but to get off the hydroplaning freeway and snap it.
NOW: The atmospheric splendor of Jean Sherrard’s repeat was made with no plans but to get off the hydroplaning freeway and snap it.

This week’s ‘Now & Then’ is a rare – and perhaps the only – occasion in the thirty-four years of this weekly feature to find a ‘then’ that is a harbinger of a ‘now.’  After Jean Sherrard photographed the latter a while ago, I kept it on my desk as a challenge to find a historical scene that foretokened it, or nearly so.  The omen recently reached us through the agency of Ron Edge, a frequent help to this feature.  Ron let us know that a mutual friend, the public historian and collector Dan Kerlee, had earlier shared this week’s ‘then’ with him.  The pioneer photographer recorded his shot within a soft shout of Jean’s storm-soaked capture. It will do nicely. 

Not so revealing but still another early Lake Union by McKnight. For this shot he moved a block or so to the north.
Not so revealing but still another early Lake Union by McKnight. For this shot he moved a block or two to the north.

Here’s Jean recollection.  “On a spring evening, driving north on I-5 from downtown, I found myself in a torrent – a quantity and quality of rainfall that occurs in the tropics, but rarely in Seattle. Buckets, cats and dogs, and Noah’s flood were the metaphors that came to mind. The windshield wipers pushed through liquid an inch thick, and everyone in their right mind had slowed to a crawl. Then, minutes before setting behind Queen Anne, the sun broke through the downpour, slicing away a few lower-lying clouds. I exited at Lakeview Drive and splashed up to a viewpoint overlooking the freeway. Like most natives, I don’t carry an umbrella, so I held a cardboard box over my head to protect my camera while I snapped a dozen shots of the city north and south, capturing Seattle in one of its rarer incarnations, under a sun-soaked deluge.”

Taken from a nearby prospect but somehat later by Major Millis.
Taken from a nearby prospect but somehat later by Major Millis.
Another early 90s look from Capitol Hill to the northwest over Lake Union. This print was found in a mid-western antique shop, and the photographer is not identified - as yet.
Another early 90s look from Capitol Hill to the northwest over Lake Union. This print was found in a mid-western antique shop, and the photographer is not identified – as yet.

Samuel F. McKnight, the photographer of the fortuitous early scene (at the top) operated a studio here for a few years before and after the city’s Great Fire of 1889.  His surviving work is not large.  The featured print looks north-northwest across a Lake Union only recently divested of its surrounding forest. 

A detail of the Eastlake park and beer garden lifted from the featured print.
A detail of the Eastlake park and beer garden lifted from the featured print.  The detail includes a blurred record of the southbound electric trolley on the far-right.

On this southeast corner of the lake, the line of Louisa and David Denny’s electric trolley to Brooklyn (University District) and Ravenna Park passes between the homes on Eastlake Ave., bottom-left, and a park/beer garden landscaped with a swimming beach and a screen of shade trees growing beside it.  This park with its windmill and tower was opened in 1886 as a lure to what was then the terminus of the horse-drawn Seattle Street Railway.  The little bay beyond the trees has since been mostly filled in.  The ships of NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, were long parked here, and the Lake Union Dry Docks, off-camera to the left in the featured photo at the top (but markedly shown three photos down), has been at work since 1919.  Fremont and Ballard, upper-left, are mottled with smoke and steam from their mills.

In our featured bay part of Woodrow Wilson's Wooden Fleet of unused WW1 vessels parked in the fresh water of Lake Union. [Courtesy, MOHAI]
Beyond our featured bay part of Woodrow Wilson’s Wooden Fleet of unused WW1 vessels parked in the fresh water of Lake Union. [Courtesy, MOHAI]
Another of our featured bay, undated but sometime after the 1932 opening of the Aurora Bridge.
Another of our featured bay, undated but sometime after the 1932 opening of the Aurora Bridge.
The Lake Union Dry Dock photographed from the City Light steam plant, or construction on it. Fairview Avenue runs north over our featured by from the far right and continues around the point, top-center.
The Lake Union Dry Dock photographed from the City Light steam plant, or construction on it. Fairview Avenue runs north over our featured bay from the far right and continues around the point, top-center.
First appeared in Pacific on July 25, 1993. Photo courtesy of the Washington State Museum, Tacoma.
First appeared in Pacific on July 25, 1993. Photo courtesy of the Washington State Museum, Tacoma.
Pivoting 90 degrees to the Southwest.
Pivoting 90 degrees to the Southwest.

WEB EXTRAS

Anything to add, lads?  Surely – another necklace of links from more recent features unfolded by Ron and pulls in the ancient majority pulled by me.   Some visitors  – five or ten – may noticed that we have again failed to introduce our blog with a little and somewhat improvised video on the week’s featured photo.   In the midst of Jean’s play production and my organizing/editing some 1400 pages of “Keep Clam”  (a bio of Ivar Haglund), we are now and for a while so busy.   But at some point in this rejuvenating season we shall return with our playful – we hope – videos.

THEN: Both the grading on Belmont Avenue and the homes beside it are new in this “gift” to Capitol Hill taken from the family album of Major John Millis. (Courtesy of the Major’s grandchild Walter Millis and his son, a Seattle musician, Robert Millis.)

Then: Photographed from an upper story of the Ford Factory at Fairview Avenue and Valley Street, the evidence of Seattle's explosive boom years can be seen on every shore of Lake Union, ca. 1920. Courtesy of MOHAI

THEN: The home at bottom right looks across Madison Street (out of frame) to Central School. The cleared intersection of Spring Street and Seventh Avenue shows on the right.

THEN: A.J. McDonald’s panorama of Lake Union and its surrounds dates from the early 1890s. It was taken from First Hill, looking north from near the intersection of Terry Avenue and Union Street. (Courtesy, Museum of History and Industry)

THEN: William O. McKay opened show rooms on Westlake in July of 1923. After fifty-seven years of selling Fords, the dealership turned to the cheaper and more efficient Subaru. Now reconstructed, the old Ford showroom awaits a new tenant.

THEN: The Cascade neighborhood, named for its public grade school (1894), now long gone, might have been better named for the Pontius family. Immigrants from Ohio, they purchased many of the forested acres north of Denny Way and east of Fairview Avenue.

THEN: The 1906-07 Gas Works at the north end of Lake Union went idle in 1956 when natural gas first reached Seattle by pipeline. In this photo, taken about fifteen years later, the Wallingford Peninsula is still home to the plant’s abandoned and “hanging gardens of metal.” (Courtesy: Rich Haag)

THEN: The now century-old Norway Hall at the corner of Boren Avenue and Virginia Street opened in 1915, on May 17, Norwegian Independence Day. (Courtesy, Nordic Heritage Museum)

THEN: sliver of the U.W. campus building called the Applied Physics Laboratory appears on the far right of this 1940 look east towards the U.W. campus from the N.E. 40th Street off-ramp from the University Bridge. While very little other than the enlarged laboratory survives in the fore and mid-grounds, much on the horizon of campus buildings and apartments still stand. (Courtesy, Genevieve McCoy)

THEN: From 1909 to the mid-late 1920s, the precipitous grade separation between the upper and lower parts of NE 40th Street west of 7th Ave. NE was faced with a timber wall. When the wall was removed, the higher part of NE 40th was shunted north, cutting into the lawns of the homes beside it. (Courtesy, Lawton Gowey)

17web

THEN: Werner Lenggenhager's recording of the old St. Vinnie's on Lake Union's southwest shore in the 1950s should remind a few readers of the joys that once were theirs while searching and picking in that exceedingly irregular place.

aurora-broad-speed-web

THEN: From the Fremont Bridge, this subject looks northwest across the torrent that followed the washout of the Fremont Dam in the early afternoon of March 13, 1914. Part of the Bryant Lumber and Shingle Mill appears left-of-center. The north end of the Stone Way Trestle appears in the upper right corner. (Courtesy, Seattle Municipal Archives)

THEN: Like violence in a classic Greek play, the carnage suggested by this 1934 crash scene on the then new Aurora speedway was kept off stage, either behind the city’s official photographer, or in the county morgue. (Courtesy, Seattle Municipal Archive.)

======

First printed in Pacific, March 8, 1987
First printed in Pacific, March 8, 1987  Click to read.
Click to Enlarge and Read, please.
Click to Enlarge and Read, please.
First appeared in Pacific, Nov. 26, 2006.
First appeared in Pacific, Nov. 26, 2006.

clip-Bike-Path-to-University-District-web

CLIP-U-DISTRICT-OVER-PORTAGE-BAYweb.

First appeared in Pacific, December 15, 1985.
First appeared in Pacific, December 15, 1985.

clip-Navy-Cadet-Armory-WEB

Photography from on high on March 20, 1949, this aerial shows our featured bay on the right and much else. [Courtesy, Ron Edge]
Photography from on high on March 20, 1949, this aerial shows our featured bay on the right and much else. Click – maybe twice – to enlarge. [Courtesy, Ron Edge]
clp-Fremont-Bridge-construct-ca.1915-WEB

First appeared in Pacific, November 28, 2004.
First appeared in Pacific, November 28, 2004.

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