Seattle Now & Then: A Dump at Dexter and Aloha

(click to enlarge photos)

THEN: A city dump at the southwest corner of Lake Union in 1915. (Museum of History and Industry)
NOW: With 361 accommodations arranged through seven floors, the new Juxt Apartments, renting for from $2,000 to $5,200 a month, now cover a city block that a century ago was a mix of lake waters and solid waste.

When the featured historical photo is enlarged there is a surprise waiting in this wetland dump. All the men, I count eighteen teamsters grouped with their trash wagons across the pond, are looking directly at the photographer, most likely James Lee.  For many years Lee was the official photographer for the city’s Public

A detail pulled from the featured photograph.
Looking northeast from near Dexter and Valley, and again on Thursday the 28th. Far right, two stacks rise above the lumber mill at the south end of Lake Union.


If you are familiar with the brother and sister posing on the cover of Seattle Now and Then Vol. 1 (1984) here is their mother, Abba Brown, also splashing at the southwest corner of Lake Union, between the Westlake Trestle and the lake’s meander line. This paddling was exposed circa 1903, a few years before the swimming “hole” was filled with city trash.  CLICK THE CLIPPING TO ENLARGE IT.

Works Department: our own municipal photographer.  (Beginning in 1983, we have used many of Lee’s records in this weekly feature.)  In the week’s featured photo, Lee – we are confidently assuming – looks northwest through the block bordered by Valley and Aloha Streets, and Eighth and Dexter Avenues. That solitary motorcar parked at the southeast corner of Dexter and Aloha (upper-left) may well be Lee’s.

Lee enlarges his solid waste narrative by following a collector pausing for a pick-up on First Hill’s Belmont Avenue.

James Lee had other shots to take this October 29, 1915, a Thursday with light rain.  All had something to do with the city’s solid waste services. This week’s feature is a record of a civic dump and numbered, we assume by Lee, 3147.  Two numbers back, 3145, is the by now often published close-up of a refuse wagon (like the ones grouped here across the water) picking up trash from residences on Capitol Hill’s Belmont Avenue. With 3141, Lee looks into this same littered pit, but from Dexter Avenue and near to what we have imagined is his car.  Upon reflection, it seems that these three print numbers do not indicate the likely order of Lee’s snap-shooting that Thursday.  Why?  It would been wasted effort to expose a negative here at the southwest corner of Lake Union 3147, then climb the hill for an appointment with a dray on Belmont 3145, only to return again to the dump for 3141.  Reverse the order and it is still slipshod.  The photograph numbers were, we propose, given in the dark room without much clerical concern beyond the day’s date.

The Northlake Garbage Incinerator No. 2 was relatively long-lived. This record of its home beside the gas works on the Wallingford Peninsula is dated ca. 1933.

These years were a stressful time for garbage in booming Seattle.  The city, which had only recently started collecting solid waste for delivery to its nine managed dumps, also built five garbage incinerators between 1907 and 1914.  These “refuse destructors” were disappointing.  Meanwhile, the tide-stirred dump named Puget Sound was ever inviting.

The Municipal Railway’s brand new trolley posing on (or near) Dexter Avenue on October 1, 1914.

The concrete box in the Featured photograph, behind and to the right of the eight posing wagons, is the Municipal Transfer Station. It was built for Seattle’s first public-owned trollies, which started running in 1914 on Dexter Avenue between the business district and Ballard’s Salmon Bay.  (We featured it with a now-then on April 23, 2000, and have attached it directly above.)  The station, delicately designed with arched windows and an ornamental banding of colored tiles at the cornice, is probably the work of Daniel Huntington, then the City Architect.  The transfer station bears a small resemblance to Huntington’s much larger Seattle City Light Steam Plant, near the southeast corner of Lake Union.

Municipal Architect Huntington’s steam plant for Seattle City Light.

Moving up Queen Anne Hill in the featured photo at the top, note the steep grade separation to the left of the transfer station at the northwest corner of Aloha and Dexter.  The first lines of residences beyond this cut and up the hill were short-lived. They were sacrificed for the Aurora Speed Way in the early 1930s.  But on the horizon, left-of-center, stands the enduring outline of one of Seattle’s more majestic landmarks, the former Queen Anne High School.

Probably of greater interest to Seattle children on this Thursday were Van Camp’s Trained Pigs performances at the Grand Theatre.  After dancing, boxing and drinking milk from nursing bottles, these trained baby pigs were “passed through the audience for the children to pet.”  The Grand was packed for all the little pig shows on both Thursday and Friday.

The Browns lived on Dexter Avenue near Denny Park and  so also near the swimming hole behind the Westlake Viaduct.  Here they are, the entire family, cuddling at home.   The father, William LeRoy Brown, was a clarinetist with the “Dad” Wagner Band and a plumber too.   He was a resourceful photographer and we have use many of his negatives in this weekly feature over the past 35 years.

In 1904 it was still safe for the Brown kids, Leon and Margaret, to play in the middle of Dexter Avenue. The view looks north from near their front yard.


Anything to add, guys?   Plenty from the surrounds Jean.  Many of them have been seen hear earlier, but we now have cheerful news of our intentions to scan the rest of the 1800-plus features produced with the now-and-then parade over the last 35 years.  Gosh it would go forward with greater speed and merciful grace if we could find a volunteer or two among our readers to help with the scanning.  And we have an extra scanner on loan from Ron Edge.

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.

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: Photographed in the late 1950s, the floating restaurant’s huge on deck hooligan got no competition as yet from the Space Needle (1962) in breaking the horizon.

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: 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: Pioneer Arthur Denny's son, Orion, took this photo of popularly named Lake Union John and his second wife, Madeline, sometime before the latter's death in 1906.

THEN: The scene looks north through a skyline of steeples toward the Cascade neighborhood and Lake Union, ca. 1923.

THEN: The Dog House at 714 Denny Way was strategically placed at the southern terminus for the Aurora Speedway when it was new in the mid-1930s. (Photo courtesy of Washington State Archive, Bellevue Community College Branch.)

THEN: With great clouds overhead and a landscape 45 years shorter than now, one vehicle – a pickup heading east – gets this part of State Route 520 to itself on a weekday afternoon. (courtesy Lawton Gowey)


Great railroad signs, theatre signs and ranks of neon were still the greatest contributors to night light at 4th and Westlake in 1949. (Photo by Robert Bradley compliment of Lawton and Jean Gowey)

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: In the first years of the twentieth century, visiting circuses most often used these future Seattle Center acres to raise their big tops. After 1911 the favored circus site was moved to the then freshly-cleared Denny Regrade neighborhood (Courtesy, Mike Cirelli)

THEN: Looking west from the southwest corner of 6th Ave. N. and Mercer St. to the trolley barn and yards for the (renamed in 1919) Seattle Municipal Railway in 1936. (Courtesy Lawton Gowey)

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: A carpenter’s jewel with Victorian ornaments recorded by a tax assessor’s photographer in 1936, nestles at 615 Eastlake beside the surviving Jensen Apartments, aka the O’Donnell Building, on the left. (Courtesy Stan Unger)

THEN: The ‘Seattle showplace’ Rhodes mansion on Capitol Hill, ca. 1916. (Courtesy, Museum of History and Industry)

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: 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.)



Here’s Chapter 64 of the first repeat collection, Seattle Now and Then Vol. 1, as scanned from the book.   CLICK TO ENLARGE





Another – and confident – recording by the municipal photographer James Lee.  


One of the many stations that architect Daniel Huntington designed for the Seattle Fire Department.



Grocery near the northwest corner of Harrison and Dexter, ca. 1910.

A neighbor of the Browns on Dexter. Queen Anne Hill is on the distant left, and Lake Union on the right.


First printed in Pacific on Nov. 14, 1993.


The 9th Avenue Regrade was one of several spin-offs from the Denny Hill Regrade. First published in The Times for July 20, 2003.






WHILE MUCH OF THE ABOVE, the regrades, construction,  swimming,  was going on, everyone was also preoccupied with the First World War.  Here is a parodic clip from The Times for October 28, 1915.   Give note, for instance, to poor Texas and neglected Nevada.


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