Seattle Now & Then: Grading Fremont

The head of a terrifying 30-foot tall Santa – Northgate Mall, 1952

A note from Jean:
Before continuing on to this week’s column, please excuse Paul and me for a shameless plug of our upcoming event. Sunday evening, we will return with our annual celebration of literature and music ‘A Rogues’ Christmas’, a part of ACT Theatre’s Short Stories Live series (usually held at Town Hall, but moved this year to the Taproot Theatre during reconstruction). 

(Now, as always, please click to enlarge photos)

THEN: Looking West circa 1911 from Fremont’s bridge to the improved Northern Pacific Railroad’s double-track line on the left, and work-in-progress on raising Ewing Avenue twenty feet with fill behind a new concrete retaining wall. (Courtesy, Museum of History and Industry)
NOW: Sculptor Mark Stevens’ 65-foot-high brushed-stainless steel sculpture named Monsruang aka Jewels of Heaven, is held to the six story corner tower of the Epi Building.
Artist Mark Stevens perched high on his sculpture Jewels of Heaven.
The base of Steven’s work above a Fremont Street Fair.

For his contemporary repeat Jean Sherrard has moved a few feet north of this week’s featured “then.” The brick Google Building at the southwest corner of Fremont Avenue and 43rd Street, got in his way. While both views look west from the north end of the Fremont Bridge, the historical photographer stood a few feet south of Jean’s prospect to include, on the left, the then new double trackage of the Northern Pacific Railroad. The construction confusion on the right hides the work-in-progress on the grade separation between the railroad tracks and the line of false-front businesses on the north side of Ewing Street.

Looking east on the Northern Pacific Railroad’s double tracks through Fremont on June 25, 1917, a year following the dedication of the Lake Washington Ship Canal. Ewing Street, aka 34th Avenue, is atop the concrete retaining wall on the left.
At its west end the start of the 34th Street concrete wall less than a block east of the trolley car barn (on the left) dated December 11, 1936 with Phinney Ridge on the horizon.
Ewing Street (34th) west from Fremont. Note the we presume dangerous door on the second floor facade of Star Plumbing, left-of-center. 
Seen from Queen Anne Hill, concluding work on the Fremont “High Bridge” in 1911. Compare the line of store fronts on Ewing Street just left of its intersection with the north end of the new bridge at the center of the subject..
Also from Queen Anne, but about five years earlier with the low bridge still serving and many of the same storefronts on Ewing (left-of-center) at their original elevation. A copy made from one of real photo artist Q. A. Oakes’ many postcards of Seattle subjects snapped in the first years of the 20th Century. You might expect to find this look into Fremont  for sale in a drug store or at a tobacco stand.

The businesses showing in this first block west of Fremont Avenue as far north as Evanston Street are from left-to-right, a dye works, a pool hall, a café, a real estate, loans and insurance office, the New York Laundry (which in a 1910 Times classified was looking for an “experienced ladies’ clothes ironer”), and the Star Plumbing and Sheet Metal Works. The plumbing store shows two small windows on its second floor with a door between them that oddly or imprudently opens to neither steps nor a balcony. This is surely a vestige of this business row when Ewing Street was at its original elevation, nearly twenty-feet lower than it stands here. Continuing to the right (east) the business lineup is stocked with more community necessities: a bar, an undertaker, a store for shoes and another for home furnishings.

The Lake Union Outlet marked on an 1893 Map. The canal to Salmon Bay still serpentines like a creek – Ross Creek it is, named for a family with a claim on booth sides of their waterway to the west of Fremont. Note that here Fremont Avenue is still named Lake.  Ewing Street is marked with tracks for the Seattle and Northern Railway, which first reached Fremont in 1887 as the Seattle Lake Shore and Eastern. 
A dozen years later – or so – in the 1904-5 Sanborn Real Estate Map,  Ewing still has its tracks, Fremont has replaced the name of Lake Avenue with its own, and the storefronts on the north side of Ewing are snug (mostly) and in line with their footprints. With both Ewing and Fremont Ave. the businesses are still at their original elevation.
Side-by-side details of the outlet from both the 1908 (on the left) and 1912 Baist Real Estate Maps. In the interim the concrete retaining ball along the south side of Ewing has been built and holds the street to its new elevation. CLICK TO ENLARGE
A Goggle-Earth look at the outlet and yellow-line markings for Ewing/34th Street, to the left (west) and right (east) of the Lake Washington Ship Canal.  CLICK TO ENLARGE

Ewing Street was named for Henry Clark Ewing, a precocious real estate agent who came to Seattle with his parents as a fourteen-year-old in 1886 and was building his own real estate office within ten years. In the biographical section of Seattle and Environs, judge and pioneer historian Clarence Hanford describes Ewing as one who “has acquired a wonderfully intimate knowledge of realty values and his judgment of such carries as much significance as that of any other man’s in Seattle.” Ewing’s significance reached Fremont in the late 1880s with his own street name. However, beginning in 1923 the street remembered Ewing only south of the canal where it was kept in the mostly residential Lower Queen neighborhoods. On the industrious Fremont side of the canal Ewing and its historical connotations were surrendered for another street-grid number, North 34th Street.

Looking north into Fremont from the Queen Anne side along the line of the new but still temporary timber bridge on Fremont Avenue.

I feel safe in ascribing the date for the featured view as sometime between 1910-1912. On Sept. 2, 1910, The Seattle Times reported “work was begun this morning on the new Fremont Avenue viaduct across the Lake Washington Canal site just below Lake Union.” We note that the bridge is called a viaduct in The Times report and the canal merely a site. Committed canal cutting between Lake Union and Shilshole Bay began in 1911 and continued into 1916. (Remember, we celebrated its centennial last year.) Although about two stories taller than the first bridge at Fremont, the new “viaduct” was much longer and so actually resembled a viaduct while reaching new and higher grades at both ends. Also in 1911, the north shore of Lake Union received a second temporary bridge – a lower

A Seattle Times clipping from April 1, 1911, construction work on the Stone Way Bridge seen from the Queen Anne side with the Westlake Trestle at the bottom.

pile-driven viaduct that reached across the northwest corner of the lake from Westlake to the foot of Stone Way. The Stone Way Bridge was razed in 1917, soon after the viaduct on Fremont was replaced by “the busiest bridge in America”, the bascule span on Fremont Ave. that we still cross and/or wait to cross. (Note the second Edge Link below on the opening of the Fremont Bridge.)


Anything to add, blokes?  Yes Jean – more older neighborhood/vicinity features.


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: This panorama could have used a tower (or drone) to better survey the size of the June 1, 191l, crowd gathered in Fremont/Ross to celebrate the beginning of construction on the Lake Washington Ship Canal. (Courtesy, Museum of History & Industry)

THEN: One of a few photographs recording from different prospects the Fremont trolley car barn on Dec.11, 1936. North 35th Street, on the right, was originally named Blewett for Edward and Carrie Blewett. In 1888 the couple, fresh from Fremont, Nebraska, first named and promoted Fremont as a Seattle neighborhood. That year Fremont also got its lumber mill. (Courtesy, Lawton Gowey)

THEN: If I have counted correctly this ca. 1930 Fremont Baptist Orchestra is appointed with three cellos, eleven violins and violas, two saxophones, two clarinets, one coronet, one oboe, one flute and two members who seem to be hiding their instruments. (courtesy Fremont Baptist Church)

Built for the manufacture of a fantastic engine that did not make it beyond its model, the Fremont factory’s second owner, Carlos Flohr, used it to build vacuum chambers for protecting telescope lenses. Thirty feet across and made from stainless steel the lens holders were often mistaken for flying saucers. (photo courtesy Kvichak marine Industries.)


THEN: One of a few photographs recording from different prospects the Fremont trolley car barn on Dec.11, 1936. North 35th Street, on the right, was originally named Blewett for Edward and Carrie Blewett. In 1888 the couple, fresh from Fremont, Nebraska, first named and promoted Fremont as a Seattle neighborhood. That year Fremont also got its lumber mill. (Courtesy, Lawton Gowey)

THEN: The rear end of the derailed trolley on N. 35th Street appears right-of-center a few feet east of Albion Place N. and the curved track from which the unrestrained car jumped on the morning of August 21, 1903. (Courtesy, Fremont Historical Society)

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: 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: 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: 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)




First appeared in Pacific on May 28, 2000







I snapped this while crossing the Fremont Bridge many years ago when the orange primer on the bridge was turning pink.   It was several years before Fremont glass artist Rodman Hiller convinced the powers that then were both downtown in City Hall and in Fremont,  ( perhaps then already “the center of the universe”)  to help him brighten the north facade of the west tower with shining neon tubes giving shape to a glowing likeness of Rapunzel the Teutonic beauty with blonde (or golden) hair that grew so fast and unrelenting that “before the tower” she wrapped it around herself.  She had no need for clothes, although with adolescence wore them for fear of arousing the loggers who worked for a very bad witch who owned the forest that Rapunzel and her parents lived beside.   And much else.  The hag paid well enough to keep the men chopping.  The forest surrounded a tower that was fated to move Rapunzel’s tale into it and toward tragedy if not into it.  As with most enduring tales there are versions.  With this one we need to both learn more and get some sleep.   We pause noting that at the age of about thirteen (about development one cannot be sure with fairy tales) Rapunzel was locked in a tower without doors and but one high window by a very very bad witch named Gothel who was easily one of the one percent of Bavaria and  who was owed something – Rapunzel – by Rapunzel’s parents, who were also her renters.  Rapunzel was named for the plant her mother craved when she was  pregnant.  Her father stole it at night from the only source, the witches garden, and was caught.  I have read that one does not censure the diet of a pregnant woman.   I’ll pause here back on bridge.  My capture of the blonde on the door to the north tower predates artist Hiller’s portrait installed and captured there by many years.   I’ll count them later following more study of the fable.



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