Seattle Now & Then: The Ship Canal Bridge, 1960

(click and click again to enlarge photographs)

THEN: Looking northeast, Harvey Bernard’s cloud-strewn portrait of the incomplete Ship Canal Bridge in October 1960 captures Seattle mid-transformation. The Interstate 5 freeway through Seattle opened in December 1962, and the entire Washington state portion was completed in 1969. (Courtesy, Harvey & Leo Bernard)
NOW: Having helped triangulate Harvey Bernard’s original prospect on a hot, late summer day, Keenan Ingram (left) and Elijah Lev of Seattle anticipate diving into Lake Union to cool off. Seconds later, they did just that. (Jean Sherrard)

(Published in the Seattle Times online on Sept. 24, 2020
and in PacificNW Magazine of the print Times on Sept. 27, 2020)

A soaring salute to post-World War II car culture
By Jean Sherrard

World War II didn’t just beget a population boom. It also produced the throaty roar of automobile engines. Along with the proverbial chicken in every pot, a growing middle class aspired to afford a car in every garage.

To accommodate the soaring increase in traffic, the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956 provided 90 percent funding for a nationwide network of controlled-access interstate highways. The proposed Interstate 5, crossing 1,381 miles between the Canadian and Mexican borders, became one of the jewels in its crown.

This week’s “Then” photo comes from Leo Bernard, whose father, Harvey, moved his young family to Seattle from Minnesota in 1954 to take a job with Boeing. “Photography and mountain climbing became his twin passions,” Leo says, “and we rarely saw him without a camera.”

From a boat deck near the north end of Lake Union, Harvey Bernard captured his Ektachrome transparency of the Lake Washington Ship Canal Bridge under construction in October 1960.

From his vantage, three of seven concrete piers tower above Lake Union, along with a diagonal hash of equilateral steel trusses, providing support for the imposing double-deck bridge. Within a year, its eight-lane wide upper deck and reversible four-lane lower deck would span the 4,429-foot gap between the University District and Capitol Hill. At the time, it was the longest bridge of its kind erected in the Pacific Northwest.

Just west of the piers, the Wayland Mill silo burner squats like an abandoned potbelly stove. The mill produced Bungalow brand cedar shingles for decades before closing after the war. Restaurateur Ivar Haglund purchased the property in 1966 and installed his Salmon House, which still stands today.

To the mill’s right, the nondescript, grey warehouse, built in 1954, was purchased in 1963 by George and Stan Pocock to construct their legendary racing shells. Pocock supplied shells for “The Boys in the Boat,” who rowed them to gold in the 1936 Berlin Olympics, a story featured last March in this column.

In 1989, Seattle-based glass artist Dale Chihuly bought the 11,352 square-foot building, converting it to a combined living space and glass-blowing studio.

For months, the span, when completed, was a bridge to nowhere. The southern reach of the Seattle freeway had become temporarily mired in controversies over labor and design. Thus, according to the encyclopedic tome “Building Washington” by Paul Dorpat and Genevieve McCoy, planners of the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair proposed using the bridge’s empty decks for overflow parking.

The scheme never materialized. But modern motorists are all too familiar with I-5 as a parking lot.

WEB EXTRAS

Check out Jean’s 360 degree video including a late summer boat ride – and featuring young Keenan and Elijah. To be posted soon.

Also, here are a few more lovely photos from Harvey Bernard, contributed by his son Leo.

Harvey Bernard with an early but beloved camera in the 1930s.
Harvey Bernard in 1965.

Taken in 1970, says Leo – looks like the Salmon House is still under construction.
From a West Seattle viewpoint, the Seafirst Tower (aka the box the Space Needle came in) under construction, 1968.
Seafirst Tower under construction, 1968.
Seattle skyline from North Beacon Hill.

Union Station after the 1965 earthquake.

More earthquake damage on Alki.
Richard Nixon visited Seattle during his 1968 campaign.
Washington state’s Gov. Dan Evans shaking Nixon’s hand.
Harvey Bernard loved Mount Rainier.
He visited the the mountain many times, says son Leo, who shared a favorite family photo on Rainier. Leo is second from the left, next to mom, with his two sisters and younger brother.

3 thoughts on “Seattle Now & Then: The Ship Canal Bridge, 1960”

Leave a Reply to David Jeffers Cancel reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.