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Seattle Now & Then: West Montlake Park, ca 1925

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THEN: In this mid-1920s photo, facing north and taken from the Seattle Yacht Club tower, West Montlake Park fronts Lake Union’s Portage Bay. At upper right is the University Bridge. At lower right, a single lamppost peeks through birch leaves. (Courtesy Seattle Yacht Club)
NOW 1: On a mid-February afternoon, Colleen Chartier and Rob Wilkinson stand on the lawn of West Montlake Park. The newly installed colonnade stands sentinel along the lakeside path.

Published in The Seattle Times online on March 16, 2023
and in PacificNW Magazine of the printed Times on March 19, 2023

Colonnade of continuity lights up Portage Bay in Montlake
By Jean Sherrard

In 2019, photographer Colleen Chartier and urban planner Rob Wilkinson, neighbors in an elongated oval that divides the Montlake Cut from the SR-520 corridor, learned that their street’s beloved but decrepit 100-year-old lampposts were soon to be removed and replaced with modern counterparts.

For the two, the pending loss was personal. With their spouses, both had raised children in the neighborhood, and each of the 14 columns — though dinged, rusty and layered in peeling paint — was a repository of community memory.

What’s more, the gently tapered, cast-iron lampposts, installed circa 1920, were identical to those still lighting the Olmsted Brothers-designed Volunteer Park on nearby Capitol Hill. Destined for the scrap heap, these historic artifacts just had to be saved.

Former partners in Art-on-File, a small photography business, Chartier and Wilkinson had traveled the world for decades, documenting public art and architecture and changing cityscapes. From their explorations, the two understood that the colonnades (literally, rows of columns) of ancient Greece potently symbolize strength, endurance and importance.

Brainstorming a rescue plan, they recalled the colonnades in the disparate cities of Buenos Aires, Argentina, and Moline, Illinois. “These,” Chartier says, “are urban spaces where land and water meet, enhanced by necklaces of lampposts.”

Erecting a similar colonnade in nearby West Montlake Park, fronting Portage Bay, appealed to them both. “The idea was beautiful and simple,” Wilkinson says. “Elegantly laid out, we thought it would be irresistible.”

Wilkinson and Chartier stand on either side of a 12-foot-high lamppost. Topped with Greek design feature called an Ionic capital, most columns bear the stamp of their fabricator, Olympic Foundry Co. of Seattle.

Seattle City Light, however, was hesitant, citing legal liability. But Wilkinson persisted, eventually tracking down Dan Peters, the contractor tasked with disposing of the old fixtures. After hearing the pitch, Peters responded, “No problem, dude. Where do you want them?”

But where to temporarily cache 14 lampposts, 600 pounds each? Nearby Seattle Yacht Club offered storage for six months, which became an even more generous three years. The rest of the neighborhood was equally supportive, many enthusiastically underwriting restoration of the columns and erection of the colonnade.

Battered, peeling lampposts before restoration were stacked near a side wall of the Seattle Yacht Club for three years. (Colleen Chartier)

More hurdles followed, some bureaucratic, others pandemic-related. Progress slowed. Wilkinson and Chartier prepared an exactingly illustrated 40-page proposal that kept inspiration alive while shepherding the project from permitting through bidding and construction.

The colonnade at dusk (Rob Wilkinson)

Today, after 3-1/2 years and hundreds of hours of donated labor, the colonnade stands. Was it worth the trouble? Without a doubt, asserts the pair.

“It’s about presenting these commonplace artifacts in a way that honors their inherent beauty,” Chartier says.

“We’re battle-scarred,” Wilkinson adds with a rueful grin. “It turns out that building something so simple and lovely is really, really hard.”


Fascinating extras, this time round. First, check out our 360 on-site video of the column, read by Jean.

Then scroll down for some remarkable documentation of this amazing project. To begin with, the PDF of their 40-page proposal, beautifully crafted to ensure greatest impact.

The top of a restored lamppost, featuring a plexiglass globe, “lighthouse” base and orange marine solar beacon with a Fresnel lens.
Wilkinson, an experienced craftsman, also fabricated the painted wooden lighthouse-style bases upon which marine solar beacons are mounted.

More photos from Chartier and Wilkinson taken over 3 1/2 years.


Seattle Now & Then: The Emancipator, 1958

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THEN1: The Emancipator in late summer, 1958, prior to its record-breaking catch. Aided by a suspended power block, crew members haul in the last fathoms of seine net. (Ray Faddish)
NOW1: The 65-foot Emancipator, now restored, berthed at Ballard’s Fisherman’s Terminal. It continues life as a tender, transporting over a million pounds of fish last year. Owner/operator Brad Buske stands at the prow. (Jean Sherrard)

Published in The Seattle Times online on March 2, 2023
and in PacificNW Magazine of the printed Times on March 5, 2023

Fish stories come true on Ballard’s legendary Emancipator
By Jean Sherrard

Brad Buske’s earliest memories are of old salts playing pinochle, smoking cheroots and telling fish tales on the Everett waterfront, where his family runs a seafood processing company. One story consistently stood out, burnished in the retelling, and Buske knows it by heart.

It happened in the late summer of 1958 after a robust season for sockeye in Puget Sound. Of 400 local purse-seiners vying for salmon, the Emancipator, a sleek 65-foot wooden boat built in 1918 by the Skansi Bros. of Gig Harbor, had finished among the top 10 boats for gross stock. In 28 consecutive days, its nets had hauled in a respectable 25,000 fish.

When the state fish commission offered a last-minute extension, declaring a one-day open season on Fraser River sockeyes, Emancipator owner and skipper Nick Barhanovich jumped at the chance. “And if we happened to catch a few fish,” recalls crew member Ray Fadich in his 2020 book “The Big Run,” that would be “icing on our cake.”

The cover of “The Big Run” (2020) by former crew member Ray Fadich. The book details the dramatic story of the Emancipator’s 1958 bonanza along with colorful portraits of its crew.

Joining a flotilla of competing boats near Point Roberts, the Emancipator initiated a set and then began pulling in its seines. What happened next was mind-boggling.

Within the enclosed circle of nets, Fadich describes a “frenzy” of teeming fish, “water boiling as if in a huge cooking pot.” The delighted crew filled the hold to the brim, then loaded the deck gunnel-deep till the stern was almost awash. Fadich worked the bilge pumps till he was “blue in the face” just to keep the vessel above water.

THEN2: Filling every available deck surface during the big 1958 catch, 80,000 pounds of sockeye salmon threaten to swamp the boat, while crew members attempt to adjust the load. (Ray Faddich)

That single set comprised 15,000 fish — nearly 80,000 pounds. It was one of the largest single catches in Puget Sound history.

Today, Brad Buske, 36, is the proud owner of the Emancipator, which he bought for a dollar in 2013. “By that time, the boat was basically floating dirt,” he says. “We removed the old fish hold with a shovel.”

The Emancipator was transferred to Port Townsend, where Buske says master shipwrights rebuilt it beam by beam: “We did our best to keep all the lines as original as possible, trying to preserve its history — not to create a dead replica but a working boat with a purpose.”

Buske views himself a caretaker of that history. “To me,” he says, “this boat is a living thing. There’s oil and sweat and fish juice soaked into its timbers.”

NOW2: In the 105-year-old wheelhouse, simplicity reigns. The original wheel remains in place, as does the chain connecting it to the flying bridge above and rudder below. In busy Puget Sound, Buske eschews any autopilot mechanisms, preferring to steer the boat manually. (Jean Sherrard)

Several months a year, with Buske at the helm, the Emancipator continues to ply Puget Sound as a tender, transporting fish between the today’s salmon fleet and his family’s cannery, adding salty chapters to its ongoing story.


For our 360 video of this column, narrated by Jean, please join us at  Fisherman’s Terminal.

More photos of the Emancipator included below:

The boat Buske bought for a buck, before reconstruction, in dry dock in Port Townsend.
After months of skilled labor by shipwrights, the Emancipator is much restored and ready to get back to work.

Passing through the Ballard Locks:

Seattle Now & Then: Dick’s Drive In, 1963

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THEN: The first Dick’s Drive-in opened in Wallingford in January 1954. Our automotive informant Bob Carney dates this color photo to “1963 or later,” noting the “pretty fine assortment of wheels” in the parking lot. (Courtesy, Dick’s Drive In)
NOW: The Broadway Dick’s today. Its menu, largely unchanged over 69 years, boasts fresh (“never frozen”) hamburger meat, hand-cut fries (with a whisper of grease) and hand-dipped milkshakes. (Jean Sherrard)

Published in The Seattle Times online on Feb. 16, 2023
and in PacificNW Magazine of the printed Times on Feb. 19, 2023

Coming to our late-night rescue for 69 years: Dick’s Drive-In
By Jean Sherrard

“You don’t know where I’ve been!” the angry guy repeated.

“You don’t know where he’s been!” chimed in his sidekick.

The muzzle of a gun he pointed at me seemed as enormous as a Kalakala ferry porthole on a night crossing.

“I, I don’t know where you’ve been,” I agreed, quaking, my hands raised. What to do? Should I meet his eyes or not? I was fixated on the deadly weapon.

It was the early 1980s. I had just finished performing in an Empty Space Theatre play on Capitol Hill. After a convivial beer or two at the Comet Tavern, I stopped off at Dick’s Drive-In on Broadway. Just as I joined the line to order, a parking-lot scene was coming to a climax.

A young mixed-race couple (black guy, white gal) in a convertible sipped on milkshakes while two white guys in fatigue jackets circled them in a lather, hurling racial epithets.

“C’mon, cut it out,” I called, fortified by Redhook and youth.

That’s when the gun appeared.

The line parted around me like the Red Sea, but someone shouted, “Leave him alone!” Moments later, customers and servers behind the windows took up the refrain: “Leave him alone!”

The gun barrel wavered indecisively, then lowered. The guy and his sidekick hopped in their car and peeled out of the lot. The Dick’s crowd had come to my rescue.

My Deluxe and Fries were particularly tasty that night. In the immortal words of the Bard, all’s well that ends well.

THEN: The Dick’s on Broadway shown, Carney says, in “1963 or later. (Courtesy, Dick’s Drive In)
NOW: Dick’s in Wallingford, mid-winter, just before sunset. Then and now, Dick’s has paid wages and benefits above the industry standard, offering college scholarships to interested staff. (Jean Sherrard)

Richard Spady (1923-2016), eponymous co-founder of Dick’s, whose family still owns the small chain of drive-ins, opened his first restaurant in 1954 in Wallingford. He and his partners adopted simple principles: quality ingredients and quick service. They found almost instant success and stuck with the formula.

Sixty-nine years later, long lines continue well past midnight. The oldest fast-food joint in town is still one of its most popular, repeatedly topping polls for the region’s favorite eatery. Afficionados include songsters Sir Mix-a-Lot and Macklemore. Both immortalized Dick’s in rap.

The late Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen also was a customer. So, still, is his partner Bill Gates, who, legend has it, once flamboyantly tried to pay for a cheeseburger with a $1,000 bill. But times have moderated the local billionaire, who now seems to prefer anonymity.

THEN 3: A repeat visitor to the Wallingford Dick’s, Bill Gates orders his usual in 2019: a Deluxe, Fries and a Coke, recalls Paul Rich, who commemorated the moment with a cell-phone photo. (photo: Paul Rich)

Ten years ago, late one weekday evening, Gates and I approached separate windows at the Wallingford Dick’s and coincidentally called out the same order: a Deluxe, Fries and a Coke. He was alone and unassuming, wearing the same sweater he’d worn on “The Daily Show” the night before.


For our narrated 360 degree video featuring this column, please head over in this direction.

Seattle Now & Then: Magnolia Bluffs, 1913

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THEN: Looking northwest in 1913, the lighthouse compound stands sentinel on a sand spit, named West Point by U.S. Naval Lieutenant Charles T. Wilkes in 1841. The photographer in the photo is a rare addition to the scene.
NOW: The same view today from an approximated location. Ian Miller estimates that the bluffs have receded 25-50 feet over the past 110 years.

Published in The Seattle Times online on Feb. 2, 2023
and in PacificNW Magazine of the printed Times on Feb. 5, 2023

Magnolia Beach offers proverbial wave of the future
By Jean Sherrard

In 1913, below Magnolia Bluff and today’s Discovery Park, a Webster & Stevens photographer captured this revealing pair of images of South Beach. In the northwesterly view, gleaming West Point Lighthouse anchors a sand spit, known to the Duwamish as Per-co-dus-chule or “thrusts far out.”

Early mariners knew the peninsula as Sandy Point and welcomed installation of the lighthouse in 1881, the first on Puget Sound, to warn of the hazardous shoal at the north end of Elliott Bay, site of many shipwrecks.

The lighthouse compound was accessible only by water until the arrival of the Army at nearby Fort Lawton in 1900, when a steep dirt road was cut from the top of the bluff down to the shoreline. Even then, lighthouse keepers and their assistants led an envied if isolated existence.

In 1984, West Point Lighthouse was one of the last stations on the West Coast to be automated. Owned and operated by Seattle Parks since 2004, its beacon continues to guide sailors safely home.

But what of nearby 300-foot Magnolia Bluff, lined with native madrona trees? Theories abound as to its misnaming. Most likely Navy Captain George Davidson erred during his 1856 survey of Puget Sound, confusing one broadleaved evergreen for another.

THEN: Looking southeast along South Beach, much of the bluff remains undeveloped. Huge logs adorn the shoreline, likely products of a booming timber industry. (MOHAI)

The beach itself also invites puzzlement. Aside from the absence of color, little seems to distinguish then from now. But Port Townsend oceanographer and coastal hazards specialist Ian Miller begs to differ.

“It’s hard to express how excited I [am] by these 110-year old photos,” he says. “We have so few historical images of these bluffs and shorelines, and I’ve never seen anything like them.”

For Miller, two elements warrant particularly close study: the size and quantity of logs on the beach and the coarsening of its sand and gravel, both of which provide vital environmental clues. Today, with much of Puget Sound “armored” by seawalls, riprap and hard surfaces, natural beach formation has been significantly disrupted.

NOW: The sand and gravel beach offers a popular hike on a bright winter’s day.

South Beach, however, nourished by the gradual erosion of its towering bluffs, has maintained equilibrium, rebuilding itself through sedimentation over time. Its sands provide vital spawning grounds for smelt and other forage fish, prey for salmon. “From an ecological standpoint,” Miller says, “these are very important elements of the marine food web.”

What will the next 100 years bring? “As sea levels continue to rise,” Miller says, “this section of beach may provide a microcosm for Puget Sound restoration.”

In other words, reducing coastal “armor” and allowing resilient shorelines to erode and rebuild naturally may be the wave of the future.


For our 360 video version of the column, click here.

NOW3: West Point Lighthouse, encircled by riprap, stands 23 feet tall above the beach. Built of brick and concrete with a stucco exterior, its original Fresnel lens was replaced by a modern Vega Rotating Beacon.

Seattle Now & Then: Monorail dreams, 1918

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THEN1: A Webster & Stevens photograph, looking north from the third floor of the 1913 Joshua Green Building includes futuristic features added by an unknown designer. Imagined monorails snugly hug both sides of 90-foot-wide Westlake Avenue. The track veering left past the Hotel Plaza heads up Fourth Avenue toward today’s Seattle Center. (MOHAI, Webster & Stevens)
NOW1: Today’s Westlake Park, popularly known as Seattle’s town square, replaced Westlake Avenue in 1960. Surviving structures include the 10-floor Seaboard Building (1909) at far right. The former American Hotel (1907), now Westlake Place, is to its immediate north. (Jean Sherrard)
THEN2: A second proposed route of the Universal Elevated Railway Co. runs south along Second Avenue from Stewart. The new logo on the foreground train’s side panel suggests a rechristened “Safety Railway.” (MOHAI)
NOW2: While much of Second Avenue is now composed of glass and steel towers, original structures remain. The remodeled Standard Furniture Company Building (1907) still looms at right. On the southwest corner of Second and Pine, the Doyle Building (1919) is a terra cotta-faced marvel. (Jean Sherrard)

Published in The Seattle Times online on Jan. 19, 2023
and in PacificNW Magazine of the printed Times on Jan. 22, 2023

Single-track minds imagine a Seattle monorail a century ago
By Jean Sherrard

In February 1962, a week after John Glenn orbited the earth and two months before the opening of the Century 21 Exposition (aka the Seattle World’s Fair), the Seattle-Post Intelligencer featured a mysterious photo in its Sunday magazine. Discovered in the archives of a “pioneer” photo studio, it depicted a familiar if antiquated Seattle cityscape but with futuristic alterations.

The article had it wrong. The adjusted photo was not from 1915 but 1918.

Skillfully added to the original photo, painted ribbons of monorail track snaked down Fourth Avenue and through Westlake, while cars atop the tracks bore a logo: “Universal Elevated Railway.”

Even keen-witted 93-year-old Joshua Green, from whose eponymous building the portrait had been taken, had no recollection of its provenance.

Challenged to solve the enigma, however, older readers soon supplied answers. A retired patent attorney recalled filing the original designs in 1918, and several early investors trotted out their now-worthless stock certificates.

Turns out the city’s nearly completed Alweg monorail, set to glide between Westlake and the World’s Fair, had been largely envisioned more than 40 years earlier by prescient inventors and entrepreneurs. Uncannily, one of their proposed routes even mirrored that of the Alweg.

This early monorail design was the brainchild of an unlikely crew, including noted physician Dr. Royal McClure, wealthy Sedro Wooley druggist Albert Holland, Capitol Hill garage manager David McClay and Seattle engineering professor Robert Rockwell. In May 1917, they incorporated as the Universal Elevated Railway Co. and declared their intension to make Seattle the world’s monorail capital.

By late 1918, after filing more than a dozen patents, the partners offered stock in the company, intending to fund a demonstration monorail downtown. Surely, the world would soon beat a single-track path to their door.

A bold-faced promotional flyer touted the advantages of elevated transit system: “SURFACE OBSTRUCTION such as floods, snow, railroad crossings, congestion … derailing and THIRD RAIL DANGER” largely would be eliminated by their innovative designs, intended to replace nearly 200 miles of perilous existing railway on Seattle streets.

Yet it was not to be. In the final year of World War I, the federal government imposed austerity measures across the nation, discouraging unnecessary capital investments. To boot, Seattle Mayor Ole Hanson was a decided skeptic. The gung-ho backers of the Universal Elevated Railway, though rich in imagination and ambition, could not raise enough out-of-pocket cash. In 1923, the struggling company closed its doors.

It would be another 40 years before a monorail car finally pulled into a station at Westlake.


For 360 degree narrated video version of this column, click here!


Seattle Now & Then: The Recall of Hiram Gill, 1911

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THEN1: On Feb. 2, 1911, four days before his recall election, Mayor Hiram Gill addressed an overflow crowd of 2,200 in the Grand Opera House near Third and Cherry, then crossed Third to the packed Seattle Theatre to again deny charges of political corruption. The streets filled with hundreds of would-be spectators who were denied entry. The photo was taken from the new Hoge Building nearby. (Courtesy MOHAI)
NOW1: The Grand Opera House, built for legendary theater impresario John Cort in 1900, was gutted by fire in 1917. In 1923, it was converted to a five-story parking garage with an original capacity of more than 300 automobiles. Its façade is largely unchanged. (Jean Sherrard)

Published in The Seattle Times online on Jan. 5, 2022
and in PacificNW Magazine of the printed Times on Jan. 8, 2022

Newly enfranchised women spark 1911 recall of Mayor Hiram Gill
By Jean Sherrard

Seattle was once the Wild West, bitterly divided between an “open city” that tolerated gambling and prostitution south of Yesler Way and a “closed city” that would enforce laws everywhere without exception.

Amid this debate in March 1910, Hiram Gill was elected mayor but soon faced charges of corruption. Female voters, on the verge of acquired suffrage in our state, launched a successful recall petition. The campaign resembled a theatrical play, for which we’ve created a script with actual quotes from key players:

The cast:


Hiram Gill


Mayor Hiram Gill (1866-1919). Open-city proponent, former city councilman, lawyer noted for defending houses of ill repute, casually smoked a corncob pipe.



“Wappy” Wappenstein


Charles “Wappy” Wappenstein (1853-1931). Gill’s police chief, 5-feet tall, walrus mustache, considered genially effective if utterly corrupt.



Rev. Matthews


The Rev. Mark Matthews (1867-1940). Angular 6-foot-5 First Presbyterian preacher, popular denouncer of sin.



Alden Blethen


Alden J. Blethen (1845-1915). The Seattle Times owner/editor-in-chief, vigorous supporter of Gill.



Erastus Brainerd


Erastus Brainerd (1855-1922). Seattle Post-Intelligencer editor-in-chief, Queen City booster, open-city opponent.



GILL: I don’t pretend to be a very good man, but I know the law and will enforce it.

WAPPY: People don’t really want a clean city. They just say they do.

MATTHEWS: This city doesn’t want prostitution, gambling, all-night saloons or police corruption.

BLETHEN: Not one iota of testimony … prove[s] that Wappenstein has taken money as a public official.

BRAINERD: He would make a model chief of police were it not for his one known weakness — graft.

WAPPY: There will be a chance for all of us to make some money.

BRAINERD: [Gill] has allowed enforcers of the law to enter into lewd partnerships with breakers of the law.

BLETHEN: All the ranting of the P-I gang will never cause The Times to turn against these two men.

MATTHEWS: This is a campaign of decency versus indecency.

GILL: Public decency is not the issue. What do you care [about] some cuss shooting craps?

WAPPY: Mayor Gill is one of the most popular mayors Seattle has ever had, and there’s little danger of his recall.

GILL: If Charley Wappenstein had committed 100 murders, I will see that he holds his job.

MATTHEWS: Every ballot cast will be either for or against righteousness, civic purity and law enforcement.

BLETHEN: Gill’s fate lies with the women of Seattle.


To his lasting regret, Blethen was correct. On Feb. 7, 1911, Seattle’s female voters resoundingly ousted Gill in the first mayoral recall election in U.S. history.

In 1914, Gill was re-elected mayor. Flexibly repentant, he had campaigned on a closed-city platform. Meanwhile, Wappy wound up in the state penitentiary in Walla Walla.


A few more photos to amplify:

Zoom in on the following astonishing portrait of the audience awaiting Hiram Gill in the Seattle Theater. The women are few though their voice would be heard days later.

THEN2: An overflow crowd awaits Mayor Hiram Gill in the Seattle Theatre on Feb. 2, 1911. (MOHAI)
THEN4: The Rev. Mark Matthews (left) and Hiram Gill (right) provide unlikely bookends to an unidentified newlywed couple on the Smith Tower observation deck, circa 1914.
NOW2: The exterior of the former Grand Opera House, now replaced by the Cherry Street Garage at 213 Cherry. While the arched entryway has been filled with concrete, original windows remain. (Jean Sherrard)

For our narrated 360 degree video shot on location, click right here!

And here are two related installments by our column founder Paul Dorpat:

Feb. 24, 1985, “Now & Then” column by Paul Dorpat.
Jan. 8, 1995, “Now & Then” column by Paul Dorpat.

‘Watch the Box’ – a haunted Christmas story for Boxing Day

A few years ago, I asked Paul Dorpat, Seattle Now & Then founder and noted raconteur, if he knew any ghost stories. He offered up the outlines of a haunted tale told by his dad, the Rev. Theodore Dorpat, about a man trapped inside a terrifying box threatened by another box.  I adapted it, filling in a few blanks.

Here it is, for those in Xmas doldrums or just exhausted by the exertions of the day! Click on the photo to begin…

Seattle Now & Then: Lake Keechelus road, 1911

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THEN: In 1911, an old wagon road runs along the eastern shore of Lake Keechelus. Between 1907 and 1912, ferry operators E.J. and S.J Finch charged as much as $5 (more than $100 in 2022 dollars) per automobile for a trip of less than two miles, outraging vehicle owners. In 1912, urged by Kittitas and King County commissioners, the Finches agreed to halve their rates. (Asahel Curtis, Paul Dorpat collection)
NOW: Replacing the Sunset Highway, six-lane Interstate 90 passes high above Lake Keechelus, just east of Snoqualmie Pass. In both “Now” and “Then” photos, the railroad cut is visible across the lake. The line was abandoned in 1980. (Jean Sherrard)

Published in The Seattle Times online on Dec. 8, 2022
and in PacificNW Magazine of the printed Times on Dec. 11, 2022

To grandmother’s house we swerve — around Lake Keechelus
By Jean Sherrard


This scream from my grandmother-to-be was followed, a split second later, by a swerve from my grandfather-to-be to avoid a head-on collision. He skidded off the gravel road and barreled toward a 100-foot cliff.

Let us freeze that instant of white-knuckled, bug-eyed terror and pause to consider life’s random fragility. From near-miss bullets and plane flights not taken, to Spanish flus and rattlesnake bites, every family history is replete with “what ifs” upon which threads of destiny dangle.

My maternal ancestors’ fate hinged for several seconds on the reaction time of my 21-year-old gramps, who drove a Model-T Ford in the late fall of 1927 on a treacherous switchback of the Sunset Highway, high above Lake Keechelus’s eastern shore.

Heading home to Seattle for the holidays from Whitworth College in Spokane, Lewis Randal and his fiancé —  Dorothy Dailey, then a senior — were taking a much-traveled road with a long and checkered past.

For likely thousands of years, Snoqualmie Pass (elevation 3,010 feet) offered a trail from east to west. In the 1860s, it was expanded to accommodate pack trains and cattle drives and later used by cross-state travelers and nascent automobiles. Early in the 20th century, however, traffic over the pass slowed to a crawl.

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation had designated Lake Keechelus, a primary source of the Yakima River, as the ideal reservoir to irrigate hundreds of thousands of acres of parched valley farmland. They erected a temporary wooden coffer dam in 1907 at the lake’s mouth, raising the water by 10 feet — just enough to make the existing road unusable.

THEN2: In 1917, the permanent, concrete Keechelus Dam undergoes construction near the head of the Yakima River. The water was projected to rise up to 50 feet above the lake’s pre-dam levels. (MOHAI)

The recently formed Washington State Highway Department, led by Joseph Snow (who engineered Seattle’s first major regrade) found itself between a rock and a wet place. Travelers on the east/west road, now partially flooded, were hostages to a private ferry operator who offered lake crossings at usurious prices.

Meanwhile, on the west side of the lake, astute managers of the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul, and Pacific Railroad had planned ahead, carving railbeds well above the dammed waters. By 1909, their trains ran on a busy schedule, taunting bottlenecked traffic on the opposite shore with every steam whistle.

With convict labor, the state’s re-routing of the wagon road, part of the proposed Sunset Highway, was not complete until 1915. It remained unpaved until 1934, years after my grandparents flirted with terror.

A merciful thaw of the freeze-frame reveals that the Model-T was halted by a stump at the cliff’s edge, allowing them to proceed toward their (and my) destiny.


Just follow the link to watch our 360 degree video version of this column.

For your enjoyment, Jean added a few photos taken on the same late October trip of the eastern side of the Cascades in the Yakima Canyon near Ellensburg.


Seattle Now & Then: Octavia Butler in Lake Forest Park

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THEN1: The Lake Forest Park house that writer Octavia Butler lived in from 1999 to her death in 2006, pictured here in 1958, was built in 1957. (Courtesy Puget Sound Branch, Washington State Archives)
NOW1: Matt Milios stands in front of the house that Octavia Butler owned between 1999 and 2006. (Jean Sherrard)

Published in The Seattle Times online on Nov. 24, 2022
and in PacificNW Magazine of the printed Times on Nov. 27, 2022

Ninety years before Octavia Butler moved in 1999 from sunny Pasadena, California, to Lake Forest Park, 10 miles north of Seattle, then-real-estate developer and future Seattle mayor Ole Hanson (1874-1940) envisioned a neighborhood that would provide an escape from frenetic city life. In a promotional pamphlet, Hanson described an environment removed from “the sordid commercialism of today.”

THEN2: A portrait of Lake Forest Park developer and future Seattle mayor Ole Hanson. Resigning after a brief but eventful 18-month term, Hanson moved to California, where he is recognized as one of the founders of San Clemente. (Seattle Municipal Archives)

In 1909, Seattle was booming. During the first decade of the 20th century, its population had nearly tripled (to 237,194 from 80,671 in 1900) in time to host its first world’s fair, the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition. The Queen City had emerged as a major metropolis, with accompanying growth pains.

Hanson intended that his proposed development provide an antidote to the urban hustle and bustle: “Forget your schemes for a moment; lay aside your business; let the telephone ring; allow your callers to wait in the ante-room; Read — Ponder — and Dream.

Butler could have heeded Hanson’s call when choosing her ideal neighborhood. Her mid-century modern home, built in 1957, nestled within easy walking distance of a notable bookstore, grocery stores and Lake Washington. It also offered a green refuge for the nature-loving writer.

Mike Daly, her across-the-street neighbor, moved into the neighborhood within months of Butler’s arrival. “We got to know Octavia little by little,” he says. “She didn’t have a car, which fit with her environmentalism. Sometimes I’d see her walking home from Albertson’s with two bags of groceries and offer her a ride. ‘I need the exercise,’ she’d say.

NOW4: With a collection of motorcycles, Mike Daly lives directly across the street. An active 74, he recently completed an 11,000-mile ride to every corner of the United States. He recalls Octavia Butler as “a reclusive sweetheart.” (Jean Sherrard)

“We invited her over for dinner on numerous occasions, but she always politely declined. … A great neighbor, very personable but more of a private than a social-type person.”

Deborah Magness of Third Place Books concurred. While Butler attended reading and signing events, she also was a regular customer. “I very clearly recall ringing Octavia up at the cash register,” Magness says, “but between being starstruck and having the feeling she wished to go about her business quietly and anonymously, I did not interact with her at length.”

Susan McMurry, a neighbor several doors north of Butler’s former house, wasn’t aware of her presence in the neighborhood until reading her obituary in local papers. “After she passed, our local book club decided to read her wonderful novel ‘Kindred,’ in which a young Black woman travels through time to the era of slavery. I’m not very well versed in science fiction, but for me Octavia’s books transcend the genre, with their mix of history, philosophy and ethics.”

NOW2: Matt Milios greeted more than 500 trick-or-treaters for Halloween this year. His Christmas decorations are already in place. (Jean Sherrard)

Matt Milios, who owns Butler’s former Lake Forest Park property and has been a devoted reader of science fiction since childhood, was delighted to discover that a favorite author once shared his home. While little trace remains of Butler’s tenure, several times a year ardent fans show up on his doorstep, seeking posthumous connection.

NOW3: Milios gazes out the window of what was once Octavia Butler’s study. (Jean Sherrard)

A nudge from the past arrived in Milios’s mailbox last summer. In a letter addressed to Butler, sent 16 years after her death, a local bank sought overdue payment for a safety deposit box. Milios forwarded the request to her California estate managers, who paid the time-traveling debt.

Seattle Now & Then: The Issaquah Salmon Hatchery, 1936

(click to enlarge photos)

THEN: Newly constructed concrete ponds teem with Green River hatchlings. Nets soon were erected to protect the ponds from scavengers. This 1936 photo, looking southwest, was taken from the upper floors of Issaquah’s Myrtle Masonic Lodge, built in 1914. (Courtesy Issaquah Salmon Hatchery)
NOW1: The ponds, reconstructed in 1981, are completely covered with protective netting. Standing in the foreground are (from left) Darin Combs and Travis Burnett, state Department of Fish and Wildlife hatchery specialists; Robin Kelley, executive director of Friends of Issaquah Hatchery (FISH); Alex Sindelar and J.J. Swennumson, hatchery specialists. A group of touring students can be glimpsed at upper right. (Jean Sherrard)

Published in The Seattle Times online on Oct. 27, 2022
and in PacificNW Magazine of the printed Times on Oct. 30, 2022

As young vampires, ghouls and superheroes prowl our neighborhoods cadging for candy this Halloween, actual monsters roam the deeps — and the shallows.

Hideously transmogrified, they struggle upstream past the banks of Pacific Northwest lakes, rivers and streams in an intricate and terrifying water ballet.

While on the hunt for ghost stories suitable for this shivery season, I thumbed through regional reports of the supernatural, from a haunted Georgetown mansion to the spooky lower level of the Pike Place Market, but each tale seemed more trick than treat.

But I caught a break investigating a potential “Then” photo at the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery when serendipity inspired a question.

“Know any scary stories about fish?” I asked hatchery specialist J.J. Swennumson.

Hatchery specialist J.J. Swennumsen sorts Coho hatchlings. “This is the job I was born to do,” he says.

“Soos Creek Hatchery,” J.J. said, referencing an Auburn facility. “That place was super freaky.”

The reputedly haunted Soos Creek Hatchery. These spooky old structures have mostly been replaced by spanking new ones.

Mysterious, dead-of-night music and an apparition named Homer made regular appearances. After the hatchery’s eerie old building was replaced, however, the spooks fell silent.

“But,” J.J. added impishly with a twinkle, “we’ve got zombies.”

Out of dozens of state, federal and tribal hatcheries, Issaquah with 250,000 annual visitors is our state’s most popular. Built in 1936 by the Depression-era Works Progress Administration, the facility aimed to restore historic salmon runs to Issaquah Creek, devastated by decades of coal mining and logging.

The hatchery’s first salmon stock, borrowed from nearby Green River, was released into the creek to general rejoicing, followed by decades of activity.

We’ll get to J.J.’s zombies, but if you have forgotten your salmonid factoids, here’s a quick refresher:

For at least two million years, Pacific salmon have flourished in our cold mountain rivers and streams. From freshwater spawning beds, hatchlings eventually head downstream to the ocean where, after several years of feeding and growth, they chart a course for home.

In what marine biologists describe as one of nature’s most remarkable mysteries, migrating salmon take cues from the Earth’s geomagnetic field to traverse thousands of miles of saltwater and arrive at their natal river’s mouth. Upon entering fresh water, a sense of smell thousands of times more sensitive than a bloodhound’s guides the fish to their original spawning grounds.

A salmon leaps out of the creek, seeking entry to the hatchery.

With the change in salinity, however, they stop feeding entirely. Their once-sleek silver bodies alter color and shape as their internal organs, save those charged with reproduction, begin to fail.

A mottled “zombie” salmon swims in Issaquah Creek, skin scraped away, lips sheared off.

Battered, scarred, scarcely alive, these “zombie” salmon finally arrive home to spawn a next generation. But their contribution doesn’t end there. Their decaying bodies, strewn along riverbanks, provide autumnal protein for wildlife and nitrogen-rich fertilizer for surrounding trees.

A female mallard duck feasts on salmon remains in Issaquah Creek.

In other words, tricks and treats!


A few more photos of the hatchery and Issaquah creek below. Also, check out our 360 video featuring a visit to the hatchery.

J.J. dips a net into the adult tank where returning salmon throng
The adult tank filled with returning chinook
Issaquah Creek flows outside the hatchery walls. Gulls and ducks prowl in search of salmon sushi.
A gull watches “zombie” salmon swim past
J.J. tosses a salmon carcass into the creek where it will feed and fertilize