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Photo Credit
Photo Credit: Ballard Locks, 1979. Item 179169, Historic Building Survey Photograph Collection (Record Series 1629-01)

Life on the Cut

The Ship Canal, a Brief History

Approximately eight miles long, the Lake Washington Ship Canal was created to allow passage of vessels from Puget Sound to Lake Washington. A variety of plans for connecting the two bodies of water were discussed for over fifty years before Hiram M. Chittenden headed up the Seattle District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 1906 and secured federal funding. Chittenden's ship canal consisted of two cuts, one between Salmon Bay and Lake Union and one between Lake Union and Lake Washington, and a set of locks at the west end of Salmon Bay. Popular alternatives before Chittenden's plan included a route from Elliott Bay through downtown and into Lake Union, or passing through Beacon Hill, or up through Smith's Cove, now Interbay. In 1891, five total routes were considered. The Shilshole Bay route was deemed easier to defend, more protected from winds, cheaper, and had fewer curves.

The canal's construction lowered the water level of Lake Washington by nine feet and raised the level of Salmon Bay behind the locks. Salmon Bay, previously a tidal inlet, became a freshwater body of water.

Work began on the project in 1909, with work on the locks beginning in August 1911. By November 1916, ships were moving freely through the locks. The grand opening celebration was held on July 4, 1917, with a parade of more than 200 boats led by the SS Roosevelt. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers continued to refine the dimensions of the canal and the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks, along with other canal construction projects, until final completion in 1934.

The City Lends a Hand

The City of Seattle made improvements to accommodate the forthcoming canal. Shilshole Avenue was regraded in anticipation of the water levels in Salmon Bay rising by as much as eight feet. Sewers and water lines were relocated before digging the canal could commence.

Bridges in the path of the canal's construction also had to be dismantled and rebuilt in order to accommodate the passage of large vessels. These included a crossing at 3rd Avenue West between North Queen Anne and Ballard, as well as the Stone Way Bridge, which spanned Lake Union and joined the north side of the lake to Westlake Avenue. Two new bascule bridges were built that allowed ships into Lake Union; the Ballard Bridge opened in 1916 and the Fremont Bridge in 1917. The Latona Bridge, linking Eastlake to the University District, was replaced by the University Bridge in 1919.

Neighborhoods on the Canal

Neighborhoods bordering the canal are Ballard, Fremont, Magnolia, Interbay, Queen Anne, Wallingford, Eastlake, Montlake, Laurelhurst, and Madison Park. With the construction of the canal, maritime activity and industry increased in areas like Ballard, Magnolia, Fremont, and Interbay. Neighborhoods along Lake Union and Portage Bay benefitted from the passage of vessels through to Lake Washington, whether for industry or pleasure.

This exhibit

"Life on the Cut" is a collection of field survey property photographs containing color slides with identified addresses of homes and businesses captured between 1974 and 1980 in the abovementioned neighborhoods. The development of these neighborhoods was spurred by transportation and trade activities made possible by the Lake Washington Ship Canal project. In addition, the collection features examples of maritime activity that took place during the mid-to-late 1970s along Salmon Bay, the Fremont Cut, Lake Union, and the Montlake Cut. Highlights of this collection include snapshots of Old Ballard, Foss Maritime, the celebration of Norwegian Constitution Day in Ballard, the Maritime Shipyards, and Gas Works Park. Funded by a heritage grant from 4Culture, this exhibit is part of "Making the Cut," a region-wide consortium of institutions participating in the 2017 centennial of the Lake Washington Ship Canal.

In addition to the highlights included in this exhibit are 600+ photos that can be found in SMA's Digital Collections.

Along with the photographic slides cataloged and digitized for the Making the Cut commemoration, over 2,500 remaining slides whose locations fall outside the defined boundaries of the Lake Washington Ship Canal project were part of this collection, and are in the process of being digitized. These, too, contain examples of homes, businesses, and other important locations captured in the mid-to-late 1970s. Images from this series, the Historic Building Survey Photograph Collection (Record Series 1629-01), excluding "Life on the Cut" images, can be seen on the Digital Collections site.

Magnolia

The second-largest geographic neighborhood in Seattle, Magnolia's north end houses commercial fishing activity, including the Fisherman's Terminal.

Residence, 3724 W Commodore Way
Residence, 3724 W. Commodore Way
Image 179725
Maritime Shipyards, Petrich Machine Works
Maritime Shipyards, Petrich Machine Works
Image 178795
Warehouse #2, Fishermen's Terminal. Vessels: Nordfjord, Harbor Queen. Gas Dock
Warehouse #2, Gas Dock, Fishermen's
Terminal. Vessels: Nordfjord, Harbor Queen
Image 179711
Fishermen's Terminal Winch House
Fishermen's Terminal Winch House
Image 179734

Interbay

Originally a salt marsh, Interbay became an important railroad and industry hub.

Covered moorage, south side of canal near Locks [from Interbay]
Covered moorage, south side of canal
near Ballard Locks from Interbay
Image 179440
Burlington Northern Roundhouse, Interbay
Burlington Northern Roundhouse, Interbay
Image 179716
Residence, 4419 24th Avenue W
Residence, 4419 24th Avenue W.
Image 179729
Burlington Northern Roundhouse, Interbay [view from facility]
View of Interbay from
Burlington Northern Roundhouse
Image 179720

Ballard

Ballard, the site of the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks, was also an established seafaring community of Scandinavians drawn to the area by plentiful salmon fishing.

Ballard Avenue NW and Vernon Place NW [former Scandinavian American Bank/Canal Bank]
Ballard Avenue NW and Vernon Place NW
Former Scandinavian American Bank/Canal Bank
Image 179462
Ballard Celebrates Norwegian Constitution Day on May 17th
Ballard celebrates Norwegian Constitution Day
on May 17th
Image 179347
Crane barge passing through the Chittenden Locks
Crane barge passing through
the Chittenden Locks
Image 179436
Magnolia Fertilizer Company, 14th Avenue NW and Leary Way
Magnolia Fertilizer Company,
14th Avenue NW and Leary Way
Image 179222
Residence, 6414 22nd Avenue NW
Residence, 6414 22nd Avenue NW
Image 179214
5233 Ballard Avenue NW, Silver Spot Tavern
5233 Ballard Avenue NW, Silver Spot Tavern
Image 179270

Queen Anne

Queen Anne's core is mainly residential, with maritime industry along the canal. North Queen Anne is home to Foss Maritime, a generations-old shipping and drydock operation.

Foss tug and fleet. Vessels: Avenger, Brynn Foss, Jenny Foss, Shelley Foss, Pacific Ranger
Foss tug and fleet. Vessels: Avenger, Brynn
Foss, Jenny Foss, Shelley Foss, Pacific Ranger
Image 179811
Residence, 165 Etruria Street
Residence, 165 Etruria Street
Image 179797
Tom Wheeler's Yacht Sales
Tom Wheeler's Yacht Sales
Image 179814
Commercial, 3308, 3310 3rd Avenue W. Clean-M-Rite Cleaners
3308, 3310 3rd Avenue W.
Clean-M-Rite Cleaners
Image 179807

Fremont

Fremont's prosperity started with railroads and sawmills that drew residents to the annexed area starting in 1891. The Fremont Bridge is a landmark of the neighborhood.

3403 Fremont Avenue N. Fat City Tavern, The Fremont Tavern
3403 Fremont Avenue N.
Fat City Tavern, The Fremont Tavern
Image 179532
Fremont company cottage. [3630 and 3628 Linden Avenue N.]
Fremont company cottages
3630 and 3628 Linden Avenue N.
Image 179472
Fremont Bridge. hardwoods inc
Fremont Bridge, Hardwoods Inc.
Image 179475
3610 Greenwood Avenue N.
Residence, 3610 Greenwood Avenue N.
Image 179537
Commercial, 4258, 4260, 4262 Fremont Avenue N. Pink-n-Pretty Beauty Salon
4258, 4260, 4262 Fremont Avenue N.
Pink-n-Pretty Beauty Salon
Image 179491
Fremont Bridge. [Dexter Avenue N and Westlake Avenue N at 4th Avenue N, looking up Fremont Avenue N.] hardwoods inc.. Speakerlab, Fremont Baptist Church
Fremont Bridge. - Dexter and Westlake
at 4th Ave. N., looking up Fremont Ave.
Image 179476

Wallingford

Wallingford is primarily a residential neighborhood and home to Gas Works Park, an abandoned gas plant that opened as a park in 1975.

Residence at 2202 N 41st Street
Residence, 2202 N. 41st Street
Image 178792
Lake Union Wall Mural at Voula's Cafe
Lake Union Wall Mural at Voula's Cafe
Image 180325
Gas Plant Park [Gas Works Park]
Gas Plant Park
Image 180258
Residence, 3627 Ashworth Avenue N
Residence, 3627 Ashworth Avenue N.
Image 180275

Eastlake

Once a residential neighborhood and hub of industrial activity, Eastlake would later give way to the development of bioscience and research facilities.

[Eastlake. View down E Hamlin Street from above Franklin Avenue E - Residences, 2730, 2733 Franklin Avenue
View down E. Hamlin Street
from above Franklin Avenue E.
Image 179543
[Lake Union looking towards Eastlake]
Lake Union looking towards Eastlake
Image 179629
Victorian group, 1130, 1134 Eastlake Avenue
Victorian houses - 1130, 1134 Eastlake Avenue
Image 179581
[609] Eastlake Avenue. JV-TV, Rain Recording Studio
Eastlake Avenue. JV-TV, Rain Recording Studio
Image 179546

Montlake

The Montlake bridge is a Seattle landmark in this residential neighborhood.

Montlake Bridge and cut
Montlake Bridge and Montlake Cut
Image 179771
Upland views [University of Washington's Husky's stadium, Montlake Bridge, Montlake Boulevard, and SR 520 in the background]
Portage Bay
Image 179698
Montlake bungalow, 1904 E Miller Street
Montlake bungalow, 1904 E. Miller Street
Image 179740
Residence, 2032 E Newton Street
Residence, 2032 E. Newton Street
Image 179765

Laurelhurst

Laurelhurst was annexed to the City of Seattle in 1910 as developers encouraged those with nautical and seaside lifestyles to relocate. When Lake Washington sea levels dropped after the canal construction, a whole new area of lakefront property became available.

Dock House, 3121 W Laurelhurst Drive NE
Dock House, 3121 W. Laurelhurst Drive NE
Image 180410
[3952] NE Belvoir Place
3952 NE Belvoir Place
Image 180415
[4000, 4004, 4008] NE Belvoir Place. [4017 41st Avenue NE to the far right]
NE Belvoir Place
Image 180419
Residence, 3038 E Laurelhurst Drive NE
Residence, 3038 E. Laurelhurst Drive NE
Image 180428

Madison Park

Madison Park enjoys views of Lake Washington with lakefront beaches that were formed after the canal construction dropped the lake levels by nine feet.

Apartment buildings, 2012, 2020 43rd Avenue E
Apartment buildings, 2012, 2020 43rd Avenue E.
Image 180406
Overwater Apartments [2360 43rd Avenue E]
Overwater Apartments, 2360 43rd Avenue E.
Image 180393
Commercial, 4218, 4220, 4224, 4226 E Madison Street. Apogee West, Eggs Cetera, The Flower Studio, Yankee Peddler, Miller-Pollard
4218, 4220, 4224, 4226 E. Madison Street
Image 180407
Residence, 1922 42nd Avenue E
Residence, 1922 42nd Avenue E.
Image 180397

4Culture logo
This project was supported in part by 4Culture/King County Lodging Tax.

Municipal Archives, City Clerk

Anne Frantilla, City Archivist
Address: 600 Fourth Avenue, Third Floor, Seattle, WA, 98104
Mailing Address: PO Box 94728, Seattle, WA, 98124-4728
Phone: (206) 684-8353
archives@seattle.gov

The Office of the City Clerk maintains the City's official records, provides support for the City Council, and manages the City's historical records through the Seattle Municipal Archives. The Clerk's Office provides information services to the public and to City staff.