West Seattle

Mayors:
George B. Nicoll 1902-1905
Emil de Neuf 1906
Lewis C. Erven 1907

First settled by the Denny Party at Alki Beach in 1851, West Seattle remained lightly populated for several decades afterwards. Industry began to develop along the Elliott Bay side of the waterfront by the late 1870s, and several distinct communities soon sprang up throughout the peninsula.

For most of its short history, the City of West Seattle occupied mostly what is now the Admiral District. The area had been developed in the 1880s and 1890s as a residential community by the West Seattle Land & Investment Company. They operated a ferry service to Seattle at a dock near what is now Seacrest Park and connected it with a cable car to its new neighborhood on top of the hill. The company ended cable car service in 1898, and citizens decided to act on this and the lack of other amenities like telephones and residential electricity by voting to incorporate into a city in 1902.

 Luna Park  Luna Park
Construction of Luna Park, a grand amusement park built on piers over the Duwamish Head tide flats, began in 1906. Concern about the sale of alcohol and other vices the park would attract led many West Seattle residents to vote for annexation, figuring that Seattle would provide a higher level of law enforcement and oversight. Luna Park opened one month before West Seattle was officially annexed. Seattle Municipal Archives item no. 28786
 
Construction of Luna Park, a grand amusement park built on piers over the Duwamish Head tide flats, began in 1906. Concern about the sale of alcohol and other vices the park would attract led many West Seattle residents to vote for annexation, figuring that Seattle would provide a higher level of law enforcement and oversight. Luna Park opened one month before West Seattle was officially annexed. Seattle Municipal Archives item no. 28785
 

The town was successful in attracting a private telephone franchise, but had less luck in enticing a company to provide public transportation. The residents voted in 1904 to borrow $18,000 to build their own electric streetcar railway system, the first municipally-run network in the country. It was completed by the start of 1905, and ran one mile from the ferry dock up along California Avenue to the southern city limits.

Town politics centered around the issue of annexation. Many residents wanted to join with the City of Seattle and have access to the clean and plentiful Cedar River water supply, the municipal electricity plant, and superior public safety services, while others wanted to maintain local control. Additionally, both sides were interested in annexing the surrounding unincorporated communities of Youngstown, Spring Hill, and Alki Point. The pro-Seattle side needed to obtain a land corridor from which to get Seattle water and power, while the anti-Seattle faction wanted to extend the municipal streetcar line south and west of the then city limits. These communities rebuffed the town's effort to annex them in 1905 and 1906.

Stockade Hotel  West Seattle Business 
 Alki Point was a community of resorts and vacation homes catering to well-to-do Seattle residents, and viewed itself as a distinct community separate from the City of West Seattle. The Stockade Hotel claimed to be "one of the finest summer hotels in the Pacific Northwest" and was the polling place for Alki residents for annexation elections to West Seattle on October 6, 1906, and May 25, 1907. Log House Museum/Southwest Seattle Historical Society, 1992.002.0074

 The West Seattle business district was located on Railroad Avenue (now Harbor Avenue) and centered around the West Seattle Ferry Dock (located near present-day Seacrest Park). This 1901 photograph shows businessmen W.H. Hainsworth and D.W. Brown standing in front of the ferry terminal. Log House Museum/Southwest Seattle Historical Society

The city sold the streetcar line to the Seattle Electric Company in December 1906 for $30,000. The Seattle Electric Company then constructed a separate streetcar line from Youngstown, through Spring Hill and over to Fauntleroy two months later, and connected the California Avenue line with that in what is now the Junction. A flurry of real estate activity and home building followed, and on May 25, 1907, the three communities voted to join the City of West Seattle with the promise of further annexation to the City of Seattle. The city limits now comprised the entire West Seattle Peninsula covering 16.34 square miles from the Duwamish Head to the north, the Puget Sound to the west, Elliott Bay and the Duwamish River to the east, and South Park and what is now SW Roxbury Street to the south. On June 29, 1907, West Seattle residents voted overwhelmingly 325 for and 8 against to join the City of Seattle.

 Bonds  Olympic Hotel Letter Olympic Hotel Letter   Streetcar Petition
 In 1906, the City of West Seattle issued bonds and taxed adjoining property owners to pay for the improvement of California Avenue between Spruce Street and South Street (now SW Walker Street and SW Lander Street). Box 3, Folder 9, City of West Seattle City Clerk's Files (Record Series 9190-03), Seattle Municipal Archives Public morality on the waterfront was a serious concern to many West Seattle residents. In this letter, the Olympic Athletic Club responds to allegations of gambling. Box 2, Folder 28, City of West Seattle City Clerk's Files (Record Series 9190-03), Seattle Municipal Archives

 
 

In 1906, residents and property owners petitioned to have the streetcar line extended along California Avenue and pledged to help pay for this through donations. Box 3, Folder 21, City of West Seattle City Clerk's Files (Record Series 9190-03), Seattle Municipal Archives

 

 West Seattle Commute Price  Expenses  Pro Annexation  Real Estate Brochure
West Seattleites were able to commute from their residences to or from Seattle for 5¢, transferring from the Municipal streetcar to the ferry operated by West Seattle Land & Improvement Company. Box 2, Folder 31, City of West Seattle City Clerk's Files (Record Series 9190-03), Seattle Municipal Archives


The City Street Railway System annual expense report for 1905 shows a net profit of $308.38. Box 2, Folder 16, City of West Seattle City Clerk's Files (Record Series 9190-03), Seattle Municipal Archives
 
The pro-annexation slate led by L.G. Erven won the City election in late 1906. Within a half year, the City of West Seattle expanded to include the whole peninsula and subsequently accepted annexation to Seattle. Box 3, Folder 3, City of West Seattle City Clerk's Files (Record Series 9190-03), Seattle Municipal Archives

 
This 1900 real estate brochure sings the praises of West Seattle as a suburb to Seattle, like "Brooklyn is to New York , or Oakland to San Francisco, and is a place of same relative importance." Log House Museum/Southwest Seattle Historical Society