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 here: Life on the Cut.

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. These photos can be found here: Historic Building Survey Photograph Collection (Series 1629-01), excluding "Life on the Cut."



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  Maritime Shipyards, Petrich Machine Works
Item No: 179725
Description: Residence, 3724 W Commodore Way

Item No: 178795
Description: Maritime Shipyards, Petrich Machine Works

 Warehouse #2, Fishermen's Terminal. Vessels: Nordfjord, Harbor Queen. Gas Dock  Fishermen's Terminal Winch House
Item No: 179711
Description: Warehouse #2, Fishermen's Terminal. Vessels: Nordfjord, Harbor Queen. Gas Dock
Item No: 179734
Description: Fishermen's Terminal Winch House



Interbay

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

 Covered moorage, south side of canal near Locks [from Interbay]  Burlington Northern Roundhouse, Interbay
Item No: 179440
Description: Covered moorage, south side of canal near Locks [from Interbay]

Item No: 179716
Description: Burlington Northern Roundhouse, Interbay

 Residence, 4419 24th Avenue W  Burlington Northern Roundhouse, Interbay [view from facility]
Item No: 179729
Description: Residence, 4419 24th Avenue W
Item No: 179720
Description: Burlington Northern Roundhouse, Interbay [view from facility]



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 Celebrates Norwegian Constitution Day on May 17th
Item No: 179462
Description: Ballard Avenue NW and Vernon Place NW [former Scandinavian American Bank/Canal Bank]

Item No: 179347
Description: Ballard Celebrates Norwegian Constitution Day on May 17th

 Crane barge passing through the Chittenden Locks  Magnolia Fertilizer Company, 14th Avenue NW and Leary Way
Item No: 179436
Description: Crane barge passing through the Chittenden Locks
Item No: 179222
Description: Magnolia Fertilizer Company, 14th Avenue NW and Leary Way
 Residence, 6414 22nd Avenue NW  5233 Ballard Avenue NW, Silver Spot Tavern
Item No: 179214
Description: Residence, 6414 22nd Avenue NW
Item No: 179270
Description: 5233 Ballard Avenue NW, Silver Spot Tavern



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  Residence, 165 Etruria Street
Item No: 179811
Description: Foss tug and fleet. Vessels: Avenger, Brynn Foss, Jenny Foss, Shelley Foss, Pacific Ranger

Item No: 179797
Description: Residence, 165 Etruria Street

 Tom Wheeler's Yacht Sales  Commercial, 3308, 3310 3rd Avenue W. Clean-M-Rite Cleaners
Item No: 179814
Description: Tom Wheeler's Yacht Sales
Item No: 179807
Description: Commercial, 3308, 3310 3rd Avenue W. Clean-M-Rite Cleaners



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  Fremont company cottage. [3630 and 3628 Linden Avenue N.]
 Item No: 179532
  Description: 3403 Fremont Avenue N. Fat City Tavern, The Fremont Tavern

 Item No: 179472
  Description: Fremont company cottage. [3630 and 3628 Linden Avenue N.]

 Fremont Bridge. hardwoods inc  3610 Greenwood Avenue N.
Item No: 179475
Description: Fremont Bridge. hardwoods inc
 Item No: 179537
Description: 3610 Greenwood Avenue N.
 Commercial, 4258, 4260, 4262 Fremont Avenue N. Pink-n-Pretty Beauty Salon  Fremont Bridge. [Dexter Avenue N and Westlake Avenue N at 4th Avenue N, looking up Fremont Avenue N.] hardwoods inc.. Speakerlab, Fremont Baptist Church
Item No: 179491
Description: Commercial, 4258, 4260, 4262 Fremont Avenue N. Pink-n-Pretty Beauty Salon
 Item No: 179476
Description: Fremont Bridge. [Dexter Avenue N and Westlake Avenue N at 4th Avenue N, looking up Fremont Avenue N.] hardwoods inc.. Speakerlab, Fremont Baptist Church



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  Lake Union Wall Mural at Voula's Cafe
Item No: 178792
  Description: Residence at 2202 N 41st Street

Item No: 180325
Description: Lake Union Wall Mural at Voula's Cafe

 Gas Plant Park [Gas Works Park]  Residence, 3627 Ashworth Avenue N
Item No: 180258
Description: Gas Plant Park [Gas Works Park]
 Item No: 180275
Description: Residence, 3627 Ashworth Avenue N



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  [Lake Union looking towards Eastlake]
Item No: 179543  
  Description: [Eastlake. View down E Hamlin Street from above Franklin Avenue E - Residences, 2730, 2733 Franklin Avenue]

Item No: 179629  
Description: [Lake Union looking towards Eastlake]

 Victorian group, 1130, 1134 Eastlake Avenue  [609] Eastlake Avenue. JV-TV, Rain Recording Studio
Item No: 179581
Description: Victorian group, 1130, 1134 Eastlake Avenue
 Item No: 179546
Description: [609] Eastlake Avenue. JV-TV, Rain Recording Studio



Montlake

The Montlake bridge is a Seattle Landmark in the residential neighborhood of Montlake.

 Montlake Bridge and cut  Upland views [University of Washington's Husky's stadium, Montlake Bridge, Montlake Boulevard, and SR 520 in the background]
Item No: 179771  
  Description: Montlake Bridge and cut

Item No: 179698  
Description: Upland views [University of Washington's Husky's stadium, Montlake Bridge, Montlake Boulevard, and SR 520 in the background]

 Montlake bungalow, 1904 E Miller Street  Residence, 2032 E Newton Street
Item No: 179740
Description: Montlake bungalow, 1904 E Miller Street
 Item No: 179765
Description: Residence, 2032 E Newton Street



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  [3952] NE Belvoir Place
Item No: 180410   
  Description: Dock House, 3121 W Laurelhurst Drive NE

Item No: 180415   
Description: [3952] NE Belvoir Place

 [4000, 4004, 4008] NE Belvoir Place. [4017 41st Avenue NE to the far right]  Residence, 3038 E Laurelhurst Drive NE
Item No: 180419
Description: [4000, 4004, 4008] NE Belvoir Place. [4017 41st Avenue NE to the far right]
 Item No: 180428
Description: Residence, 3038 E Laurelhurst Drive NE



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  Overwater Apartments [2360 43rd Avenue E]
Item No: 180406    
  Description: Apartment buildings, 2012, 2020 43rd Avenue E

Item No: 180393    
Description: Overwater Apartments [2360 43rd Avenue E]

 Commercial, 4218, 4220, 4224, 4226 E Madison Street. Apogee West, Eggs Cetera, The Flower Studio, Yankee Peddler, Miller-Pollard  Residence, 1922 42nd Avenue E
Item No: 180407
Description: Commercial, 4218, 4220, 4224, 4226 E Madison Street. Apogee West, Eggs Cetera, The Flower Studio, Yankee Peddler, Miller-Pollard
 Item No: 180397
Description: Residence, 1922 42nd Avenue E




Organizations and individuals alike are welcome to click here to download a full-color, printable poster promoting this exhibit. Both legal and tabloid sizes are available and can be printed edge-to-edge, if your printer has that capability.

This project is supported, in part, by 4Culture/King County Lodging Tax.