Seattle Map 11 – Heart of Seattle

My wife tells me it’s never too late for Valentines Day, so here goes. I recently came across this nifty map of Seattle, which originally appeared in the Seattle Star newspaper on July 5, 1907. Accompanying it was an article about the northward movement of the city’s commercial district. The map “will give the reader some idea of what sooner or later will be the heart of Seattle. As soon as the Denny Hill will have been lowered to grade great blocks will be erected on the site and that of itself will draw the city to it as well as beyond it.”

heart of seattle mapThe map is curious for several reasons. I suspect that part of the oddities are due to the artist’s hope for what would happen, as well as some good guesses as to the direction the city was headed.

1. Government Canal – In the upper left part of the map, outside of the heart, the artist has included the “Government Canal.” (Sorry it’s hard to read but if you click on the image, you can get a larger version.) Work on what we now call the Lake Washington Ship Canal would not begin until 1911, with an official opening in 1917. In 1907, the existence of the canal was still uncertain. He/she has also drawn in a canal connecting Union Bay and Lake Union, though this 1907 canal is slightly south of the one that was actually built.

2. Dexter Avenue extends south of Denny Way – This extension of Dexter had been talked about for several years, including the possibility of building it as a viaduct, but unlike the canal, it never came to fruition.

3. Third Avenue and Stewart Street – On the northeast corner of the intersection, there is what appears to be the Securities Building, or at least a building of similar size. The Securities didn’t go up until 1913.

4. Denny Hill – It’s hard to tell but it looks as if the artist has already populated Denny with office buildings instead of the houses that still stood on the hill. The first huge regrade of Denny (often called Denny Regrade One even though it was the fourth regrade) wouldn’t start until 1908 and wouldn’t be completed until 1910. Planning was taking place so the map is not completely an artistic fantasy.

5. Westlake Avenue – This must be the one of the first maps to show Westlake Avenue and its south extension across the city street grid. It was only completed in late 1905.

Material for for this story comes out of research I have done for my new book on Seattle – Too High and Too Steep: Reshaping Seattle’s Topography.

If you so desire, you can like my geologywriter Facebook page.

Seattle Map 9 – Black River

The Black River is Seattle’s most infamous river, or more accurately, lost river. The river was only about three miles long but was critical to the early history of the city. It was Lake Washington’s lone outlet and hence lone access point for boats traveling from the salt water of Elliott Bay to the fresh water of the lake, a route replaced in 1916 by the opening of the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks and the Lake Washington Ship Canal. (The canal officially opened on July 4, 1917, but the canal and locks had been completed in 1916.)

As you can see from the accompanying map, the 1909 USGS Topographic map of the Tacoma quadrangle, the Black flowed out of the lake near Renton, and was almost immediately met by the Cedar River, coming west out of the Cascade Mountains. The Black then wound around low hills, under the Columbia and Puget Sound RR, and met the Green River, where now became the Duwamish with the addition of the Black. Screen shot 2013-09-03 at 2.18.58 PMHistorically, the Green River flowed into the White River in Auburn, and the two continued as the White to the confluence with the Black. Floods in 1906, however, changed the course of the White, which now drained, and still drains, into the Puyallup River. The Green kept its course and now became the outflow for the Black, until the disappearance of the Black in 1916, which is why the Green changes name for no apparent reason and becomes the Duwamish.

The Black’s name came from sediment washed out of the Cedar’s old river terraces. The White was significantly clearer. The Cedar gave the Black a second name. When the latter flooded it reverse the flow of the Black and pushed it back into Lake Washington. This is the origin of the name for the Black in Chinook jargon, Mox La Push, or “two mouths.”

King County’s first sawmill outside of Seattle was at the confluence of the Black and Cedar rivers. Started in 1854 by Henry Tobin, Joseph Fanjoy, and O.M. Eaton, it had two circular saws. In order to operate the mill, the trio built a six-foot high dam. Unfortunately for the men, the mill did not last long; the Black was too windy for transport. It was not too twisted though for vessels.

Soon after the discovery of coal near what is modern day Issaquah, a variety of people were “engaged in wordy discussions of the quickest and best way to render the Squak coal mines available,” noted The Seattle Gazette in February 1864. In floated William Perkins, who built a boat, floated and paddled to the mines, and returned with a full load. The 140-mile-long trip via the Duwamish and Black rivers and across Lake Washington and Lake Sammamish and back took him 20 days. Trips up and down the riparian highway eventually became easier as river travelers dredged sand bars and cleared out stumps and overhanging vegetation.

But everything changed in 1916, when Lake Washington was connected to Lake Union, which lowered the level of the larger lake by nine feet. This was enough to drop the lake below its historic outlet and the Black River slowly died, with remnants persisting until at least 1969. A photograph shows a narrow swath of shrubs, weeds, and cottonwoods that curved east between North Third and Second Streets toward the intersection of SW Sunset Boulevard and Rainier Avenue South. That last vestige of the Black now lies under the parking lot of a huge Safeway.

The other remnant of the river still exist. At its confluence with the Duwamish is the Black River Riparian Forest. Not the most beautiful of spots but following years of restoration, visitors have reported over 50 species including salmon, coyotes, salamanders, and bald eagles. The area also supports the largest heron rookery in the region.

Material for for this story comes out of research I have done for my new book on Seattle – Too High and Too Steep: Reshaping Seattle’s Topography.

If you so desire, you can like my geologywriter Facebook page.