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Originally published Saturday, March 12, 2011 at 7:05 PM

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Now & Then

Seattle trolleys headed to Lake Washington

THE CITY'S Great Fire of 1889 ignited a new boomtown energy as businesses took out loans to begin the great labor of rebuilding more than 30 city blocks.

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THE CITY'S Great Fire of 1889 ignited a new boomtown energy as businesses took out loans to begin the great labor of rebuilding more than 30 city blocks.

The technology for running electric trolleys came to Seattle only months before the fire. After the destruction, trolley systems and cable cars began to send out trunk lines in most directions from the city's core. Many in the immigrant tide needed cheaper land to build their homes — sites not in old Seattle but not far from it. The new common carriers to Ballard, the University District (still named Brooklyn then), Beacon Hill and those on the east shore of Lake Washington obliged.

Three lines reached the lake — at Leschi, Madison and Madrona. There, each of them featured parks and other attractions like promenades, canoes for hire and nature trails. The line to Madrona was the last of the three; and where the trolley cars descended to the lake, they were in the embrace of a picturesque forest. On reaching the lake, riders found bathhouses, a dance pavilion and rustic benches distributed along paths that led back into the forest. The hotel shown here greeted them at lake's edge.

The Madrona hotel was built in 1892, and that's the date penciled on the flip side of the original photo card produced by A.J. McDonald, a photographer responsible for a few of the best suburban scenes hereabouts in the early 1890s. On the left, a trolley car stands at the end of its line. Perhaps McDonald rode that car to the park to make this impression, while the conductor waited for him to return for the ride back to Pioneer Square, with a First Hill transfer on Broadway Avenue to a James Street cable car. The fare from waterfront to waterfront was 5 cents.

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