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Originally published Friday, June 28, 2013 at 10:15 AM

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Now & Then: A bridge to the future, ca. 1891

The Latona Bridge was constructed in 1891 to carry David Denny's electric trolley into the new Latona and Brooklyn (University District) additions. Today, the Ship Canal Bridge holds down the spot.

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FOR 27 YEARS, the Latona Bridge was the only span where Lake Union conveniently channels into Portage Bay. The pile-driven bridge was constructed in 1891 to carry David Denny's electric trolley into the then-new Latona and Brooklyn (University District) additions and to real estate as far north as Ravenna Park, the trolley terminus.

The state Legislature's Feb. 23, 1891, recommendation that this "Interlaken" neighborhood become the University of Washington's new home was encouraging to all north-end developers, Denny included. After the university's 1895 move to the new campus, most of the students rode the trolley to school.

By then, however, the earnest but naive younger of the pioneer Denny brothers was bankrupt. A combination of the nation's 1893 financial panic and poor investments quickly led to what Seattle trolley historian Leslie Blanchard rates as "unquestionably the most disastrous venture of its kind in the city's history." Much of the route was "inhabited only by squirrels and gophers."

In 1890, Denny, with Henry Fuhrman, opened the 160 acres of their namesake addition at the north end of Capitol Hill, here on the far south side of the bridge. But where are the homes? It is hard to find here any potential passengers or purchasers. But then, where are the trolley wires? Perhaps the photo was taken before the poles, rails, wires and hopes were in place for the bridge's July 1, 1891, dedication.

By 1913, the spot got hot. An average of 23,058 passengers were crossing the bridge every 24 hours, with the ironic result that in 1919 the at-last-bustling Latona would lose its bridge on Sixth Avenue to the University District and its new and surviving cantilever span on 10th Avenue.

Check out Paul Dorpat and Jean Sherrard's blog at www.pauldorpat.com.

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