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Originally published Friday, June 6, 2014 at 10:28 AM

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A dam mess in Fremont, 1914

The headline in The Seattle Times on March 13 of that year read, “Fremont Bridge destroyed: Flood Threatened By Breaking Of Lake Union Dam.”

Special to The Seattle Times

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This view actually appears to look NORTHEAST, not northwest, based on its location at the west end of Lake Union (per... MORE
You're right, I noticed the error in the caption as well. MORE


TWO SENSATIONAL photographs appear on the front page of the Friday, March 13, 1914, issue of The Seattle Times. One is of the deadly Missouri Athletic Club fire in St. Louis. The other, from Portland, shows a “flame-wrapped” schooner drifting along the docks on the Willamette River. Also sensational was the headline “Fremont Bridge destroyed: Flood Threatened By Breaking Of Lake Union Dam.”

The dam had been built to control the level of Lake Union. Soon after it broke, the bridge did, too. It was too late for The Times to get a picture in that day’s evening edition, but over the weekend, The Times featured several pictures of the flood, including one that was very similar to this historical photo. Both photographers stood precariously close to the open center section of the Fremont Bridge that was swept away toward Ballard about two hours after the dam’s collapse.

During its nearly daylong outpouring, Lake Union dropped about 9 feet. Beside the bridge, at the lake’s north end, the worst damage was to the railroad trestle along the north shore. At the south end of the lake the greatest casualty was the big new dock built by the Brace and Hergert lumber mill; the exposed pilings supporting the dock gave way early Saturday morning. On the lake’s east shore, those “houseboat colonists” who had dared to keep to their floating homes were awakened by the crash. By noon the houseboats tied to the shore were resting on the lake’s bottom at an angle that was good only for reading in bed.

Fortunately, Ballard did not wash away. And the long, temporary trestle crossing from Westlake to Stone Way, seen here in part on the right, did not collapse — preserving access to the several trolley lines that served Fremont, Wallingford and Green Lake, as well as to the interurban to Everett.

Check out Paul Dorpat and Jean Sherrard’s blog at

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