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Now & Then
The City's Fish Bowl

spacer Photo FRANK SHAW
Between the early 1960s and the mid-1980s, the amateur photographer Frank Shaw took hundreds of photographs of the waterfront between his apartment near Seattle Center and Pioneer Square. Parks, public art, hikes and high-school soccer at Memorial Stadium were his other favorite subjects. Shaw took this view of construction on the Seattle Aquarium and the forms for its dome room on Nov. 12, 1975. The closer "now" view looks to the Pike Street Pier over the protective canopy stretched above the dome.
When Ivar Haglund closed his Pier 54 Aquarium in 1956 and shipped Patsy the seal off to the zoo, his fellow waterfront character Rudi Becker set a mason jar stocked with small rocks and living barnacles outside his Harbor Tours office at Pier 55. An attached sign read, "This is Seattle's Only Public Aquarium."

Becker was joining a local chorus of protest that asked, "How can the largest city on Puget Sound, the habitat of the most exotic fish population on the planet (including the biggest octopi) not have its own, world-class aquarium!?" Before the present municipal aquarium was successfully folded into the 1968 Forward Thrust bonds issue, the Seattle Parks Department tried three times to build an aquarium. The last attempt in '66 proposed a kidney-shaped pool for Ted Griffin's killer whale Namu in a corner of Seattle Center.

Before the Seattle Aquarium opened 25 years ago on the central waterfront, Griffin's Seattle Marine Aquarium on Pier 56 was the biggest in a line of private marine exhibits and/or seal circuses to open here. The list begins with the conversion of the ship St. Paul at Chittenden Locks in the mid-1930s into an aquarium. Haglund opened his Pier 3 (renumbered 54 during World War II) in 1938.

When it opened on May 20, 1977, the Dome Room (seen here under construction) was the most popular attraction in the Seattle Public Aquarium. It still is. People in either formal wear or wet suits have gotten married on both sides of the glass. This Friday coffee and cake will follow a ribbon-cutting at 9:45 in the morning. The public is invited to attend and also tour the Aquarium's new exhibit. "Life on the Edge" was designed to celebrate the milestone.

Paul Dorpat specializes in historical photography and has published several books on early Seattle.

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