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Pacific Northwest | October 10, 2004Pacific Northwest MagazineMONTH, DAY, YEARseattletimes.com home Home delivery

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CONTENTS
COVER STORY
DESIGN NOTEBOOK
PLANT LIFE
TASTE
ON FITNESS
NOW & THEN
PREVIOUS ISSUES OF PACIFIC NW


WRITTEN BY PAUL DORPAT
 
Lazy Days at the Beach
COURTESY OF LAWTON GOWEY
In 1910 the city purchased much of the Alki Beach waterfront to develop a groomed park and the seawall showing on the far right of the “now” scene. Both views look east on Alki Beach from near 64th Ave. S.W. About one century separates them.


This scene of a beach party is familiar enough. At the center is Duwamish Head, marking the entrance to Elliott Bay. But neither the year nor the group nor the photographer whose back is to Alki Point is identified.

What can be said is that the scene is a stone's throw or two from the site where the Denny Party landed on Nov. 13, 1851. And judging from the costumes and the development (or rather lack of it) on the beach, it was photographed about a half century later. Most likely, then, if this is not a group from the neighborhood, its members came to their picnic by boat because the electric trolley did not reach the beach until 1907, the year West Seattle was incorporated into Seattle.
 
COURTESY OF JEAN SHERRARD
By the time this driftwood tableau was photographed, the attraction of Alki Beach as a summer retreat was already commonplace. After regular steamer service was launched across Elliott Bay in 1877, the daily Intelligencer advised, "Now is a good time for picnics on the beach at Alki Point, so it will pay some of our new settlers to go over and see the spot where Messrs. Denny, Maynard and others lived during the 'times that tried men's souls.' " (I found this reference in "The West Side Story," the big book of West Seattle history.)

There is a revealing similarity between the beach visitors in the "now" and the "then" scene: how few of them there are. Throngs frequented Alki Beach after the arrival of the trolley and the 1911 opening of Alki Beach Park with its oversized bathing and recreation pavilion; 73,000 souls showed up in 1913. But in our "then" view, as well as in the contemporary shot that Jean Sherrard took this past July 24 on one of the hottest days of the summer, few are dipping in the chilly waters.

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

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