WRITTEN BY PAUL DORPAT
Doing the Stroll
COURTESY OF WASHINGTON STATE HISTORICAL SOCIETY, TACOMA
About 80 years separate the two late-afternoon views on Alki Beach Park. Both look to the southwest from near the foot of 61st Avenue Southwest.
Last week, our "then" photo looked northeast on Alki Beach. This week's record starts at the same stretch of sand but looks in the opposite direction. Why spend two weeks on one beach? Because about a quarter century separates the two historical photographs, and the changes are revealing.
As last week's photo showed, a picturesque litter of driftwood distinguished the circa 1900 West Seattle waterfront. Here, a quarter-century later, the same waterfront is littered instead with bathers in wool suits; and separated from a wide-planked promenade by a seawall.
Actually, the irregular strand that the founding settlers landed on in 1851 changed very rapidly to a groomed shoreline after the city condemned and purchased in 1910 the nearly 2,500 feet of beach between 57th and 65th Avenues Southwest.
In 1925 the wooden seawall was replaced with a concrete one; five years later it was extended in the other direction to within 150 feet of Duwamish Head. At last, in 1945, this gap was also acquired and improved to make a continuous recreational shore between the Head and the homes that lie between the public park and the Alki Point Lighthouse, which has been closed since 9/11.
This chronology was gleaned from the book "West Side Story" and Don Sherwood's unpublished (but often photocopied) manuscript history on local parks.
Paul Dorpat specializes in historical photography and has published several books on early Seattle.
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