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Pacific Northwest | October 17, 2004Pacific Northwest MagazineMONTH, DAY, YEARseattletimes.com home Home delivery

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


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.
 
COURTESY OF JEAN SHERRARD
In quick order the city built a large bathing pavilion (the historical photo is taken from its roof) and the wide walk protected by the sturdy wall. This radical makeover was dedicated on Independence Day 1911. The next year the covered bandstand was extended over the tides, and the city's Parks Department estimated that 103,000 people came to the 75 concerts performed from its octagonal stage.

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This chronology was gleaned from the book "West Side Story" and Don Sherwood's unpublished (but often photocopied) manuscript history on local parks.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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