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Pacific Northwest | October 24, 2004Pacific Northwest MagazineOctober, 24, 2004seattletimes.com home Home delivery

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


WRITTEN BY PAUL DORPAT
 
To Ballard or Bust


COURTESY OF LAWTON GOWEY
A new Ballard Bascule (lift) Bridge was built across Salmon Bay in line with 15th Avenue in 1916, in time for the official opening of the Lake Washington Ship Canal the following year. It replaced the old wagon-and-trolley bridge on 14th (Railroad) Avenue. Irving School at Railroad and Northwest 52nd Street shows on the right of the historical scene, and at its distant center the spire of St. Alphonsus Catholic Church rises as the tallest structure in Ballard (1902-1958).
 
PAUL DORPAT

The older photograph is a record of what is now one of the busier arterials in Seattle, 15th Avenue Northwest, although this bustle is mostly hidden in the "now" view behind and beyond the architecture of the 15th Avenue Bridge.

The bridge is only implied in the historical photograph by the trolley tracks in the scene's lower right corner. They lead directly to the bridge. These tracks are the photographer's intended subject, although for us, the more likely interest is in the late-afternoon quiet on 15th Avenue.

Fortunately, we have trolley historian Leslie Blanchard's account of the deeper significance of this sleepy scene. It appears in his book, "The Street Railway Era in Seattle," and what Blanchard wrote in 1968 is even truer today.

"Only the oldest residents of 'Snooze Junction' . . . will believe this, but here is 15th Avenue Northwest from Northwest 47th Street (or just north of the old Ballard lift bridge, itself only 3 years old) as it appeared on a balmy day in early August 1921." Blanchard relates that the tracks on 15th Avenue north of 47th were "used exclusively by electric freight trains until July 1927, when new track was laid on 15th and the 14th Avenue (passenger) line was abandoned."

Only 13 years later all these tracks were abandoned, and when the new concrete approaches to the Ballard Bridge (seen here in the "now" scene) were planned in 1939 no provision was made for trolley tracks.

Finally, two of the four billboards on the left of the "then" scene support Leslie's 1921 date. One promotes "The Wayfarer, America's Passion Pageant," which was performed that year at Husky Stadium. The other is an advertisement for "Over the Hill," a silent melodrama issued by Fox Films that year.

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


 

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