Eastside Stories

Eastside Stories: Ferry Landings of Lake Washington

No. 5 | April 3, 2019

Eastside Stories

Eastside Stories   is our way of sharing Eastside history through the many events, people places and interesting bits of information that we collect at the Eastside Heritage Center. We hope you enjoy these stories and share them with friends and family.

Eastside Stories is our way of sharing Eastside history through the many events, people places and interesting bits of information that we collect at the Eastside Heritage Center. We hope you enjoy these stories and share them with friends and family.

Ferry Landings of Lake Washington, Part I

The first edition of Eastside Stories described the ferries that connected the Eastside to Seattle before the floating bridges. These vessels had to land somewhere, and we'll begin the story of the ferry landings on the east side of Lake Washington.

Captain Robert Matson, who began working on Lake Washington ferries as a boy, drew up a map that shows over 30 formal wharves from Juanita to Kennydale in service in 1909. Many other known docks are not shown on his map, so it would be safe to say that well over three dozen formal stops existed on the Eastside at one time or another. This large number of stops makes sense for a couple of reasons.

First, there were few roads around the Eastside at the time, so once off the ferry, it would be tough to travel far. Life around the lake was really oriented toward the water. Front doors were on the water side and in some areas property owners were required to grant easements on their shoreline so local residents could walk along the beach to the ferry.

Second, most of the ferry service was via passenger steamer, with vehicle service offered only to Kirkland, Medina and Bellevue. So ferries needed to drop their passengers off close to home.

Many of these landings exist only in distant memories or on sketches like Captain Matson’s. But others have remained in public ownership and are now enjoyed as parks and fishing piers, sometimes known mostly to the neighbors.

Following are five of the wharves on the north end of the lake. In future editions, we’ll look at wharves on the southern half of the lake as well as on Mercer Island and in Seattle.

Juanita Bay . Juanita, originally known as Hubbard, was settled in the 1870s as a farming and timber community. It later became a popular beach that attracted people from around the area. Juanita Bay itself is quite shallow, so the wharf had to be built some distance from the shore. A stack of cordwood to fuel the steamers is visible at the end of the pier.

Kirkland . As the major city of the Eastside, Kirkland was the first to get vehicle ferry service in 1905. (In that year, most of the vehicles would have been horse-drawn wagons). And Kirkland was the last Eastside community to enjoy car ferry service , which ended in 1950, ten years after the Mercer Island bridge had opened. The Kirkland ferry dock was located where the current public pier sits in downtown Kirkland.

Northup . This pier, among the earliest on the Eastside, was situated on the east side of Yarrow Bay in the community of Houghton. (Yarrow Point and Hunts Point are in the background.) The Northups and several other families settled the area in the 1870s. These children would have attended the Houghton School which was just to the north of the ferry landing or the Northup School further to the south.

Penrose Landing, Hunts Point . Hunts Point had more than its share of ferry landings because it had a relatively large number of daily commuters, at least in the summer months. This landing was on the east side of Hunts Point, in Cozy Cove. A passenger who missed the ferry here could run across the point to the Club House dock and likely make it there before the ferry rounded the point. (Photo courtesy of Washington State Archives)

Club House dock, Hunts Point . This image shows the Club House dock on Fairweather Bay, during an Independence Day celebration in 1915. (Photo courtesy of Town of Hunts Point)


Learn more about the Eastside. Books available from Eastside Heritage Center include:

Lake Washington: The Eastside

Bellevue: the Post World War II Years

Our Town, Redmond

Medina

Hunts Point

Bellevue: Its First 100 Years


Our Mission To steward Eastside history by actively collecting, preserving, and interpreting documents and artifacts, and by promoting public involvement in and appreciation of this heritage through educational programming and community outreach.

Our Vision To be the leading organization that enhances community identity through the preservation and stewardship of the Eastside’s history.


Eastside Heritage Center is supported by 4 Culture

Eastside Heritage Center is supported by 4 Culture

Eastside Stories: The Points Communities

No. 4 | March 20, 2019

Eastside Stories

Eastside Stories   is our way of sharing Eastside history through the many events, people places and interesting bits of information that we collect at the Eastside Heritage Center. We hope you enjoy these stories and share them with friends and family.

Eastside Stories is our way of sharing Eastside history through the many events, people places and interesting bits of information that we collect at the Eastside Heritage Center. We hope you enjoy these stories and share them with friends and family.

The Points Communities

A visitor to the Eastside, headed across the SR-520 bridge toward Kirkland, Redmond or Bellevue will first cross through four small cities: Medina, Hunts Point, Yarrow Point and Clyde Hill. While the large Eastside cities have populations numbering in the high ten-thousands to well over 100,000, the Points Communities cities range from just 420 souls in Hunts Point to 3,200 in Medina.

Just where did these little burgs come from? And do they really make sense in our modern patterns of governance?

The Points Communities were settled around the same time as the rest of the Eastside, and since the easiest transport was by water, their proximity to Seattle allowed them to turn into significant communities early on. The Lake Washington Reflector newspaper gave Medina and Bellevue equal billing on the masthead into the 1930s.

As Seattle grew, and ferry service became reliable, the points offered both affordable commuting homes and waterfront mansions for the wealthy. The three points themselves—Evergreen, Hunts, Yarrow—had a large number of vacation homes in the early years, as the upper middle class of Seattle could enjoy waterfront living for the summer while staying within commuting distance of Seattle. The uplands of Medina attracted more year-round commuters, while Clyde Hill and the uplands of Yarrow Point were largely agricultural. 

 
Medina School opened in 1909. At that time, most older children from Medina took the ferry to Garfield High School in Seattle.

Medina School opened in 1909. At that time, most older children from Medina took the ferry to Garfield High School in Seattle.

These communities grew slowly until major change came to the Eastside with the opening of the Mercer Island floating bridge and the post-war housing boom. Kirkland had long been the commercial center of the Eastside, but Bellevue gradually expanded its commercial role and by the 1950s was getting quite built up. Unlike other established Eastside towns—Renton, Issaquah, Kirkland, Redmond, Bothell—Bellevue had never incorporated as a city. It took care of that omission in 1953, creating a new city centered in what is now the downtown area.

Clyde Hill incorporated the same year as Bellevue, but there was little consensus within the rest of the points about their future. The points area was now cut off from the rest of unincorporated King County by Bellevue, Clyde Hill and Houghton (a separate city that merged with Kirkland in 1968). With the prospects of higher density growth and a new floating bridge, residents wanted to control their own planning and zoning.

City government for the points seemed inevitable, but what would that look like? Annexation to Bellevue was certainly an option, and the prevailing “good government” view at the time was that small cities were inefficient and unnecessary. The Bellevue American newspaper and the King County Municipal League argued for annexation to Bellevue, and many points residents agreed.

 
Bay School, located where Hunts Point City Hall stands today, served the points and north Clyde Hill. Older children from Bay School attended Kirkland High School.

Bay School, located where Hunts Point City Hall stands today, served the points and north Clyde Hill. Older children from Bay School attended Kirkland High School.

But, at the same time, each community had its faction that favored incorporation. The points area had long been divided by school district and community club boundaries, and the incorporation movements followed these boundaries, with the Medina Community Club joining forces with the Evergreen Point club.

Pro-annexation residents of Medina applied to join Bellevue, but annexations take time, and the incorporation forces in Medina got on the ballot before the annexation process could be completed. If Medina incorporated, annexation to Bellevue would be impossible for the other points, so in 1955 incorporation measures went on the ballot on the same date in Medina, Hunts Point and Yarrow Point. Medina and Hunts Point voters approved their measures, and it took another four years to get a successful vote in Yarrow Point.

 
Sunnyside Landing provided one of the ferry connections for Yarrow Point. It stood at what is today a public beach access at the foot of NE 42nd Street on Cozy Cove. Ferries serving the points landed at Madison Park in Seattle, allowing commuters to take a streetcar directly to downtown Seattle. (Photo courtesy of Washington State Archives)

Sunnyside Landing provided one of the ferry connections for Yarrow Point. It stood at what is today a public beach access at the foot of NE 42nd Street on Cozy Cove. Ferries serving the points landed at Madison Park in Seattle, allowing commuters to take a streetcar directly to downtown Seattle. (Photo courtesy of Washington State Archives)

It turns out that small cities are not such a bad idea, especially if they have robust tax bases. In the 1950s it became very common across the country for suburban cities to contract for complex services while keeping control of politically important functions like planning. The Points Communities all contract with Bellevue for fire service and Bellevue operates the water and sewer utilities.

Medina provides police protection to Hunts Point and Clyde Hill provides police service to Yarrow Point. All four communities make extensive use of private firms for planning and other technical work.

So there they sit, four fiercely independent cities that certainly appreciate the amenities of the big cities next door, but have no interest in joining them.


Learn more about the Eastside and the Point Communities. Books available from Eastside Heritage Center include:

Lake Washington: The Eastside

Medina

Hunts Point

Bellevue: Its First 100 Years

A Point in Time (Yarrow Point) is out of print but available at the King County Library


Our Mission To steward Eastside history by actively collecting, preserving, and interpreting documents and artifacts, and by promoting public involvement in and appreciation of this heritage through educational programming and community outreach.

Our Vision To be the leading organization that enhances community identity through the preservation and stewardship of the Eastside’s history.

Eastside Heritage Center is supported by 4 Culture

Eastside Heritage Center is supported by 4 Culture

Eastside Stories: Meydenbauer Bay

No. 3 | March 6, 2019

Eastside Stories

 

Meydenbauer Bay

Subscribe to Eastside Stories by emailing us at: info@eastsideheritagecenter.org

Eastside Stories   is our way of sharing Eastside history through the many events, people places and interesting bits of information that we collect at the Eastside Heritage Center. We hope you enjoy these stories and share them with friends and family.

Eastside Stories is our way of sharing Eastside history through the many events, people places and interesting bits of information that we collect at the Eastside Heritage Center. We hope you enjoy these stories and share them with friends and family.

On March 16, 2019, dignitaries will cut the ribbon on Bellevue’s newest gathering place, the long awaited Meydenbauer Bay Park. This park ties together the old Meydenbauer Beach park with the Bellevue Marina, creating the longest stretch of public waterfront in the city.

Meydenbauer Bay is the birthplace of Bellevue and served as the connection point between the earliest settlers and Seattle. Bellevue’s first commercial district on Main Street was just up the hill, as was Bellevue’s first major school building.

In March of 1869, William Meydenbauer, a German-immigrant baker, rowed across Lake Washington and staked his claim to land on the east end of the bay that would later bear his name. 

 
View from 1908, looking north across the early passenger ferry wharf to the Bellevue School on the hill--at the corner of Main and 100th Avenue today.

View from 1908, looking north across the early passenger ferry wharf to the Bellevue School on the hill--at the corner of Main and 100th Avenue today.

At the time there were no other permanent settlers in the area, and Meydenbauer had no intention of building a permanent residence himself. His cabin was just enough to “prove” his homestead and gain him title to the land. He sold all his holdings before long and later acquired property on Hunts Point.

Families gradually settled the area around the bay. By the 1880s the new steamers on the lake began to call, and a wharf was built at the head of the bay.

The big change came in 1913, when the new vehicle ferry, the Leschi, arrived in Meydenbauer Bay. Although the Leschi would cut the Meydenbauer stop off its itinerary in 1920 (sticking to a Seattle-Medina route) that service was enough to establish Bellevue as the primary settlement in the area.

 
The wharf shown in the first photo was lengthened to accommodate the new car ferry Leschi in 1913. Regular ferry service to Meydenbauer Bay ended in 1920, but excursions to the bay continued into the 1930s. (L85.39.4)

The wharf shown in the first photo was lengthened to accommodate the new car ferry Leschi in 1913. Regular ferry service to Meydenbauer Bay ended in 1920, but excursions to the bay continued into the 1930s. (L85.39.4)

Meydenbauer Bay was also an early destination for revelers from Seattle. In the early 1900s, part of William Meydenbauer’s original homestead was purchased and turned into Wildwood Park, which included a dance hall. Steamers would bring party-goers from Seattle for picnics, dancing and canoe paddling. Wildwood had its ups and downs, hosting roller skating and boxing matches. The dance hall was eventually remodeled into the Meydenbauer Bay Yacht Club, which stands today among Bellevue’s oldest structures.

Perhaps the most curious part of Meydenbauer Bay’s history came in 1919, shortly after the opening of the Lake Washington Ship Canal: the American Pacific Whaling Company.  Although alternatives had been developed for most of the products that came from whales, the industry was still active in Alaskan waters.

 
The American Pacific Whaling fleet gets up steam in preparation for their departure to Alaskan waters. The promoters of the Lake Washington Ship Canal envisioned it giving rise to major industries on Lake Washington. While industry lined the canal and Lake Union in Seattle, the whaling station at Meydenbauer Bay was one of the few significant industrial concerns to locate on the lake itself.

The American Pacific Whaling fleet gets up steam in preparation for their departure to Alaskan waters. The promoters of the Lake Washington Ship Canal envisioned it giving rise to major industries on Lake Washington. While industry lined the canal and Lake Union in Seattle, the whaling station at Meydenbauer Bay was one of the few significant industrial concerns to locate on the lake itself.

The fleet of nine boats operated in Alaska during the summer months (no whales were ever brought to Lake Washington). Things were generally pretty quiet during the winter in Meydenbauer, with the mostly Scandinavian whalers living in Ballard. Nonetheless, the American Pacific Whaling Company was the second largest employer on the Eastside at the time, with only the Houghton shipyard having more workers.

Like much of the Alaska fishing fleet, the whalers preferred to be in Puget Sound during the off-season, and the new ship canal offered the bonus opportunity of keeping the vessels in fresh water.

After World War II it became clear that whaling did not have a future as an industry, and the Lagen family closed the business. The dock area was converted to what is now the Bellevue Marina, and two original buildings remain on the site.

The Bay gradually filled in with waterfront homes, leaving few publicly-accessible places. The original Clyde ferry landing at the foot of 92nd Avenue became Clyde Beach, which was later expanded by purchasing the property to the east. In the 1930s a Works Progress Administration (WPA) project converted the ravine between 97th and 98th avenues into Meydenbauer Beach Park, which forms the western boundary of the new park. 

With the new, expanded Meydenbauer Bay Park, the Eastside can return to its roots along this beautiful natural inlet.

The Eastside Heritage Center will participate in the Grand Opening of Meydenbauer Bay Park, Saturday, March 16, from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.


Our Mission To steward Eastside history by actively collecting, preserving, and interpreting documents and artifacts, and by promoting public involvement in and appreciation of this heritage through educational programming and community outreach.

Our Vision To be the leading organization that enhances community identity through the preservation and stewardship of the Eastside’s history.


Eastside Heritage Center is supported by 4 Culture

Eastside Heritage Center is supported by 4 Culture

Eastside Stories: Logging the Eastside

No. 2 | February 20, 2019

Eastside Stories

Subscribe to Eastside Stories by emailing us at: info@eastsideheritagecenter.org

Eastside Stories   is our way of sharing Eastside history through the many events, people places and interesting bits of information that we collect at the Eastside Heritage Center. We hope you enjoy these stories and share them with friends and family.

Eastside Stories is our way of sharing Eastside history through the many events, people places and interesting bits of information that we collect at the Eastside Heritage Center. We hope you enjoy these stories and share them with friends and family.

Welcome to Eastside Stories, a new series from the Eastside Heritage Center. Through these periodic postings we will bring Eastside History to life and highlight the people, places, and events that have shaped its remarkable evolution.

Logging the Eastside

When the first intrepid settlers made their way to the Eastside in the 1860s, mostly what they found were trees. Really big trees.

As with so many things in life, this presented both a problem and an opportunity. The problem was that most settlers wanted to do what most Americans did at that time: farm. The Homestead Act of 1862 made land pretty much free for the grabbing, and as the area around the town of Seattle got carved up, settlers headed across and around Lake Washington to stake their claims and start farming. But there were those trees—up to 150 feet tall and several feet across.

The opportunity was to turn those trees into dollars.

 
A crew from the Siler Logging Co. in Redmond cut a large cedar tree. The loggers on the upper left and right are standing on spring boards.  (OR/L 79.79.044)

A crew from the Siler Logging Co. in Redmond cut a large cedar tree. The loggers on the upper left and right are standing on spring boards.

(OR/L 79.79.044)

The Puget Sound area had its start as timber country. The first commercial transaction in the new metropolis of Seattle (the Denny Party huddled in a cabin on Alki Point) consisted of the sale of a load of logs to a schooner captain for use as pilings in San Francisco Bay. The rapid growth of San Francisco after the Gold Rush provided a ready market for lumber, shingles, and pilings.

Getting those enormous logs to mills and ships presented a challenge. Water was the answer, and the timber cutters made their way along the many miles of shoreline on Puget Sound, gradually working their way inland. But since Lake Washington still lacked a good connection to Puget Sound, getting Eastside logs to mills was impossible at first. So the earliest Eastside settlers clearing their farms often had no choice but to burn the logs.

 
A locomotive belonging to the Hewitt and Lee logging company in Bellevue hauls a load of logs. (2002.147.004)

A locomotive belonging to the Hewitt and Lee logging company in Bellevue hauls a load of logs. (2002.147.004)

Three important changes, beginning in the 1880s, made Eastside logging profitable. First, mills began to spring up along Lake Washington, and then gradually inland. It would always make more sense to ship higher value lumber and shingles than to transport logs, so mills followed the loggers inland. A number of the largest mills were around Lake Sammamish, which was served by early rail lines.

Second, transportation improved. In 1885 a log sluice opened in Montlake, between Lake Washington and Portage Bay. This ditch had a gate at the upper end (Lake Washington was about nine feet higher than Portage Bay at that time) which was opened to let rushing water carry logs to the mills along Lake Union. Railroads began to extend across the Eastside in the 1880s, allowing easier shipping of logs and lumber.

 
Employees at Webber's Shingle Mill on Lake Sammamish. (OR/L 79.79.049)

Employees at Webber's Shingle Mill on Lake Sammamish. (OR/L 79.79.049)

Third, mechanization began to take over. Steam powered donkey engines pulled logs from hillsides and gullies using steel cables known as “wire rope.” Hand saws and axes were replaced with mechanized harvesting equipment. Trucks replaced horses and oxen.

By the 1920s, most of the Eastside had been logged off. Remaining smaller trees that were not worth cutting for timber, and are often seen standing alone in photos of the period, were taken for pulp. As timber was cut and stumps removed, farms spread across the Eastside. Aerial photos from the 1930s show few heavily wooded areas, with most of the Eastside taken up by farms and sparse second-growth forests. 

Today, a sharp-eyed observer can see evidence of early logging. Western Red Cedar rots very slowly, and original stumps can be found in second growth forests around the Eastside. On the sides of many of these stumps, notches for springboards—platforms that allowed loggers to cut above the fat base of the tree--can still be seen. 

Looking at the mature residential areas and dense second growth forests of the Eastside, it can be hard to imagine that 100 years ago most of the Eastside was quite barren. Fortunately those big trees have a way of growing back to provide us with beauty, shade and oxygen.


Our Mission To steward Eastside history by actively collecting, preserving, and interpreting documents and artifacts, and by promoting public involvement in and appreciation of this heritage through educational programming and community outreach.

Our Vision To be the leading organization that enhances community identity through the preservation and stewardship of the Eastside’s history.


Eastside Heritage Center is supported by 4 Culture

Eastside Heritage Center is supported by 4 Culture

Eastside Stories: The Ferries of Lake Washington

No. 1 | February 6, 2019

Eastside Stories

Subscribe to Eastside Stories by emailing us at: info@eastsideheritagecenter.org

Eastside Stories   is our way of sharing Eastside history through the many events, people places and interesting bits of information that we collect at the Eastside Heritage Center. We hope you enjoy these stories and share them with friends and family.

Eastside Stories is our way of sharing Eastside history through the many events, people places and interesting bits of information that we collect at the Eastside Heritage Center. We hope you enjoy these stories and share them with friends and family.

Welcome to Eastside Stories, a new series from the Eastside Heritage Center. Through these periodic postings we will bring Eastside History to life and highlight the people, places and events that have shaped its remarkable evolution.

The Ferries of Lake Washington

We’ll begin our series of Eastside Stories with one of the things that made settlement of the Eastside possible: ferries on Lake Washington.

The earliest settlers got around by rowboat and canoe, but for the Eastside to grow as an agricultural area and as a commuter suburb, it would need reliable transportation to the burgeoning city of Seattle.

 
The Leschi, in her early steam sidewheel configuration. She was later converted to diesel engines with propellers. (Photo courtesy of Puget Sound Maritime)

The Leschi, in her early steam sidewheel configuration. She was later converted to diesel engines with propellers. (Photo courtesy of Puget Sound Maritime)

By the 1880s, entrepreneurs had seen enough people settling around Lake Washington to justify ferry service. The first problem was to get boats onto the lake, since the Lake Washington Ship Canal was still just a pipe dream. Some early ferries were built in yards in Seattle and Houghton. Others were dragged up the Black River, which drained the lake through Renton.

Early passenger steamers, like Acme , Dawn and Elfin needed a place to land. King County built a series of wharves around the lake, and most residents lived within easy distance of a ferry landing. And there was always the option of flagging a ferry for an unscheduled stop at a private dock.

By the early 20 th Century, Seattle was growing like crazy—from 50,000 people in 1890 to 250,000 in 1910—and all those new people needed to eat. Eastside farmers could supply produce, but loading it on and off small steamers would not do the trick. So, ferries for wagons and the growing fleet of cars and trucks began to ply the lake. The vehicle ferries Kent , Washington and Lincoln served on the Madison Park-Kirkland route beginning around 1900.

 
The Ariel operated on a route from Madison Park to Houghton, serving wharfs on Evergreen, Hunts and Yarrow Points. She was owned by the Johnson brothers and was the only steamer on the lake that stayed out of the hands of Captain Anderson. She ended her days serving as student housing on Portage Bay. (Photo courtesy of Puget Sound Maritime)

The Ariel operated on a route from Madison Park to Houghton, serving wharfs on Evergreen, Hunts and Yarrow Points. She was owned by the Johnson brothers and was the only steamer on the lake that stayed out of the hands of Captain Anderson. She ended her days serving as student housing on Portage Bay. (Photo courtesy of Puget Sound Maritime)

The most ambitious ferry project was the Leschi, a steel-hulled ferry commissioned by the new Port of Seattle in 1912. The ship canal had still not opened, and there were no yards on the lake that could build a steel hull. So the hull was fabricated on the Duwamish, disassembled and re-assembled at Rainier Beach. The Leschi originally served Meydenbauer Bay and Medina (that's the Leschi in Meydenbauer Bay in the background of the the EHC logo) but the Meydenbauer stop was dropped in 1920. The Seattle-Medina route ran until the day before the new floating bridge opened in 1940.

Car ferry service kept going to Kirkland through World War II, mostly to get shipyard workers to Houghton. The last of the lake’s passenger steamers, the Ariel, which served the Points Communities and Houghton, retired in 1945.

The early steamers were lovely to look at, but like wooden steamboats everywhere, they often had short lifespans. Fires, exploding boilers, rot and sinking were the fate of nearly all of the lake’s small ferries. When Captain John Anderson began to buy up the ferries on the lake he brought some order to the chaos, but also took some of the fun and romance out of it. 

About once a decade we get another study of returning ferry service to Lake Washington. The economics have always been a challenge, and the slow speed limit in the ship canal makes for a long trip to Lake Union. A new service from Renton is now in the offing.

But Lake Washington is still full of passenger boats doing what those early steamers all did for extra money: sightseeing excursions on the most beautiful urban lake in America.

 

Our Mission To steward Eastside history by actively collecting, preserving, and interpreting documents and artifacts, and by promoting public involvement in and appreciation of this heritage through educational programming and community outreach.

Our Vision To be the leading organization that enhances community identity through the preservation and stewardship of the Eastside’s history.


Eastside Heritage Center is supported by 4 Culture

Eastside Heritage Center is supported by 4 Culture