Bellevue

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

Strawberry Festival Update

Dear friends of the Eastside Heritage Center and the Bellevue Strawberry Festival:

With no small amount of sadness, the board of the Eastside Heritage Center has decided not to produce the Bellevue Strawberry Festival in 2019. There is some chance that an outside event producer will pick up the event in the future.

The Bellevue Strawberry Festival has been an unqualified success over the years. In many ways the Eastside Heritage Center has become a victim of that success. As the festival became bigger and more popular, we knew we needed to up our game and professionalize the production to ensure quality, safety and an overall great festival experience. These requirements began to get way out in front of our capacities as a relatively small non-profit community heritage organization.

The success of the Bellevue Strawberry Festival has been due, in large part, to the quality of the vendors, musicians, suppliers, sponsors and other partners we have been able to attract. For your support we thank you. We recognize that the event has a great deal of community and brand equity and that it may be possible to restart it in the future, as the same great festival but with a far smaller role for the Eastside Heritage Center. If anything changes, our loyal friends will be the first to know.

And one last shout-out to Heather Trescases, who built the Strawberry festival from the ground up, and to Lexi and rest of the EHC staff and volunteers who put in so much time and effort to make it a success.

Thank you again for your support, and we hope everyone can fill that weekend with another great event.

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

100th Anniversary of the McDowell House

100th Anniversary of the McDowell House

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McDowell House (Paxton House) circa 1918.

2018 marks the 100th anniversary of the McDowell House, one of the few historic houses in Wilburton that still retains most of its original structures. It’s a craftsman-style house with spacious square rooms, a cobblestone chimney on the southern wall, and a brick fireplace painted white. The roofs extend a couple feet out from the walls and over the west-facing porch, keeping the house dry. One of its more remarkable features are large multi-paneled windows with wooden frames, a luxury in that time. Surprisingly, most of the closets in the house have windows, reducing the need for artificial light.

The house was formerly part of a 5-acre property that contained the Cherry Hill and High Ridge Farm, which produced fruits including grapes, berries, and cherries. It was a few blocks north of the Wilburton historic town and conveniently close to the railroad. Many of the features of the property are now gone, including a barn and a windmill. Bellevue demolished a garage as well.

John H. and Ella McDowell owned land in Clyde Hill by 1905 and built the McDowell House in 1918 with cedar timbers from the Wilburton Mill. Watson and Wallace McDowell were most likely relatives to John and Ella, though the documentation is ambiguous. Watson was a Lieutenant serving in World War I – he returned to Wilburton by New Year’s Day in 1919. Wallace was also involved in the military, working in transportation in England and France in 1918.

The McDowell's sold their house in the 1920’s and from there the house went through many different owners. Thomas E. and Mary S. Paxton bought it in 1964, after which the house became known as the Paxton House. The City of Bellevue bought it from the Paxtons in 1988. Today, the McDowell House houses the Eastside Heritage Center’s administrative offices where staff, interns, and volunteers do outreach organization, event planning, and research.

Overall, information on the McDowell House wasn’t well-preserved; the Eastside Heritage Center has very few records on the house and its inhabitants. Despite its many mysteries, we are happy to celebrate the house and its heritage to remember Bellevue as it was.

 

By Alice - EHC Youth Volunteer