This Week Then: Six Seattle Area Bridges Celebrate Birthdays

Plus: All aboard the Suffrage Special
| Updated: June 27, 2019
University Bridge, 1927

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Crossing the Waterways

This week HistoryLink notes a number of bridge anniversaries, including the centennial of the original University Bridge in Seattle, which opened on July 1, 1919. It replaced the aging Latona Bridge, which had opened exactly 28 years earlier, on July 1, 1891, with a second span for use by streetcars added in 1902. Although the Latona Bridge was modified  in 1917 to open for vessels using the new Lake Washington Ship Canal, it proved insufficient for the increased traffic on both land and water. Construction on the University Bridge began in late 1916, but multiple problems delayed its completion for nearly three years. In 1933 the University Bridge was substantially rebuilt and given an open-mesh steel deck (the first in the nation), as the original timber deck was dangerously slippery in Seattle's wet weather. (Photo courtesy MOHAI)

The nearby Montlake Bridge celebrates the anniversary of its opening on June 27, 1925. This bridge was the last of the four bascule bridges built to span the ship canal, following the Ballard, Fremont and University spans. It is widely considered to be the most beautiful, in part because of its distinctive Gothic control towers. Unlike the other three bridges, the Montlake Bridge  is owned and operated by WSDOT and is part of the short SR 513 that runs from SR 520 to Sand Point.

In 1940 two noteworthy but ill-fated Washington bridges opened one day apart. On July 1 that year the Tacoma Narrows Bridge was dedicated, followed a day later by the Lake Washington Floating Bridge. Both spans were marvels of their time. The Tacoma Narrows Bridge was high, long, and slender -- too slender as it turned out, and high winds caused its spectacular collapse a few months later. When the Lake Washington Floating Bridge opened it was the largest floating structure in the world, but in 1990 it too suffered a disaster and sank during a storm. Both bridges were rebuilt and now have parallel spans nearby.

And finally we note one Washington bridge that has two anniversaries this week. On June 30, 2010, the South Park Bridge over the Duwamish River ended its career after carrying traffic for nearly 80 years. The neighborhood mourned its loss, but celebrated four years later when a new bridge opened in its place on June 29, 2014.

Smoothing the Waters

One hundred and ten years ago this week, Washington suffrage proponents, including Emma Smith Devoe and May Arkwright Hutton, welcomed the arrival of the Suffrage Special, a Northern Pacific train that had traveled cross-country carrying more than 250 leading national and international suffragists. The Suffrage Special stopped in Spokane  and Tacoma before reaching King Street Station in Seattle on June 29, 1909.

The travelers were in town to attend the 41st annual convention of the National American Woman Suffrage Association, scheduled to begin on July 1. The Washington Equal Suffrage Association -- which had already provided a written cook's tour of the region -- held its own convention on June 30. But soon after the meeting began, hostilities between Devoe and Hutton came to a head, and the resulting bad publicity cast a pall over the suffragists' efforts.

Cooler heads prevailed at a reception held that night at the Hotel Lincoln, but as the national convention began the next morning, one of the first orders of business was to address the previous day’s dust-up. Eventually it was decided that Washington’s delegates could attend the convention, but were not allowed to vote -- a neutral decision that put the focus back on the push for suffrage and away from fractious infighting. The rest of the convention ran smoothly.


Quakes of Yore

The first written eyewitness account of an earthquake in the Puget Sound region was recorded near Fort Nisqually by William Tolmie on June 29, 1833. Thirty-six years later to the day, a stronger quake hit the Puget Sound region and was felt as far south as Oregon.

Trees and More

Mount Vernon incorporated in Skagit County on June 27, 1890. Much of its early growth was due to logging, mining, and farming, and it was a hub on one of Puget Sound's early light-rail corridors. Fifteen years later, Sultan incorporated in Snohomish County on June 28, 1905. The town also began as a logging community, and years later achieved a modicum of fame as the site of one of the nation's first multi-day outdoor rock concerts.

Along the Shore

This week marks three anniversaries on the Seattle waterfront. On July 3, 1909, the fireboat Duwamish was launched and would operate on Elliott Bay until being retired in 1985. On July 3, 1920, Seattle's Naval Shore Station opened at the foot of Washington Street. The structure is long gone, but the wrought-iron pergola which fronted it still stands, thanks to the efforts of the all-woman Committee of 33. And seven years ago this week, the Seattle Wheel began operating on June 29, 2012.

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