Judging from the lean shadows it was about lunchtime when a photographer from the city's Department of Streets recorded this...

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JUDGING FROM the lean shadows it was about lunchtime when a photographer from the city’s Department of Streets recorded this look north toward Fremont and through the new Fremont Bridge. It may be the now venerable drawbridge’s first portrait, for the beautiful bascule opened that day, June 15, 1917, at a little after midnight.

At first it was only the “Owl Cars” or last street cars of the night that were permitted to cross the span, and City Engineer A.H. Dimock stayed up to catch the excitement. But at 5 in the morning of its first day, the bridge was opened also to pedestrians and vehicles. No doubt the drivers and riders of all those shown here — including the Seattle-Everett Interurban car — understood the significance of this day’s passage. Mayor Hi Gill also showed up in the afternoon for a little ceremony.

In the days to either side of the bridge’s opening the Red Cross drive to raise $300,000 in Seattle was given several front pages in the local dailies while the Fremont Bridge got only a few inches of copy.

At a construction price of about $400,000, the bridge cost only a hundred thousand more than the Red Cross kitty, which was promoted as needed for “ministering” to the potential frontline needs of Seattle recruits off to fight World War I.

(If I have followed the inflation charts correctly, the bridge’s cost would be about $5 million today. Curiously, that is only about one-eighth of the projected $41.9 million that will be expended to complete the current bridge repair. Go ye and figure.) Readers interested in the bridge and its repair may learn more online at www.seattle.gov/transportation/fremontbridgeapproaches.htm.

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