Landmark status is sought for The Junction, at California Avenue and Alaska Street in West Seattle.
TO THOSE WHO do not live in West Seattle, the “parts” that best represent it are, I imagine, a trio of large landmarks: Duwamish Head, Alki Point and Lincoln Park.
We might make it a quartet by adding Schmitz Park, although I doubt that many residents of Laurelhurst, Wallingford or Ballard have ever ventured into its virgin wilds. These four destinations are, of course, very familiar to West Seattleites, but I will further speculate that it is none of the four but rather “The Junction” that best represents the heart and soul of West Seattle, the grand peninsula at the southwest corner of Elliott Bay. It is The Junction, extending in every direction from the intersection of Southwest Alaska Street and California Avenue Southwest, that is the best-loved corner in this corner.
Here is The Junction on Sept. 23, 1941. With its low-rise profile and small-shop milieu, Jean Sherrard’s “Now” photo is similar to the neighborhood recorded two months and two weeks before the United States entered World War II.
At that time, a photographer on assignment for the Foster and Kaiser billboard company was working to promote The Junction neighborhood as a fine place to advertise. Note the sign on the roof, left of center. The photographer has aimed his or her camera north on California from midway between Southwest Edmunds Street and Southwest Alaska Street.
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The four shining and parallel lines marking the pavement at the scene’s center are the surviving remnants of The Junction’s creation in 1907. That year the Fauntleroy and West Seattle electric streetcar lines first converged: a junction. It also was the year of West Seattle’s convergence with, or annexation into, Seattle.
Because of its connections, The Junction soon grew into West Seattle’s commercial center. William (known as W.T.) Campbell, a skilled real-estate man, was largely responsible for The Junction rising above the sometimes-wetland (it began, in places, as a swamp). And it was Campbell who built the two two-story brick buildings that still hold half of the intersection: the Campbell Building (1918) at the northeast corner, and the Hamm Building (1926) at the northwest corner. It is these two ornate landmarks that one of the city’s most energetic heritage groups, the Southwest Seattle Historical Society, is nominating as worthy of preservation with a project it has named “We Love The Junction.”
Why? Clay Eals, the group’s executive director, explains: “We know that none of us will live forever. But landmarking the unique structures that for the past century have created an attractive and vibrant center for connection and collaboration, for friendly commerce, for appreciation of the visionaries who came before us, for the inexpressible sense of home, and for affirmation of our humanity — this is the stuff of identity, of legacy and of hope.”
We will add that a visit to loghousemuseum.info, the group’s website, will reveal with moving splendor this heritage group’s good works, including those of “We Love The Junction.”