WORLD WAR II didn’t just beget a population boom. It also produced the throaty roar of automobile engines. Along with the proverbial chicken in every pot, a growing middle class aspired to afford a car in every garage.
To accommodate the soaring increase in traffic, the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956 provided 90% funding for a nationwide network of controlled-access interstate highways. The proposed Interstate 5, crossing 1,381 miles between the Canadian and Mexican borders, became one of the jewels in its crown.
This week’s “Then” photo comes from Leo Bernard, whose father, Harvey, moved his young family to Seattle from Minnesota in 1954 to take a job with Boeing.
“Photography and mountain climbing became his twin passions,” Leo says. “And we rarely saw him without a camera.”
From a boat deck near the north end of Lake Union, Harvey Bernard captured his Ektachrome transparency of the Lake Washington Ship Canal Bridge under construction in October 1960.
From his vantage, three of seven concrete piers tower above Lake Union, along with a diagonal hash of equilateral steel trusses, providing support for the imposing double-deck bridge. Within a year, its eight-lane-wide upper deck and reversible four-lane lower deck would span the 4,429-foot gap between the University District and Capitol Hill. At the time, it was the longest bridge of its kind in the Pacific Northwest.
Just west of the piers, the Wayland Mill silo burner squats like an abandoned potbelly stove. The mill produced Bungalow brand cedar shingles for decades before closing after the war. Restaurateur Ivar Haglund purchased the property in 1966 and installed his Salmon House, which still stands today.
To the mill’s right, the nondescript, gray warehouse, built in 1954, was purchased in 1963 by George and Stan Pocock to construct their legendary racing shells. Pocock supplied shells for “The Boys in the Boat,” who rowed them to gold in the 1936 Berlin Olympics, a story featured last March in this column.
In 1989, Seattle-based glass artist Dale Chihuly bought the 11,352-square-foot building, converting it into a combined living space and glass-blowing studio.
For months, the span, when completed, was a bridge to nowhere. The southern reach of the Seattle freeway had become temporarily mired in controversies over labor and design. Thus, according to the encyclopedic tome “Building Washington” by Paul Dorpat and Genevieve McCoy, planners of the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair proposed using the bridge’s empty decks for overflow parking.
The scheme never materialized. But modern motorists are all too familiar with I-5 as a parking lot.