When the Works Progress Administration (WPA) photographers reached Bellevue in 1938 for their countywide inventory of taxable structures, they found...

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When the Works Progress Administration (WPA) photographers reached Bellevue in 1938 for their countywide inventory of taxable structures, they found this barn at the northwest corner of Northeast Fourth Street and 106th Avenue Northeast. Par for the Great Depression, the barn was then in the hands of a lender, the Home Owners Loan Corp. Previous owners included Hugh Martin, Bellevue’s first mail carrier, and Joseph Kardong, fruit farmer, land-clearer and feed-store manager.

While the July 4, 1940, opening of the Lacey V. Murrow (aka Mercer Island) Floating Bridge ensured that Bellevue would be citified and turn from what another WPA functionary described in 1941 as “a trading center for the berry farmers and vineyardists in the rich lowlands,” these changes were stalled by World War II.

By a vote of 885 to 461, Bellevue incorporated in 1953 as a conservative car-oriented community with a decidedly low-rise profile. Building heights were generally restricted to 40 feet.

In less than 30 years after incorporation, Bellevue approved more than 60 separate annexations. A fateful rezoning of 1981 broke the 40-foot ceiling, and Bellevue got muscular, pumping itself into “Bellevue big and tall.” It is now the third-largest business district in the northwest United States, after Seattle and Portland.

Jean Sherrard’s contemporary repeat looks north across Northeast Fourth Street to its northwest corner with 106th Avenue Northeast, now the home of a low-rise bank but not so long ago the barn. The Lincoln Tower, at 42 stories Bellevue’s new skyline topper, ascends high above. It is, of course, a matter of taste that the “Bellevue Miracle” continues to build more stock skyscrapers where once were strawberry fields.

“Washington Then and Now,” by Paul Dorpat and Jean Sherrard, can be purchased through www.washingtonthenandnow.com ($45) or through Tartu Publications at P.O. Box 85208, Seattle, WA 98145.