Around 1920 in Seattle, the view of Lake Union from the Ford Model-T assembly plant at its south end shows a stretch of Fairview Avenue in the making, as well as houseboats along the shore and a fleet of tall ships farther out.
AFTER FORD completed a Model T assembly plant on Fairview Avenue at the south end of Lake Union in 1914, the five-story factory afforded a fine prospect from which to inspect Lake Union.
By 1920, a photographer from the Webster and Stevens studio found reasons enough to climb to an upper level of the plant and record this panoramic view looking north over Fairview Avenue.
Construction of the Ford plant required considerable regrading, and the earth was distributed both across Fairview and to the site of the big Brace and Hergert lumber mill at the south end of the lake. The South Lake Inn Cafeteria on the far left was owned by Alex T. Powell, formerly a foreman at the mill. But if city directories are to be believed, Powell’s cafeteria did not survive the 1920s.
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The freshly graded Fairview seen here running diagonally was first platted as Southlake Avenue, a timber trestle, which was renamed Fairview once the boards had been mostly replaced with dirt and paved. The houseboats that hug most of the shoreline were pushed farther into the lake with the buildup of the avenue.
The other row of floating vessels, in the middle of the lake, was known as “Wilson’s Wood Row” in reference to President Woodrow Wilson’s part in its creation. Most of the ships tied there were World War I wooden freighters built in the shipyards of Puget Sound for “Wilson’s war.” They were never used. This strange floating graveyard was a fixture on the lake into the 1930s. Seasonally, Wilson’s fleet was joined by another, one of tall-mast sailing ships resting for the winter in the freshwater lake. The 1932 completion of the Aurora Bridge prevented access to the lake by the tallest of these ships.
“Washington Then and Now,” by Paul Dorpat and Jean Sherrard, can be purchased through www.washingtonthenandnow.com ($45).