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Duwamish Bend housing project for war workers opens (in Seattle) in 1943.
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In 1943, the Seattle Housing Authority opens the
Duwamish Bend housing project in Georgetown for workers building ships and
planes during World War II. The prefabricated frame homes and apartments are
designed to be erected in 45 days and are considered temporary. The residences
were supposed to be torn down within two years of the end of the war, but veterans and their families lived in the project until 1954.
Ship and airplane construction for World War II choked Seattle with workers and housing was in critically short supply. Permanent low-income projects such as Yesler Terrace, Holly Park, and Stadium Homes were not enough. Under the Latham Act, public and private funds were used to construct 1,044 one-, two-, and three-bedroom homes on both sides of S Michigan Street between 4th Avenue S and 6th Avenue S.
Each had a living room, kitchen, coal and wood stove, ice box, bathroom, electricity, and water. The main street was along Oxbow Road, which followed the old bed of the Duwamish River. The Michigan Street Dormitory and the Duwamish Bend Apartments provided another 500 units. Only war workers were permitted to live there. Other temporary projects in Seattle included Delridge, Cedar Vale, and Minor-Fir.
When street lights were installed, each tenant could control the light outside their home in lieu of a porch light. Telephone service was not available for two years. The Seattle Parks Board hired recreation leaders for the project and the Duwamish Bend Community Club was formed. The community club worked to improve conditions such as roaming packs of dogs, mud, garbage, and lack of activities for children.
After the war ended, the housing shortage continued. Servicemen returned to civilian life and established families. Occupancy was limited to veterans who had lived in Seattle one year. In December 1947, 3,712 persons lived there. In 1951, rents went up and a 3-bedroom unit cost tenants $51 a month. A no-bedroom single unit rented for $27.25 a month.
Demolition took a little longer than planned. The last
124 units of Duwamish Bend were sold on September 8, 1954 and "wartime temporary
housing ... [in Seattle became] a thing of the past" (Housing Headlines). Many of the buildings were moved to new locations throughout King County and used as homes.
Duwamish Diary, 2nd ed. (Seattle: Cleveland High School, 1949), 72-74;
Richard C. Berner, Seattle in the 20th Century: 1940-1950), (Seattle: Charles Press, 1997), 94; "Wartime Housing Projects: What's Happened to Them?" The Seattle Times, Pictorial Section, p. 28-30;
"Last of Fed Temps Go on Sale," Housing Headlines, Newsletter, May 1954.
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