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Building Seattle -- A Slideshow History of Seattle's Capital Improvement Projects
This is a Slideshow photo essay on the history of Seattle's Capital Improvement Projects. Written By Walt Crowley and curated by Paul Dorpat, with Chris Goodman.
Presented by Seattle City Councilmember Martha Choe.
File 7083: Full Text >
City Light's Birth and Seattle's Early Power Struggles, 1886-1950
City Light, Seattle's publicly owned electric utility, began to take shape in 1902, when voters approved bonds for a hydroelectric dam on the Cedar River. The project, completed in 1905, was a direct response to the virtual monopoly held by Puget Sound Traction, Light & Power Company (known as Puget Power) over local electrical service and street railways. City Light became an independent city department in 1910 and competed head to head with Puget Power for the next 40 years in an often bitter political and economic struggle for control of regional power markets and supplies.
File 2318: Full Text >
Georgetown Steam Plant (Seattle)
The Georgetown Steam Plant was built by the Boston-based Stone & Webster utilities conglomerate, which held a dominant position in electricity generation and public transportation in the Seattle area during the early twentieth century. By the time the plant began operating in 1907, much of the company's electricity came from hydropower, with steam generation used to increase peak-load capacity and as back-up against service interruptions. In later years the Georgetown plant remained largely idle, although it was maintained in operating condition for decades. In 1951 Seattle City Light purchased Stone & Webster's Seattle properties, including the Georgetown facility. Its boilers and generators were fired up only on rare occasions in the years since. The plant's overall contributions to electricity production were minor but the innovative methods and materials used to build it, the intact early-twentieth-century steam-generating equipment it houses, and the involvement of pioneering efficiency expert Frank Gilbreth in its design and construction give the Georgetown Steam Plant significant historical importance. The plant, located near Boeing Field in South Seattle, has been designated a National Historical Mechanical Engineering Landmark and a National Historic Landmark.
File 11189: Full Text >
Interurban Rail Transit in King County and the Puget Sound Region
Electric interurban railways played a major part in defining early twentieth century transportation routes and growth patterns in King County. Early roads were primitive and before the development of the first inter-city rail service in 1899, most shippers and commuters on Puget Sound relied on water transport and "Mosquito Fleet" steamers for mobility. By 1912, private interurban lines connected Tacoma, Seattle, and Everett, but modern highways would soon offer fatal competition. Seattle-Tacoma service ended in 1928 with the opening of Highway 99, and Seattle-Everett service ended 11 years later (Seattle ripped up its streetcar lines in 1941). After the rejection of previous rail rapid transit proposals, regional voters approved a Sound Transit system in 1996. In September 2000, Sound Transit inaugurated commuter rail service between Seattle and Tacoma.
File 2667: Full Text >
Municipal Ownership Movement
Municipal ownership or close regulation of essential utilities and urban services was a central tenet of the Progressive Movement from the late 1800s through much of the twentieth century. Beginning with the aftermath of the Great Fire of 1889, Seattle became a national leader in establishing municipal ownership and management of water, electricity, transit, and harbor assets. Private companies, viewing local government as an unfair competitor, often resisted this aggressive public role. The modern legacy of the municipal ownership movement includes Seattle Public Utilities, City Light, the Port of Seattle, King County Metro Transit, and Sound Transit, as well as the manner in which the city and county play large roles in regulating new technologies such as cable television.
File 1738: Full Text >
Port of Tacoma -- Thumbnail History, Part 2
The Port of Tacoma is a publicly owned and managed port district established by Pierce County voters in 1918. Today it is a leading container port, serving as a "Pacific Gateway" for trade between Asia and the central and eastern United States as well as the Northwest. Most of the maritime commerce between Alaska and the lower 48 states also passes through Tacoma. Part 2 of this three-part Thumbnail History of the Port covers its development from the aftermath of World War II through its emergence as a growing container port in the 1970s.
File 8662: Full Text >
Street Railways in Seattle
Road travel in and around Seattle was difficult and dangerous before 1884, when the first horse-drawn streetcar line was established downtown. The first cable car line was introduced in 1887, and electric streetcars entered service in 1889. Private street railways quickly multiplied, often in tandem with new real estate developments, until Seattle could boast of 22 separate streetcar lines. Beginning in 1898, these were consolidated under the control of the Seattle Electric Railway Company, an arm of the national Stone & Webster utility cartel, which also developed interurban railways between Seattle, Tacoma, and Everett. The company won a lucrative city franchise in 1900, but was losing money by World War I and sold its local lines to Seattle in 1918. The resulting debt and growing competition from autos hobbled the Municipal Street Railway system from the outset. It was finally dismantled in early 1941. Urban and interurban railways still survive in such diverse forms as the Monorail, Waterfront Streetcar, and Sound Transit's light rail.
File 2707: Full Text >
Transportation and Communication in Seattle in 1900
Imagine life without telephones or email;
without automobiles, motorboats or airplanes; without floating bridges or paved roads over the Cascades. So it was in 1900. Seattle boasted some of the nation's first dedicated bicycle trails, but paved roads were rare and Seattle had exactly one automobile (an electric one at that). Most citizens relied on their feet, horses, and streetcars to get around the city, and they took trains, interurban railroads, and Mosquito Fleet steamers to reach more distant points in the region. As for communication, the telegraph linked Seattle to the outside world. Telephones were novelties and most residents and businesses relied on the Post Office and on couriers for their local communications. It was all extremely slow and cumbersome by today's standards, yet, with their primative tools, the people of 1900 were able to build a great city. Historian James R. Warren (1925-2012) takes us back to this calmer time in this special essay, adapted with permission from the Puget Sound Business Journal
File 1668: Full Text >