In May 1909, Seattle races to complete infrastructural improvements required for the upcoming opening of the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition. On May 13, 1909, just 17 days until the opening, the Seattle Times front-page headline reads, "The Fair Will Be Ready, Will Seattle?" As the fair approaches, the city races to complete improvements in the Brooklyn neighborhood (later renamed University District) for the exposition and the crowds of visitors they anticipate. In time for the fair the city will complete a new sewer line, graded roads with curbs and sidewalks, two new double-track streetcar lines, and street lighting.
Dirt Roads, No Sidewalks
Prior to the siting of the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition at the University of Washington, the Brooklyn neighborhood, now known as the University District, had few city services. Just one streetcar line served the neighborhood and dirt roads lacking sidewalks prevailed.
In the year leading up to the exposition the area gained three streetcar lines, one that ran from downtown to the exposition, following 23rd Avenue, and another that crossed the newly widened Latona Bridge, where the Interstate 5 Ship Canal bridge is today, and followed 40th Street across to 14th Avenue, which is now University Way. The third ran from Ballard over to Fremont, then joined the Wallingford line to the university. The Seattle Electric Company, which ran the streetcar lines, paid for the lines they added, including the passenger sheds built at 40th Street and 14th Avenue.
A new road, the University Extension, connected the campus with Lake Washington Boulevard over the portage that still separated Lake Washington and Lake Union, providing a scenic route for automobile and carriage traffic to the exposition. The neighborhood also got a new sewer line, sidewalks, and street paving.
Although welcome, these improvements also caused hardship for neighborhood residents. Any street improvement costs had to be paid by the adjacent property owners, up to a certain limit, so they each received a bill for their portion of the costs. Edmond S. Meany (1862-1935), professor at the University of Washington and A-Y-P trustee, lived in the neighborhood and received a bill for the work done on the street adjacent to his house. In response to an appeal for exposition trustees to buy season tickets, Meany replied, "The street improvements incident to, or hastened by the Exposition have placed $500.00 extra taxes on my home and for the present I am broke" (Meany to Collins).
As the fair approached, weather and other delays caused considerable worry about whether the roads would be ready for the anticipated crowds. One newspaper article on March 13, 1909, expressed Seattleites' concern:
"No questions are of more vital importance to Seattle today and the attention of the civic and commercial bodies of the city.
"The fair can be ready, but more ginger is needed and must be put into the preparations if Seattle is not to be made ridiculous in the eyes of the world after its boast of a 'Fair that will be ready'" ("Streets Far From Readiness for Fair").
The city and the contractors completed the essential work in time for the fair and saved the city from embarrassment. Furthermore, once the exposition had its run, the neighborhood retained the improvements, greatly enhancing its livability.