In this August 2, 1912 image, work is under way on the North Trunk Sewer siphon tunnel at Third Avenue West and Ewing Street, now the location of the West Ewing Mini Park.
In 1892, under the direction of Seattle City Engineer R.H. Thompson, construction began on a comprehensivesystem of sewers and sewer tunnelsto divert sewage away from freshwater lakes and tidal areas and out into Puget Sound. Construction on the North Trunk Sewer began in 1911 to serve an area of about 30 square miles. Because the North Trunk system crosses the Lake Washington Ship Canal, tunnels were built beneath it to accommodate sewer pipes and other utilities. Shafts were dug 80 feet down on either side of the canal, and a brick-lined tunnel was constructed between them.
In the image below, a diver prepares to inspect the North Trunk Sewer’s outfall at Fort Lawton, in a photo taken by the engineering department on the same day.
When the city’s engineering department undertook building the sewer system that it has maintained, expanded and improved upon on ever since, the idea of treating sewage didn’t exist and the long-term impact of depositing it into Puget Sound was a known unknown. In the intervening years, treatment plants were introduced into the system; and more recently, building regulations requiring the inclusion of landscaping designed to absorb storm water runoff were put in place to mitigate the risk of raw sewage overflow into our water systems. Despite these efforts, incidents of overflow still occur during storms.
The same week 108 years later, construction is again under way at the Third Avenue West and Ewing Street site. In an effort to prevent future contamination during periods of high water input into the system, Seattle Public Utilities and King County Wastewater Treatment Division have begun work on the Ship Canal Water Quality Project. The project includes building a new 8-ft-diameter tunnel under the Ship Canal to convey polluted storm water and sewage to a new 29-million-gallon-capacity storage tunnel, building a drop shaft to direct flows into the new tunnel, and installing new pipes to convey stormwater and sewage to the drop shaft. More detailed information on the project can be found via the link below.
August 2, 2020:The Seattle Times reports that Queen Anne’s Bamboo Garden will close, and that Seattle will lose its vegetarian Chinese restaurant — Seattle’s only kosher restaurant. A sad day for Seattle’s Jewish community and for Seattle Center Farewell, Bamboo Garden
The water storage tanks that stood at Warren Avenue North and Lee Street were a testament to Seattle’s rapid growth in the early twentieth century; it was a period that saw major infrastructure investment and annexations of surrounding communities. Prior to the turn of the twentieth century, Seattle residents’ water was provided by several privately owned companies whose service was not reliable. Queen Anne experienced frequent droughts in late summer, which continued despite the installation of a pump from Lake Union to a 100,000 gallon wooden reservoir. One such drought in 1899 left Queen Anne residents without water for several weeks. The newly formed municipal water department selected Queen Anne hill for one of its first three water storage and distribution facilities (the other two were built on Capitol Hill at Volunteer Park and Lincoln Park (now Cal Anderson Park). Construction on the Queen Anne standpipe began in 1899 on eight lots purchased by the city from private owners; and in 1901 the 69-foot, Gothic-inspired Tank No.1 became Seattle’s first steel and concrete standpipe. In 1902 the site was named Observatory Park, and residents were granted access to sweeping views from the top of the tower via an exterior steel spiral staircase. That same year, streetcar service via the Queen Anne Avenue Counterbalance facilitated development of more housing, schools and businesses on the top of the hill. In 1904 a second standpipe was constructed on the site to increase storage capacity, as seen in this 1929 image; and in 1908 the Warren Avenue Fire station was built on the property. Tennis courts were added in 1934.
Much has changed on the property over the years. The fire station and tennis courts were replaced by 1964, and a communication tower and substation were constructed on the northern portion of the site in the 1950s. But the most obvious change is the absence of the historic standpipes. Despite landmarking efforts in the late 1990s, the old towers were removed and replaced with the current 79-foot-tall tank in 2006. The tennis courts are maintained by the Seattle Parks Department, and that portion of the property is now called Observatory Courts.
Historic image courtesy of Seattle Municipal Archives #3207