This Week in Queen Anne History

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 comprehensive system of sewers and sewer tunnels to 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 ProjectThe 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 storm water and sewage to the drop shaft.
More detailed information on the project can be found via the link below.

Images courtesy of Seattle Municipal Archives, numbers 6

Queen Anne Yesterday & Today

This photo of the gravel pit that was located in the blocks bordered by Third and First Avenues West, West Fulton and West Armour Streets was taken shortly after 13-year-old Frank Grigsby drowned in the pit pond while playing with his dog on May 3, 1931.  The quarry, which had been operated by the Queen Anne Sand & Gravel Company since 1922, was a dangerous attraction for neighborhood children and students at the adjacent North Queen Anne  School.  Immediately following the boy’s death, Queen Anne parents demanded better security around the rock quarry and eventually pushed for its closure.

Queen Anne Gravel Pit. SMA #38395

Photo courtesy of Seattle Municipal Archives, #38395

Queen Anne Bowl

Quarry operations were banned from the site in 1939, and the former gravel pit was converted to a sports field called Queen Anne Bowl in 1942.  Today Queen Anne Bowl is a popular and safe attraction for youth sports organizations and runners of all ages.


This Week in Queen Anne History

People inspect the remains of the Wheeler Street Bridge in this July 1, 1924 image.  The bridge was one of a network of trestles constructed between 1911 and 1920  over the railroad tracks in lowlands of Interbay, between Queen Anne and Magnolia.  A spark from a train passing below ignited the timber trestle of the Lawton Way Bridge near its intersection with the Wheeler Street Bridge.  A northwest wind carried the flames to the Wheeler Street crossing, completely damaging both bridges beyond repair.   Along with bridges at Garfield and Dravus streets, the Wheeler Street Bridge was one of the three primary crossings between Queen Anne and Magnolia.  Neither of the damaged bridges was replaced after the fire; but the Garfield Street Bridge was replaced in 1930 by the structure commonly known as the Magnolia Bridge.

Wheeler St. Bridge Fire.  July 1, 1924.

Image courtesy of Seattle Municipal Archives, #28652