Queen Anne Yesterday & Today

When searching for historic images of Queen Anne to recapture for a contemporary comparison, I’m often frustrated by streetscapes and vistas that are too obscured by mature vegetation or engineering of the landscape to make for interesting subject matter.  Today’s subject provides a rare example of an urban intersection where little has changed in nearly 100 years.

6th Avenue West and West Ewing Street intersect at the northern edge of Queen Anne, between Nickerson Street and the Fremont Cut.  Just beyond its intersection with West Ewing, 6th West terminates at a small public boat launch bisecting a community of houseboats.  The land north of West Ewing Street and west of 4th Avenue West is one of two small slivers of Queen Anne’s base that are zoned for manufacturing and industrial use (the other being between 13th and 15th Avenues West, and continuing along Elliott Avenue West, bordered north and south by West Newton and West Prospect streets).  It is due to this zoning of the land and the long duration of its occupants that the intersection is nearly identical today to when the historic image was taken in 1956.

6th Ave. W. in 1956

The property on the left side of the image is part of the Foss Maritime shipyard, which extends westward to the Ballard Bridge.  Founded in 1889 in Tacoma, Foss established operations in Seattle during World War I.  The wooden warehouse building on the left, built in 1930, bears a Foss sign in the same position on the building’s clerestory today as in the historic image.  The small white house at the water’s edge, built in 1935, still stands but is hidden behind tall bushes.

6th Ave. W. in 2021

The warehouse buildings on the right were the location of the Gascoigne Lumberyard from 1926 until 2018. The most noticeable change since 1956, other than the vintage of the cars, is the absence of the warehouse building in the right foreground of the historic image.  It was among several warehouse buildings owned by Gascoigne that were destroyed in a fire on November 10, 2018.  The highly combustible contents of the buildings shot flames 100 feet into the air and resulted in Seattle’s first 4-alarm fire in a decade.  The fire was found to be the work of a serial arsonist who had set several smaller fires in the area.  Gascoigne moved their business to Everett, but a dark rectangle on the surviving warehouse marks the spot where their sign used to hang.

It certainly isn’t going to win anyone’s vote for the most attractive intersection in Queen Anne; but in a city that has seen as much rapid growth and change as Seattle, there is something special, and kind of comforting, about the little pockets that are seemingly untouched by time.  A walk or bike-ride on the path that runs along the canal, between the Ballard and Fremont bridges, offers a glimpse into the past and a reminder of the industries upon which Seattle’s fortunes were built, and that still thrive despite our image as a big-tech hub.