Preserving the History of the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks in Seattle, Washington

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Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Center Gates Removal

Jan 2024 Center Gate progress photo from Greg Shaw


 Here's something you might see every 107 years or so. The center gates at the large lock were being removed recently and will be replaced late next year. This will necessarily cause disruptions in the use of the large lock as it will be closed for extended periods of time until the new gates are installed. Here's a link to the Army Corps page with projected dates for the closures.

Large lock closure information 


Both gates were removed late in the night so the public missed a great photo opportunity but for several days it was possible to see the work crews preparing for the rarely performed procedure. We know the gates were removed at least once before in 1973, brought to Tacoma for repairs and reinstalled again. Here's a few pics of the process.


Crane and barges entering large lock


Center gates partially open in preparation for removal

Using torch to burn through wood fender on gate

Axes, chainsaws, torches and crowbars were all used in cutting through the wood before installing the equipment used in lifting the gate from lock. on deck of the large crane was this smaller crane used in bringing the crew close enough to the gate to complete the process.

Here's a small video of a chainsaw in use to cut away a section of the wood fender.

 Chainsaw at work.


Photo by Fred Mitchell and published in Seattle Times Oct 18, 2023



In the meantime, the small lock also needed a little TLC. 

Small lock getting some attention

While all employees were hard at work, there was one who was clearly just phoning it in.

Wednesday, September 6, 2023

The Center Miter Gates Are Leaving Us

We received the following information today and will copy it from the Chittenden Locks Facebook page. Sounds like a great time and not to be missed. A bit of history is in the making.

The links below will direct you to a site where you can purchase the official tshirt. There doesn't seem to be any other registration information or requirements. If you have any questions, please direct them to Discover Your Northwest who are organizing this event.

(From the Facebook post) ...

Grab your family, friends and your running shoes 👟 for a commemorative Great Miter Retire 5K Fun Run at 10 am, Saturday, Oct. 7, 2023, at!
Our large lock center miter gates are the original gates and have facilitated navigation since 1916.
This October, we'll start work to replace them. Improving this 106-year-old navigation infrastructure will help us provide dependable navigation for the next 100+ years.
Walk 🚶‍♂️ 🚶‍♀️ or run 🏃‍♀️ 🏃 along these engineering marvels one last time during this fun run that'll start and end at these gates.
Registration is now open. Click 👉 or scan the QC code, to register or for more info. 
All registration funds will go toward supporting new exhibits in our fish ladder viewing room.
Here's our upcoming extended large lock center gate closure schedule: Lock Closure Schedule
Discover Your Northwest

Sunday, June 25, 2023

Lock Wall Roses at Small Lock Operating House Four

 Researched and written by Stephen Munro, gardener at the Chittenden Locks.

Teddy Roosevelt with rose in lapel

Operating House Four sits adjacent the small locks and is where lock attendants control
the valves and gates for those locks. Two large rose bushes seemingly burst out of the
desolate concrete of the lock wall monolith on the west and east sides of this structure.
The one on the west side is nearly thornless with large very fragrant double purple
flowers. The other, on the east side has large double pinks flowers that are also very,
very fragrant. Both appear to bloom seemingly all growing season from late-May to


Rose Bush on western side


Friday, May 26, 2023

2023 Music At The Locks Summer Schedule

 The schedule for music concerts at the locks during the summer weekends is now available. They're free to attend and donations are appreciated. Come early to get your folding chair and enjoy some great music on the lawn.

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Feb. 2 - Anniversary of the First Filling of the Locks

This post was first published in 2018. We've added some new content below the original article. In the article from the Seattle Post Intelligencer it names machinist Carl Sjogren as the individual who actually opened the valves admitting water into the chambers. If there are any descendants of Carl Sjogren who see this post, please send any photos or information you might have of his time at the Chittenden Locks. We'd be happy to add yet more local flavor to this post.


In our own archives we've discovered a group photo where Carl Sjogren can be seen. He's standing in the back row, second from the right. This picture is dated August 1932, for a yet unknown occasion. We've also learned that he started working at the locks in 1912, while they were under construction, until his retirement in 1944. In the 1920 Census he had apparently changed the legal spelling of his name to Seagren. His death occurred in July 1953 in Mount Vernon, an area where he had lived before starting work at the locks. Perhaps the local Nordic community might like to propose that next Feb 2, could be named Carl Sjogren Day, after the machinist who first opened the valves to begin the first filling of the large lock chamber. 

Monday, May 16, 2022

Bowfin Submarine


Bowfin Submarine

We were recently asked about information on this submarine, which was used as a Navy training vessel on Lake Union from 1960 to 1971. Specifically we'd like to find some photos of it's arrival or departure from Seattle, and especially if anyone might have a photograph of it while in the Chittenden Locks. We did find some articles from the Seattle Times announcing it's arrival and then it's departure a decade later. Look below for the articles. The first of which announced the arrival and expected time that it would be at the lock the following day. Surely lots of locals made the trip to see it and could share their memory of the day and hopefully a photo taken of the event.

Friday, April 16, 2021

Chittenden Lock officials announce lift to some COVID-19 restrictions


Some exciting news from our Corps of Engineers. This is copied from their website.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officials will begin its next phases of the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks reopening plan which include setting dates for the first floor of the visitors center to open on April 23 and access to the pedestrian bridges beginning April 28. The public restrooms will remain closed until May 3.

The fish ladder viewing area will remain closed until further notice due to an upcoming maintenance project. The historical administration building will remain closed to the public as well.

The decision to reopen these parts of the property was made based on COVID-19 community data and safety considerations. Officials wish to make clear that if the COVID-19 situation in the community gets worse, the restrictions could go back into place for the safety of Locks employees and to ensure no disruptions to lock operations.

“We are happy to welcome our commuters back to the locks,” said project manager Jon Hofstra. “We understand that it has been inconvenient for our neighbors to find alternative routes and we thank everyone for their patience and understanding during this unprecedented time.”

Locks staff ask that commuters travel straight through and practice social distancing while crossing. Please do not stop and congregate to ensure continued safety for all visitors and staff.

The gate hours will be 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. beginning April 28.

As a reminder masks are required on all Federal property in or outdoors.

For more information about activities at the Locks, visit the Locks’ Web site at Also follow the Locks on Facebook and Twitter,"

Before long, visitors will be able to view the fish ladder, cross the pedestrian bridges to the Magnolia side, and check out the exhibits in the Visitor Center. This comes with a warning that if the pandemic takes a turn for the worse, the access to all of this may change as necessary. So, observe all social and health protocols and enjoy some of what makes Seattle special at the locks.

Monday, August 26, 2019



Researched and written by Eleanor Boba


Seattle’s Lake Union has served for more than a century and a half as a home for maritime industries, floating homes, and water-based recreation. It has also been a transportation hub for everything from portaged canoes to historic sailing ships to float planes.
In 1970, nearly a half century ago, a photographer traveled Seattle’s inland waterways from the Ship Canal to Lake Washington. We do not know who this individual was; the effort may have had something to do with the Corps of Engineers’ work building trails along the route of the Ship Canal. The images, in the care of the Friends of the Ballard Locks, provide a somewhat rare waterside view of the structures along the shorelines. Today we offer a selection featuring a look at Lake Union on October 13, 1970.

Catalog #011.126
The Vic Franck boat works built and repaired wooden boats for decades at the north end of Lake Union. Established in 1927 by Victor Arthur Franck, the business remained in the hands of the Franck family until the death of son Vic Franck in 2005. Some famous boats built here include the Tatoosh, an 80-foot sailboat owned by actor Peter Fonda and the 104-foot yacht Kakki M., later named the Dorothea.

Catalog #011.128
Lake Union has served as a graveyard for ships in more than one way. For many years following World War I, the unwanted hulks of the nation’s Emergency Fleet Corporation lay dormant in the middle of the lake. Many wrecks, including a navy patrol craft, a minesweeper, and at least one automobile, lie at the lake’s bottom. Despite the busy industrial nature of the lake, wrecked and abandoned vessels have been a fairly common sight for decades. In this photo, the cannery tug Alitak lies bow up.

Catalog #011.130
Our catalog lists these homes as “Copeland houseboats.” The Copeland brothers, Gerry and Grant, designed the floating home community on Portage Bay, which later became the Portage-At-Bay cooperative in the late-1960s. Portage Bay is the body of water connecting Lake Union to the Montlake Cut.

Catalog #011.134
Some more of the lake’s many floating homes, with Union Harbor Condos behind at 2301 Fairview East.

Catalog #011.137
Many a tug made its way through the Ship Canal to Pioneer Sand & Gravel Company on Lake Union’s east shore. The products the company shipped in from its gravel pit in Steilacoom and elsewhere were much in demand for the city’s building boom. The bunkers were located at 901 Fairview Avenue North, approximately where Duke’s Chowder House is located today.

Catalog #011.139
The west side of Lake Union with Queen Anne Hill as a backdrop. The AGC (Associated General Contractors) building dominates the skyline. A seaplane skims the waters. The office building, at that time known as the Northwest Construction Center, is still under construction in the photo.

Catalog #011.140
Like the AGC building, the Lake Union Building, still under construction here, was built on pilings over the water. When complete, it offered seven stories of commercial space and its own marina.

Catalog #011.143
The Lake Union Elks Club was easily spotted from the water by the enormous word ELKS atop the building. Although the Seattle Elks (Lodge No. 92) left the building in the mid-1990s, the structure still stands and houses the China Harbor restaurant.

Catalog #011.144
The famed Seattle Gas Works were a going concern from 1907 until 1956. In 1975, five years after this photo was snapped, the abandoned and highly-polluted site was turned into an innovative park.

Catalog #011.150
The old Naval Reserve Building, now the Museum of History and Industry. MOHAI officially opened at this location in 2012. The reserve building, or Armory, was designed by renowned architects B. Marcus Priteca and William R. Grant and dedicated on July 4, 1942, as the United States ramped up its involvement in World War II. In 1998 the Navy abandoned its interest in the building and its future was precarious until the MOHAI deal was struck. Today the structure anchors the newly developed Lake Union Park. Heritage ships are berthed at the wharf just out of frame at left. The Center for Wooden Boats occupies a series of waterways to the east of the building. The smokestacks of the city’s former Lake Union Steam Plant, now a biotech company, can be seen in the background at left. The structure at right has been demolished.

Catalog #011.151
Our last image shows a barge loaded with pre-fabricated housing units headed to Alaska. 

All images are used courtesy of  the U.S Army Corps of Engineers