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

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Thursday, November 21, 2013

Large lock back in operation

The Corps of Engineers is reporting that the large lock at the Chittenden Locks is back in operation. Enjoy!

Large lock at the Chittenden Locks in use

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

2013 Large Lock Inspection

The large will be closed to boat traffic from Nov. 5, 2013 until Nov. 20, 2013 so that the lock can be inspected and maintenance performed as necessary. The small lock is still operating for smaller vessels. Even though you won't be able to watch the large vessels locking through, It is still worth a trip to see and appreciate the enormity of this site.

The large lock almost emptied.

Here is a link to a previous post describing the process and with pictures taken during the closing

2012 post of large lock inspection

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Coming Lock Closures

From the US Army Corps of Engineers website, some information on the lock closures in October and November.

"The Hiram M. Chittenden Locks in Ballard will close to much or all marine traffic at various times Oct. 31, Nov. 1 and Nov. 5-20.

Vessel operators should pay close attention to times, vessel-size restrictions and impacts caused by railroad bridge maintenance.

On Oct. 31 and Nov. 1, U.S. Navy divers are scheduled to prepare the Adult Salmon Exclusion Structure for normal winter operations. Both locks are scheduled to be closed on Oct. 31 a maximum of four hours from 8 a.m. to noon. The large lock only is scheduled to be closed from approximately 8 a.m. to noon Nov. 1.

The large lock at the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks in Ballard is scheduled to close to all marine traffic from 9 a.m., Nov. 5, to 5 p.m., Nov. 20, for annual maintenance. The small lock will still be available for vessels less than 115 feet in length and 26 feet in width throughout the large lock maintenance period. Please note, however, that in conjunction with the Lock closure, BNSF Railway will make structural upgrades to the Ballard railroad bridge which crosses Lake Washington Ship Canal west of the Locks. High mast vessels able to use the small lock will not be able to pass the bridge during the four BNSF Railway closures from 9 a.m. to midnight, Nov. 5, 7, 12 and 14."

Corps of Engineers main page

Army Corps info

Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Latest from the Garden

Thanks to Emily Dunn, a Ballard High volunteer, for taking these photos of the Carl English Gardens. Beneath all the gray fog you can still find plenty of vibrant colors to help get us through until spring. Follow the link for the Carl English Garden on the right of the page, to find the rest of her photos, and enjoy.

Friday, August 30, 2013

The Admin Building

The Administration Building – Serving Many Purposes

researched and written by Kyle Stetler 

When construction of the Hiram M. Chittenden locks began in 1913, it wasn’t just the locks that had to be built. The large concrete building that many people walk by today when coming across the locks was started at almost the same time. Currently, in addition to being the locks’ administrative offices, it also houses the massive pumps used to empty water from the locks during the annual “pump-outs”.

The Administration building, or Powerhouse as it’s called in early photographs, also has a distinguished architectural pedigree in that it was designed by Carl F. Gould. Mr. Gould was one of Seattle’s leading early 20th century architects and designed, in conjunction with his partner Charles Bebb, several well known buildings in Seattle. Mr. Gould himself is responsible for designing the Suzzallo library, on the University of Washington Campus, the  Seattle Asian Art Museum, and the Pacific Medical Center building on Beacon Hill. 

The Administration building is an early example of the use of concrete as a building material and it can be seen in several other structures at the locks including the control houses and maintenance buildings. Designed in the Second Renaissance Revival style, the 47 x 67 foot Administration building served as the initial multi-purpose public building at the locks and required 14 sheets of architectural designs.


It features an oval ceiling light of textured and colored glass and terrazzo floors with geometric trim of Alaska and verde antique marble. Additionally, the wood panels and trim used throughout the building is varnished oak. A unique touch is the brass plaque at the center of the lobby featuring a castle structure—the symbol of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Also, be sure to check out the bronze dolphins that support the light globes at the south entrance of the building. These are the only external light fixtures which have remained intact throughout the locks existence!  

Next time you’re at the locks, during the weekday from 8am to 4pm, be sure to go inside and see the many original design elements still present.

The Administration building taking final form in the fall of 1915.

The basement and first floor are just emerging by spring 1915.

Early spring 1914, construction of the pump wells, underneath the Administration building, is taking shape.

All photos are property of US Army Corps of Engineers and used with permission

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Free concerts are winding down

With summer drawing to a close, there are still a couple more opportunities to catch the free weekend concerts at the Ballard Locks. It's great way to entertain families or out of town visitors without breaking the bank. Watch the boaters locking through, check out the tail end of the salmon runs, see the herons in their nests and possibly a seal or sea lion. Add the Carl English gardens to the mix and there's something for everyone.

Summer Concert schedule

Thursday, August 15, 2013

The garden in bloom

Here are some of our latest garden views thanks to Emily Dunn. Stop by and find them for yourselves. Win valuable prizes. (Just self satisfaction, really).

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Q. When is a yacht not a yacht?

A. When it has been commandeered by the US Army for military service during WWll.

The launch of the Helene.  April 18, 1931  Source:  copyright C.Sorensen

Recently an unusual photo turned up in the Corps of Engineers photo archives of the yacht christened Cavanaugh. Although the Army Corps of Engineers has owned and operated many types of ships throughout the world's waterways, a yacht like this was particularly unusual. We have been able to uncover some details of its' history and welcome any contributions from the public to add to what we know so far.

Friday, July 12, 2013

The Garden in Bloom

Here's a look at some of what you will see currently blooming in the Carl English Garden. Many thanks to Emily Dunn, Ballard High School for the photos.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Lake Washington Ship Canal Opening Day

The Ship Canals opens to great celebration

July 4 is an important day all across the country but the Seattle area also has a historic connection to this date. It was July 4, 1917 that the Ballard Locks and Lake Washington Ship Canal were officially opened and inaugurated. Years of hard physical work, engineering challenges, arm twisting, lawsuits and political and commercial maneuvering finally resulted in this historic day.

One of our volunteers, Marta Brace, has done considerable research into the history of the ship canal and offers the following article.

Reprint of Locks Opening

Addressing the crowds in the locks

 To read and view more images about the celebrations concerning the Ballard Locks official opening you can follow the link below

Last year's article about the 95th anniversary of the locks

Saturday, June 29, 2013

It's All Happening at the Locks

Now that summer has arrived, visits to the locks are at their most interesting. Plenty of boats locking through, lots of herons to see, a record number of salmon, the Carl English Garden,, and free concerts on the weekends. Below you can see a schedule of this summer's concerts and drop by for a great afternoon.

Summer concerts at the locks

Friday, May 10, 2013

Spring Cleaning: Preparing the Fish Ladder for Salmon! 


Not a returning salmon!


The fish ladder is scheduled for it's regular annual cleaning beginning Monday May 13 through Friday May 17. The fish ladder viewing gallery will be closed to the public, the rest of the locks and garden will remain open as usual. Here is a link to a previous article and slideshow detailing the history and explaining the process. Keep in mind that the dates in the article refer to a previous year and for 2013 the process begins on May 13. Enjoy!

Monday, March 25, 2013

FOBL slideshow

We are adding a slideshow function to our blog in order to share images of the locks with the public. In the right column you can see a link for the slideshow. All photos are property of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and are used with their permission. So far we have scanned over 15,000 images from slides and photos which go back as far as the construction of the locks which began in 1911. In this launch of the slideshow we are including only a handful of images but this will soon increase. The locks were officially opened in 1917 and with the centennial rapidly approaching we are attempting to share the history and lore of the facility with all interested parties. As time permits we will be adding to and sorting the images to showcase different features of the locks such as commercial and pleasure craft, construction projects, fish and wildlife, and the Carl English Garden. As always we welcome any input and especially welcome those with an interest in the locks to spend some time with us as we work on various projects. If you're interested in volunteering please contact Susan Connole for further information.