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

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Thursday, November 17, 2016

Touring the Ship Canal

Thanks to support from 4Culture, two cruises aboard the Virginis V were offered to the public. As the year 2017 will mark the Centennial of the formal opening of the Lake Washington Ship Canal and the Chittenden Locks, it is hoped that more of these cruises will be made possible and it will provide an opportunity to participate in events organized to celebrate the anniversary.

Virginia V a 1922 National Historic Landmark vessel.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Ship Canal Centennial Songwriting Competition

As the 100th Anniversary of the official opening of the Chittenden Locks and the Lake Washington Ship Canal approaches, various groups are sponsoring events for the public to participate in or attend. One of these is a songwriting competition sponsored by Maritime Folknet with prizes including hours of studio time at Jack Straw Studios being given to the winners. This is a chance for our musical community to bring their creativity and make it a part of a historical event.

Find more info for the Maritime Folknet contest here

Find more information on the activities surrounding the anniversary celebrations of the ship canal here. You can also find many historical maps, many videos with more to come by Vaun Raymond, articles on the local history and much, much more.

Many of the activities have received support from 4Culture, whose assistance is much appreciated.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Virginia V & Mohai Canal Cruise with Friends of the Ballard Locks

Thanks to a grant from 4 Culture the second cruise on the 1922 wooden steamship, the Virginia V (five), took place Sun. Aug 14,  with narration provided by Friends of the Ballard Locks, Mohai, and a representative for the Virginia V Foundation. This was the second sold out cruise and due to the success of both cruises, further cruises are being considered for the 2017 calendar year as part of the Making the Cut celebrations acknowledging the Centennial of the Lake Washington Ship Canal and Chittenden Locks.
 Here are a few pics of the recent trip. The weather was beautiful, the vessel traffic was heavy so plan on bringing your patience if you join us next year.

Virgina V

With Mount Rainier in distance

Here's a link to our facebook page for more images.


 Many groups are involved with many different projects which will be occurring this and next year. There will be a group effort to mark some of the original lake border on Aug 28. Here's some info on that:
 Making the Cut: The Locks, The Lakes, and a Century of Change

Chalk it up!
Mark your calendars for the following "happening!"
Drawing the Line: A Temporary Tracing of Lake Washington’s Historical Shoreline
Sunday, August 28th, 2016
10 am – 4 pm
Lake Washington Boulevard (approximately), between Mount Baker Rowing and Sailing Center and Seward Park
A hundred years ago this summer, the Montlake Cut was completed, and Lake Washington began to flow out into Lake Union (and then to Puget Sound, via the Ballard Locks). By October of 1916, Lake Washington was nine feet lower, and a whole lot of places that had been underwater no longer were. On August 28th (Bicycle Sunday), local historian and artist Mikala Woodward be temporarily reviving this vanished landscape, by walking the former shoreline with a field chalker. The journey will begin at the Mount Baker Rowing & Sailing Center at 10 am and wind up at Seward Park in the early afternoon. The chalk line is non-toxic and will last 3-5 days. A handout explaining the project and the history behind it will be available at info stations along the route. Many thanks to Amir Sheikh and the Waterlines Project for historical mapping, and to 4culture for a generous Heritage Project grant. For more information please contact Mikala Woodward at mikalawoodward AT gmail DOT com.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Where are these boats now?

On July 4, 1917 the Government Locks were officially opened and the event was marked by a great celebration highlighted by a parade of some 200 vessels led by the Roosevelt. Many local yacht clubs participated in the days festivities and some of the boats taking part in the display are still sailing, some in local waters. How many more are out there? Any information can be directed to:

The newspaper photo at right shows the Roosevelt as it travels along the ship canal followed by the other vessels. An early plane built by Bill Boeing is seen passing overhead to the delight and amazement of the crowds lining the grounds on either side of the canal.

Where are they now?

With the centennial of the Locks coming up in 2017, the Friends of the Ballard Locks is seeking information on the whereabouts or history of the boats taking part in that ship canal dedication parade in 1917.

photo from Bainbridge Island Historical Museum

The Honey Boy in its early days on left. The currently named Keewaydin, as it appears around Lake Union today below.

photo provided by owners Todd and Megan

The Glorybe is still around and has been lovingly restored. photo from

List of Queen City Yacht Club participants in the 1917 celebrations.

Find a list of known boats below the fold.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Making The Cut Website goes online

Thanks to a grant from 4 Culture, a new website has been launched with the goal of providing links to ongoing events commemorating the Centennial Anniversary of the Lake Washington Ship Canal and the Chittenden Locks. Over the next year, there will be a myriad of activities highlighting various aspects of the water way and how it affected Seattle and surrounding cities.

Many thanks to Stephen Schildbach for the design and creation of the site.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Aug 3, 1916 The Informal Opening of the Locks

Orcas in foreground, Swimomish in background.

For those of you who weren't here 100 years ago, here's some pictures of the informal opening of the Chittenden locks, then called the Government Locks, which was marked by the Swinomish and the Orcas, making the journey from Salmon Bay, through the large lock, out into Puget Sound and immediately back again. A crowd of over 1,000 attended the event and here follows a description written by Susan Connole of the event.

"August 3 is an important centennial anniversary in the history of the Chittenden locks, on that day in 1916 an informal celebration took place to commemorate the start of commercial operations.
Crowds gathered at 10 a.m. that morning to watch two government vessels make a ceremonial passage through the locks. The work boat "Swinomish" and the survey launch "Orcas" entered from the east, were lowered to Puget Sound, turned around under the Great Northern railroad bridge and returned upstream to Salmon Bay. On the "Swinomish" were Lt. Col. J.B. Cavanaugh, Army engineer who had supervised locks construction, Judge Roger S. Greene, who had fought for a canal for years, and Judge Thomas Burke, Chamber of Commerce president. Also on board were H.C. Gill, mayor of Seattle, A.W. Sargent, assistant engineer to Cavanaugh, and representatives of the Chamber, the Commercial Club, Seattle Port Commission, and other civic dignitaries. On board the "Orcas" were the wives and families of the engineers who worked on the canal project.
During that first month of operation 1,558 vessels went through the locks in 1,134 lockages. Most of the traffic was wood products- logs, lumber, shingles, etc.- but tugs, fishing boats, and sand and gravel barges, were part of the traffic. Three sailboats went through the locks that month."

Swimomish in Lock, Engineer A.W Sargeant, and Col. J.B.Cavanaugh (standing). Seattle Times Aug 3, 1916 

Seattle Times Aug 3,1916

 All photos are courtesy of the U.S Army Corps of Engineers except where noted.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Virginia V Cruise

MOHAI and the Virginia V Foundation teamed up to provide a recent cruise down a portion of the ship canal, out through the locks and back again. This was a great opportunity to have a few hours sailing on board a historic steam ship and see some familiar sights from a new angle. The tour sold out quickly and the next offering in August is also sold out. It may be worthwhile to contact MOHAI to inquire about a mailing list, but there were very few no shows for the initial cruise, so we can always hope there will be more offerings of similar cruises next year. This is all being done as a cooperative effort to celebrate the centennial of the Lake Washington Ship Canal and the Chittenden Locks. Numerous groups and historical societies are meeting and planning events to mark the 100th year anniversary so keep an eye out for other centennial events. It should also be mentioned that funding for this event, and others to follow, was in part, provided by 4 Culture, so a big thank you goes to them for helping make the event a success. Members of Friends of the Ballard Locks were on hand to offer some historical information and answer questions. Look for them on the next cruise, and bring your questions or your own family history as it pertains to the ship canal.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Virginia V Cruise Opportunities


This summer marks the beginning of a year-long centennial celebration of the Lake Washington Ship Canal. Hop on board the historic vessel Virginia V for a journey through the Ballard Locks with historians from Friends of the Ballard Locks sharing the history and legacy of this engineering achievement. MOHAI will have hands-on activities for children and a selection of beverages and chips will be available for purchase.

There will be two opportunities to join this adventure: Sunday July 10 and Sunday August 14. Guests will board the vessel on Lake Union at 12:30 p.m. and return to the dock at 3:30 p.m. Visit for further information and to make your reservations.

This program is produced in partnership with the Virginia V Foundation, MOHAI and Friends of the Ballard Locks, with generous support from:

This is a great opportunity to enjoy a  rare cruise aboard a truly historic vessel and ask questions about the locks and ship canal!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

100 Years Ago


If you were visiting the locks in May of 1916 this is what you would have seen.

  1. This view taken from the railroad bridge shows the completed large lock with all the gates kept open to allow the tidal flow into Salmon Bay. The small lock is not yet done, there are still cofferdams at both ends so work can continue within the lock. The slope west of the administration building has been terraced as we see it today.

  1. On the south side of the canal work is progressing on the spillway dam with the spillway and the lower apron about half completed, the dam will be finished in about 3 months.

  1. This photo is taken from the Fremont bridge, the newly dug Fremont canal heads westward toward the shingle mills at the head of Salmon Bay. The lock site is further west in Salmon Bay, in 10 weeks the gates of the locks will be closed to flood Salmon Bay to its current height of 20 feet above sea level.

Photos: Corps of Engineers             Display: Friends of the Ballard Locks

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Summer Concerts Are Coming

Plan ahead for the summer concerts at the Chittenden Locks this summer. Use the link at the right to see the announced schedule for concerts beginning May 29. Yet another reason to visit the locks this summer. Read below for the schedule or find the link to the 2016 Summer Schedule to the right.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Lake Washington Ship Canal

Here are a few of the images we have of the canal taken before and during construction. Hopefully we'll have much more to add along with whatever dates and descriptions we have for them.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Lake Washington Ship Canal Centennial

Members of regional history organizations have joined together to plan events and displays to commemorate the centennial of the Lake Washington Ship Canal. Watch for this Making the Cut logo in local publications, libraries, etc. highlighting the events and construction milestones culminating in the centennial of the locks July 4, 2017.

The artwork was created by Stephen Schildbach, who incorporated many ideas and suggestions from the committee working on the Ship Canal Centennial. While impossible to include every suggestion, and submitting many rounds of proofs, this logo was chosen as being the most representative of the committee's main goals in a logo. Much thanks for his patience and creativity.

4Culture is also to be thanked for their funding and support in this project and other upcoming events. Take part in your local history and look for events celebrating the 100 years the canal has been a part of the area!

Saturday, January 30, 2016


Article researched and written by Susan Connole
First water entering lock chamber

Lock chamber being filled.

February 2, 1916…

January 31, 1916 started out like any other cold, damp winter day in the city. Then mid-morning it started to snow, it kept coming down all day and on into the night. The storm continued steadily for 2 days: schools were closed, streetcar service was shut down and a snow slide closed the Northern Pacific Railroad’s Stampede Tunnel, halting train service across the Cascades.

By early afternoon on February 2 the wet snow was so deep it collapsed the roof of the West Seattle Christian Church, and several hours later the dome of St. James Cathedral crashed down under the weight of the heavy snow. The storm left Seattle with 3 feet of snow on the ground.

But over at the government locks in Ballard the workers were focused on something else. The cement work of the large lock was completed and the miter gates installed, it was time to open the valves and admit water into the chamber for the very first time. In this photo taken just after noon on February 2, you can see the water coming from the filling tunnels at the floor of the lock, notice the staff on the upstream gate watching as the water pushes into the snow.

There must have been a sense of jubilation and pride that after decades of politics and planning- and 5 years of construction- it worked! Perhaps this group photo was a celebratory one, Chief Engineer Major J. B. Cavanaugh and his staff on the steps of the administration building on that momentous day (Cavanaugh is third from right in hat and glasses.) The Engineering Department workboat Orcas did a trial lockage the next day and the lock was then in operation. The small lock went into operation July 25 and an informal opening celebration was held August 3, 1916, the official dedication was held on July 4, 1917.

Sources:, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers