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

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Saturday, September 16, 2017

Sometimes The Map Itself Is The Treasure

Researched and written by Susan Connole.

An original 1905 “Robinson’s Official Map of the City of Seattle and Vicinity” has recently been discovered tucked behind a door in the Administration Building at the Locks. Depicting ownership of properties from North 85th Street south to Michigan Street and between Puget Sound and Lake Washington, it is an imposing six and half feet square.

The full map unrolled.

Map detail

Robinson’s Maps were well known and published in many cities, mostly for insurance companies and real estate agents. Ours appears to be a real estate version showing property ownership but not any structures on the property, it does note schools, parks and some commercial interests. These types of maps were used during the latter part of the nineteenth century up until the mid-twentieth.

Manufactured by Goes Litho Co. in Chicago it is printed in color on paper, backed with cotton fabric and finished with a varnish coating. The logos and lettering are beautiful examples of the artistic flourishes common in commercial printing of the era. It has had a rough life with evident heat and water damage and extreme wear at the bottom edge from handling and rolling. 

Friends of the Ballard Locks volunteers have begun restoration under the guidance of a professional map conservator, the first step of cleaning both sides of the map is underway, the goal is to eventually have it on public display. The group is also searching for purchase records of the map.

There are many historic maps available online, the Seattle Public Library is a good place to start.

Also the Koch’s Birds-Eye View of Seattle map in the Library of Congress is a delightful representation of early Seattle: