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

Contact us at friendsofthelocks@gmail.com

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

The Celebration

Researched and written by Susan Connole

A more austere looking lock site in 1916


 While the locks went into operation in July 1916 much work still needed to be done to complete the planned Lake Washington Ship Canal. But first- a celebration.


Large lock opening Aug. 3 1916

On August 3 the community gathered at the large lock to watch the snag boat Swinomish followed by the survey vessel Orcas, enter the large lock from Salmon Bay to be lowered to Puget Sound, then turn around and return to Salmon Bay. Newspapers recorded the crowd cheering as the boats passed and speeches commemorating the event were given. Col. J.B. Cavanaugh, who oversaw construction, and Judges Roger Greene and Thomas Burke, both long time advocates of the ship canal, were praised for their comments.

It would still be awhile before the dam in Fremont was removed and a channel dredged so vessels could enter Lake Union.


Opening Montlake Cut photo from UW Special Collections

Meanwhile, the Montlake cut was still under construction between Lakes Union and Washington. Then on August 25 the engineers ordered the removal of the cofferdam holding back the water of Lake Union. As workers with shovels began to dig, the first small trickle increased dramatically and nearby onlookers scrambled for higher ground. It took about an hour for the cut to fill, completing another portion of the ship canal.

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The last, critical step of the project was the lowering of Lake Washington. So far, the locks and dam have been built, the water of Salmon Bay has been raised from sea level to the level of Lake Union and a channel has been cut from Lake Union up to Lake Washington, but Lake Washington has not yet been connected, it is still about 10 feet higher than Lake Union, held back by a wooden dam.

On August 28 the gates of the dam were opened slightly to begin releasing water into the Montlake cut, it then took several months for the lake to slowly draw down to the level of Lake Union. By late October the water of the lakes and canals were at level but   dredging still needed to be done at both ends of the Montlake cut to create a channel for larger boats to pass through.

Schooner Wawona outbound in 1916

By the end of August 1916, 1,558 vessels had passed through the locks, including 666 tugboat passages, 140 fishing boat passages, and 190 barge passages. Passenger vessels went through 152 times, sightseeing through the locks on the excursion boat Sioux was a popular outing.  Records are still kept today, the lock wall operators tally the small lock and the lock master in the control tower records traffic in the large lock.

First locking crew in 1917

The completion of the Lake Washington Ship Canal altered the course of history for Seattle, opening up the fresh water lakes allowed commerce to expand away from the downtown core and expand the city eastward. Today it is not only an important part of the Seattle economy but a major tourist destination.


From the Seattle Times Aug.6 1916 touting the immediate success of the canal and locks operation


All photos are used courtesy of the US Army Corps of Engineers except where noted.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

102nd Anniversary of Small Lock Opening

Researched and written by Susan Connole

By Spring of 1916 Seattle’s long-dreamed-of ship canal was becoming reality.




Montlake Cut in 1916




While the locks were being constructed at the west end of Salmon Bay a small waterway was kept open along the south shore so boats could continue to move between Puget Sound and the bay. When the large lock was completed in February 1916 the gates were kept open and the tidal water then flowed through the lock so the small shipping channel could be blocked off to build the spillway dam.



May 27, 1916


On July 12, 1916, with the small lock completed, the gates of both locks were closed to stop the flow of water coming down from Lake Union and Salmon Bay began rise.

It took about 3 weeks for the bay to attain the planned level but on July 25 the Engineering Dept. survey boat “Orcas” entered the small lock and became the first vessel to be raised from Puget Sound to the new higher level of Salmon Bay. No longer would boats have to wait for a high tide to use the small shipping channel, the locks allowed them full-time access to Salmon Bay.

"Orcas" entering the small lock. July 25, 1916
"Orcas" raised in small lock. July 25, 1916

 Much dredging still needed to be done to establish shipping channels and construction was progressing on the Fremont and Montlake canals but the locks were in operation. During that first month in 1916 there were 304 lockages in the large lock and 830 lockages in the small lock.

And Seattleites like to party. Next week- the opening celebration and onward to Lake Washington.

Large lock in action 1916.
All photographs are courtesy of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Thursday, May 24, 2018

2018 Summer Concert Schedule

Here is the upcoming summer concert schedule. A text version will hopefully be added soon.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Ballard Locks & Puget Sound Archaeology



Ballard Locks & Puget Sound Archaeology




From http://ballardlocks.org/ comes an invitation to attend a talk by the Suquamish Historic Preservation Officer which should be of great interest to many.  You can use the following link to learn more and register as seating will be limited to 50 people.

Description of the event


"Discover a bit of ancient history connected with the Locks. Dennis Lewarch, Suquamish Tribal Historic Preservation Officer, will address how sea level rise after the most recent Ice Age, 10,000 years ago, likely affected land use practice by the first arrivals to the Puget. Sea levels were a few hundred feet lower when the earliest inhabitants arrived and many things have changed since then. Dennis offers an interesting glimpse into the changes that took place as sea level rise changed both living conditions and food sources."

Be sure to look around on the ballardlocks.org site to find many other activities and talks of interest to the community.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Name This Boat

Recently we had a request from someone wanting to know the identity of the boat in the 2 photos below. He guessed it might be from the 30's based on the cars visible on the road above. There seems to have been quite a crowd gathered, so was this an occasion? Or perhaps a boat of some distinction which drew the onlookers down to the locks to view it. Unfortunately, due to Seattle's infamously fickle weather, the heavy coats in evidence cannot be taken as an indication of the time of year. It could just as easily be mid July, as a December morning. So all you nautical detectives, weigh anchor and weigh in.


Crowd watching vessel in large lock.


Who might have added the artistic keyhole affect for this photo?
friendsofthelocks@gmail.com

Monday, January 29, 2018

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

The large lock was filled for the first time ever. on Feb. 2 1916. There was to be a small celebration to mark the occasion, but as the photos show, a heavy snowstorm put a damper on the occasion. Nevertheless, local dignitaries, and people responsible for this project showed up despite the elements.

At the first filling of the lock.


From the Seattle Times, Feb 3 1916

It took just over a half hour to fill the large lock and credit must be given to the dignitaries who withstood the freezing temperatures for the occasion. Here's some photos from the day we uncovered,

With the dignitaries watching from the far end, the water is seen as it starts to fill the large lock.



Much debris in the lock visible as it fills.

The large lock filled.



Feb 3, the Corps boat Orcas uses the lock.