Historic Sites

Ship Canal

The entrance to today’s Ship Canal was once the outlet of a small stream that flowed from Lake Union to Puget Sound. The creek was dredged and channelized with the creation of the Lake Washington Ship Canal, providing passage between Lake Union, Lake Washington, and the Puget Sound via the Chittenden Locks.

The Center for Wooden Boats

An ancient cedar becomes a canoe, a rotting rowboat is renewed, a fleet of children set sail, and modern urbanites master ancient seafaring skills. It all happens at The Center for Wooden Boats, a hands-on maritime museum open to the public at no cost. Paddlers can pull up to a low-floating dock behind the Center’s workshop and store their boats on a kayak rack while they explore.

Gas Works Park

Tomato seeds are apparently indestructible, even after sewage treatment. When Seattle bought the Gas Works Park property to create Lake Union’s first park, the soil was too polluted to grow grass, so the city coated the site with sewer sludge. The grass grew well and, during the first summer, an added bonus of tomatoes sprouted in the park. Gas Works Park displays rusting remnants of a 1902 gasification plant that converted coal to liquid fuel for streetlights and cooking stoves. The last gas was made in 1957 when a new pipeline brought natural gas from British Columbia.

Bill Boeing's airplane business

A seaplane carrying 60 letters launched from Lake Union in 1919 en route to Victoria, British Columbia, where it completed the country’s first international mail flight. The historic flight took off from a floating hangar at the foot of Roanoke Street, the first location of Bill Boeing’s airplane business.

Montlake Cut

Imagine waking up one morning to discover that your house, next to lapping water when you went to bed, was now next to a wide mud beach. The lowering of Lake Washington happened overnight when the Montlake Cut was completed in 1916 through the natural isthmus between Portage Bay and Lake Washington. Washington dropped nearly 9 feet to match Lake Union’s depth. Before the cut provided passage to large ships, a crude canal and log flume moved timber from Lake Washington shores to the sawmills on Lake Union.

Historic Ships Wharf

The wharf directly in front of the Naval Reserve is home to four Historic Ships (in order west to east):

Virginia V – 125’ wooden double-decked passenger vessel built in 1922 powered by an 1898 oil fired steam engine. The last remaining steamer of the Mosquito Fleet, she provided passenger & freight service to & from Seattle, Tacoma, and many small communities until 1972.

Arthur Foss – 112’ wooden tugboat with a green hull built in 1889, used mainly for towing logs. She was also the star of the 1933 film Tugboat Annie.

Red Nun Buoy

It’s not Atlantis, but 10 feet below the #2 red nun buoy lies a submerged island. As Seattle prepared for the 1962 World’s Fair, an entrepreneur began filling the lake to build a waterfront hotel. Every day, dirt was dumped in the lake but it never seemed to fill in, until one morning an island appeared offshore. No wall was built to retain the dumped dirt and the hotel project was abandoned. A clan of college students claimed the island as their autonomous property and occupied it temporarily. Eventually, the island eroded back into the Lake.

Aurora Bridge

Monongahela, Mosholu and Tonawanda are not trolls living under the Aurora Bridge. They were the last tall barquentine ships to leave Lake Union before the final span of the bridge was put in place in 1932. Although the Aurora Bridge was built high to allow large vessels to pass through, it could not accommodate these relics of commercial sail - even with their topmasts lowered, they still were higher than the bridge.



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