In 1903, the Seattle Parks Commissioners hired the famed Olmsted Brothers landscape architecture firm to design a comprehensive system of parks and boulevards for the city. West 55th Street was once part of the city wide boulevard system created by the Olmstead Brothers. Creation of the boulevard was intended as the western approach to the Woodland Park Zoo.
The western approach to the zoo was never fully realized, and as the NW corner of Seattle continued to grow there was a very real need for a direct route into downtown. Remember, the trolley tracks had been pulled up for the war effort, and public transportation meant locals were taking the bus. Seattleites were buying cars at a record rate; easy to finance and gas was cheap. People wanted roads.
The completion of the Market Street widening project in 1955 allowed for direct access from Ballard into Fremont, Wallingford and beyond. Market Street became a critical commercial thoroughfare and to this day, goods and service continue to travel on this stretch of roadway.
The left photo was taken in 1936 and the right photo in 2012. Both are courtesy King County Department of Assessment. When comparing the photos you can see the Market Street spur that now runs diagonal through the neighborhood. Many of the homes that were impacted by this roadways construction were moved to nearby vacant lots, including lots in the West Woodland neighborhood. In a future post I will highlight some of those homes.
To read more about the Olmsted Brothers Park and Boulevard System plan please visit: http://www.seattle.gov/parks/history/
Photos of progress – Market Street Spur
The Seattle Engineering Department has an official name for the Market Street spur – the Ballard and University Extension. This east leg of Market Street was completed in 1949 and connected the West Woodland neighborhood to Fremont, Wallingford and beyond. The rest of the Market Street widening project wouldn’t be completed until 1955, but for neighbors using the newly created spur, it made the trip into downtown Seattle fast and efficient.
The photos below are courtesy the Seattle Municipal Archives and show the very west end of the spur from the start of construction until completion in December 1949.
Approximate modern day view HERE.