In the 1950s, Boeing was Seattle’s largest employer, churning out commercial jets to meet a high national demand. From 1950 to 1960, the population increased by 89,496, or 20 percent to 557,087. More housing was constructed to accommodate the growing population, and the boundaries of settlement in the city and began to move north. Land was abundant so most of the development was in single-family houses. Here’s a look back at Seattle’s booming fifties.

Seattle Waterfront, 1952 


Photo: Seattle Municipal Archives/Flickr 

The Seattle waterfront in the early 1950s was a world of cargo ships and fish-packing companies, not the promenade for tourists that it is today.

I-90 Floating Bridge, 1959

I-90 Floating Bridge,1959-compressed
Photo: Seattle Municipal Archives/Flickr

The influx of people created a necessity for more freeways. Construction of the I-90 bridge began in 1940 and was paid off by 1949. In 1990, the bridge sank.

The Great Ravenna Boulevard Sinkhole, 1957


Photo: Seattle Municipal Archives/Flickr 

On November 11th, 1957, a break in a huge brick and quick sand sewer caused a cave-in. The hole measured 60 feet deep, 120 feet wide and 200 feet long. The total cost of repairing the cave-in was $2 million. The work took two years to complete.

Alaskan Way Viaduct under construction, 1951

Photo: Seattle Municipal Archives/Flickr 

Construction began on the Alaskan Way Viaduct on Monday, February 6, 1950, when a power shovel ceremoniously scooped the first dirt from a muddy bank on the east side of Western Avenue near Battery Street. But according to HistoryLink, before long, the power shovel got stuck in the mud, and a tractor and crane had to yank it out. It was not a glamorous start to the project, but work proceeded, and by July 1951, the first segment of the viaduct (from Battery to Pike Street) had been completed.

Houses on 30th Avenue S. near King Street, 1957

Houses on 30th Avenue S-compressed

Photo: Seattle Municipal Archives/Flickr 

The total population of Washington state in 1950 was 2,378,963, an increase of 642,772 (37.02 percent) from the 1940 count of 1,736,191, reports HistoryLink. After the 1950 count, the Census Bureau began taking more interest in social and economic statistics, including a vastly more detailed count of various racial groups and increased emphasis on the extent of poverty in the nation.

House damaged in Perkins Lane landslide, 1954

perkins lane landslide-compressed

Photo: Seattle Municipal Archives/Flickr 

A wet winter wiped out five homes on the bluff overlooking Elliot Bay.

Moscow Restaurant, February 1952

moscow restaurant-compressed

Photo: Seattle Public Library

According to Paul Dorpat, for more than 35 years the Moscow Restaurant was a fixture for the Russian-American community that settled on the western slope of Capitol Hill. It opened in 1923, serving borsht, beef stroganoff, jellied pigs’ feet, Turkish coffee and Russian pancakes. In 1958, the construction of the I-5 freeway unfortunately put them out of business.

Kinnear Family Mansion, 1951 

kinnear mansion-compressed
Photo: Seattle Public Library

George Kinnear was a prominent real estate developer in Queen Anne. He built this stately mansion in 1888. After George Kinnear’s death in 1912, his son Charles moved into the mansion, remaining there until his death in November 1956. The mansion was demolished in 1958, and Bayview Manor was built on its site in 1961.

The Aqua Theater under construction, 1951

aqua theater-compressed
Photo: Seattle Municipal Archives/Flickr

The Aqua Theatre was constructed in only 67 days on the south shore of Greenlake in 1950 at a cost of $247,000, according to HistoryLink. On opening night, a sellout crowd of 5,200 came to see water ballet, comedy, dancers, singers, and high divers plunging from two towers flanking a stage adorned with evergreen trees. The night concluded with a magical a fireworks finale.

Beacon Hill, 1955

Beacon Hill-compressed
Photo: Seattle Municipal Archives/Flickr

Beacon Hill was nicknamed Boeing Hill in the 1950s and 60s due to the number of residents who worked in the nearby Boeing airplane factory.

Downtown Seattle skyline as seen from Marine Hospital, 1954

downtown seattle skyline-compressed

Photo: Seattle Muncipal Archives/Flickr 

Smith Tower, constructed in 1914, was the tallest building in Seattle until the Space Needle was built in 1962. Today there is a speakeasy and fancy restaurant at the top.

Developments featured in this article

More Like This

Facebook Chatter