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11 wonders of West Seattle throughout history

Photo: Seattle Municipal Archives/Flickr

The first white settlers arrived on Alki Point in West Seattle in 1851 but left within a few months, moving to a less wet and rainy location on the other side of Elliott Bay. Since then, West Seattle has developed into a bustling neighborhood with beautiful water views. Here is a look back on the making of West Seattle.

Grain elevator, West Seattle, 1890

Photo: Seattle Public Library

With its many connections to Seattle, Harbor Avenue in West Seattle developed into a commercial and manufacturing strip. It was home not only to the ferry terminal but also to two small shipbuilders, two yacht clubs, a boathouse, fish processors and a “bone yard” for retired vessels of the Puget Sound Navigation Co. A grain elevator with a flour mill attached in the area continued to grind and sack flour until 1956.

West Seattle Public Library, 1910

Photo: Seattle Public Library

In 1908, wealthy philanthropist Andrew Carnegie agreed to donate $35,000 to build a library in West Seattle. The 9,460-square-foot branch was designed by W. Marbury Somervell and Joseph S. Coté and cost $38,344.48. It opened on July 23rd, 1910.

West Seattle Cable Railway, 1895

Photo: Seattle Municipal Archives/Flickr

West Seattle was the first city in the United States to own a street railway. They purchased a private line in 1902 and operated it briefly before annexing to Seattle in 1907.

J.D. McGee Grocery, circa 1900

Photo: Seattle Municipal Archives/Flickr

There was no official US post office in West Seattle in the late 1800s, so some private businesses like J.D. McGee Grocery were permitted to provide private mail services to residents. McGee offered the service until 1907 when he sold his business.

View from West Seattle, 1907

Photo: Seattle Public Library

In the early 1900s, West Seattle Land and Improvement Company repeatedly promised to improve the transportation system, provide more reliable water supplies, and install electric lighting on the peninsula. However, when none of these upgrades happened, voters pushed for annexation of Seattle. West Seattle officially became part of Seattle in 1907. Consisting of more than 16 square miles, it was by far the largest of the six towns annexed by Seattle that same year.

Looking north toward Fisher Flouring Mills plant from Spokane St. viaduct, 1949

Photo: Seattle Public Library

During World War II, thousands of workers rushed in to work at defense plants on Harbor Island. By the end of the war, West Seattle’s population had doubled to more than 70,000. The Spokane Street viaduct, linking Harbor Island with Beacon Hill, was completed in 1943 with emergency funding from the federal government.

Vann Brothers Restaurant, 1952

Photo: Seattle Municipal Archives/Flickr

The Vann Brothers Restaurant originally started as a small place for West Seattle High school students to gather and eat candy bars and sodas. A year later, Grandma Vann began preparing roasts and hams for sandwiches, and over time the space evolved into a beloved West Seattle restaurant.

Aerial of West Seattle, 1957

Photo: Seattle Municipal Archives/Flickr

During World War II, Japanese-American families living in Delridge went to internment camps, and temporary war-worker housing crowded the playfields and empty lots. A flood of workers from the Midwest and South changed the neighborhood’s demographics. By 1990, Filipinos, Koreans, Samoans and African-Americans made up more than one-third of the population.

Fair in West Seattle, 1960

Photo: Seattle Municipal Archives/Flickr

West Seattle has always been a magnet for creatives and artists. Among West Seattle's most famous residents are Pearl Jam lead singer Eddie Vedder, actress Dyan Cannon, nature photographer Art Wolfe, Amanda Knox and Frances Farmer.

West Seattle Bridge under construction, circa 1983

Photo: Seattle Municipal Archives/Flickr

When a freighter rammed one of the West Seattle bascule bridges and destroyed it, Senator Warren G. Magnuson quickly rounded up $110 million in federal money to help build a new, higher West Seattle bridge. Construction began in 1980 and the bridge opened four years later.

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