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WRITTEN BY PAUL DORPAT Special Garden Issue

A Landing Takes Off
Photo
COURTESY OF SEATTLE MUNICIPAL ARCHIVES
Leschi Landing at Leschi Park served motorists between the introduction of the ferry Leschi in 1913 and the opening of the Lacy V. Murrow (Mercer Island) floating bridge in 1940. In 1948, Seattle accepted the old ferry dock from King County and linked it to Leschi Park and its service to recreational boaters.

 
 Photo
PAUL DORPAT
Fortunately, city photographer James Lee dutifully dated this view of the ferry Leschi at King County's Leschi Landing. It is June 2, 1914, and if you had been living then you'd have known from the big white sign hanging from the gate to the ferry slip that the annual Socialist Picnic at Wildwood Park was only 10 days away.

The Port of Seattle's double-ender Leschi was built on the Duwamish Waterway but brought over in parts to Rainier Beach and reassembled to serve as the first tax-supported car carrier on Lake Washington in 1913. A quarter-century earlier, Yesler's Landing (Leschi's name then) instantly became the second center for lake transportation (after Madison Beach) with the completion of the Yesler Way Cable Railway in 1888 and the introduction of passenger steamers like the Kirkland.

The Leschi dock rests at the base of a steep ridge that was not suited for cars — even wagons. So in its first years, the landing endured a sustained chorus of complaints fattened with satiric suggestions that cars be lowered to it by balloon or cable.

However, if you were an Eastside commuter and on foot, it was only a 15-minute voyage on the Leschi from Medina and another 16-minute ride on the Yesler cable to Pioneer Square, from where you could catch a variety of trolleys.

The Leschi made its last run to Medina and Mercer Island on July 2, 1940, the day the new floating bridge was dedicated. Weeks later, the cable cars on Yesler Way were stopped as well. The Leschi continued to run between Madison Park and Kirkland until 1950. When tolls were lifted from the floating bridge, motorists found the ferry fares a greater hardship than driving through Bellevue to reach the free bridge.

Paul Dorpat specializes in historical photography and has published several books on early Seattle.

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