Pacific Northwest | March 7, 2004Pacific Northwest MagazineMarch 7, 2004seattletimes.com home
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CONTENTS
COVER STORY
PLANT LIFE
TASTE
ON FITNESS
NORTHWEST LIVING
NOW & THEN
PREVIOUS ISSUES OF PACIFIC NW


WRITTEN BY PAUL DORPAT

Making a Way on Madison
Photo
COURTESY OF LAWTON GOWEY
The Washington Park Apartments, on the right, were built at the western end of the Madison Street trestle that crossed the Madison Valley east of 29th Avenue.

 
 Photo
PAUL DORPAT
MANY YEARS AGO a friend of a friend asked if I had a photograph of the Madison Street trestle that once crossed the Madison Valley roughly between Empire Way and Lake Washington Boulevard. I had neither the photo nor any inkling of the trestle. Silently — and foolishly — I concluded that his youthful memory of the big bridge was a childish exaggeration. Yet here it is, long and wide, and if we could walk into this scene and look over the railings (that ripple is from settling) we would see it was quite high as well.

The photograph is not dated. The Washington Park Apartments, on the right, were built in 1914, and this scene may have been recorded when they were nearly new. This is one of four photographs that trolley expert Lawton Gowey shared with me not long after I was asked about and mystified by the trestle. All four photos look east in line with the bridge and roughly from the same location, a few yards east of 29th Avenue.

In his history of Washington Park, Don Sherwood, the now deceased Parks Department historian, writes that in 1905 the trestle replaced the rough corduroy road that once crossed the valley and the stream that ran through it. Sherwood also estimated that "the trestle was replaced with a fill about 1915." Ernie Dornfeld, information manager for the city, suggests a sensible alternative: The fill was a long project.

When driving on Madison east of 29th, we are probably still crossing the trestle — or most of it. Once the long effort of filling between and to the sides of the bridge timbers reached the roadway, the deck could be removed and the fill packed and paved. Since the cable cars on Madison could not be stopped for long, this final alteration must have been done quickly.

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

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