On July 4, 1917, amid much fanfare, the Lake Washington Ship Canal opened to the public.
Construction of the canal by King County and the Army Corps of Engineers was the culmination of more than 60 years of efforts to join Lake Washington with Puget Sound. When it was first opened, vessels of all sizes could traverse the divide between fresh- and saltwater―stimulating the economy and spurring shoreline development on the lakes.
A century later, the story of this waterway is still dramatic. The canal has shaped development in the region, but not exactly as its promoters envisioned.
On April 14, the Redmond Historical Society will host a talk by Jennifer Ott, co-author with David B. Williams of “Waterway: The Story of Seattle’s Locks and Ship Canal”. She will share some of the stories they uncovered in their research about the decades of false starts, political shenanigans, and far-reaching social, economic, and environmental impacts of the canal’s construction and operation.
She’ll explore how lowering a lake, raising a bay, and drying up a river created space for industry and recreation and shaped King County’s communities over the past century.
“The ship canal is a vital part of the maritime industry in Seattle,” said Ott who is local historian and assistant director at HistoryLink.org. “The freshwater harbor is still a tremendous asset for ships, Fishermen’s Terminal and other fishing boat moorages provide a home port for the North Pacific fleet, which brings in about half of the American seafood catch annually, and the boatbuilding, recreational boating, and cement plants on the lake rely on access to Puget Sound to thrive.”
Attendees can enjoy a relaxing morning at the Redmond Historical Society Saturday Speaker Series, a monthly program that features six speakers addressing topics of local, state, and Pacific Northwest historical interest.
“With all the growth in the region, we have to decide if and how we are going to reserve industrial lands along the canal, on land that is very valuable for recreational, residential, and retail business uses,” Ott added.
The series is held 10:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. throughout April at Emerald Heights, on Education Hill. Doors open at 10 am. $5 is the suggested donation for non-members. Speakers are subject to change. For details, locals can visit www.redmondhistoricalsociety.org.
The April 14, Saturday Speaker Series program, “Waterway: The Story of Seattle’s Locks and Ship Canal,” will be held at Emerald Heights. Attendees should park at Redmond High School, 17272 Northeast 104th St.