South Lake Union, Seattle, Washington

South Lake Union, Seattle, Washington

South Lake Union is a neighborhood in Seattle, Washington, so named because it is at the south tip of Lake Union. Like most Seattle neighorhoods, its precise boundaries are indeterminate, but it is bounded roughly by Denny Way on the south, beyond which is Downtown, by Interstate 5 on the east, beyond which is Capitol Hill, by Aurora Avenue N. (State Route 99) on the west, beyond which is Lower Queen Anne, and by Aloha Street, Lake Union, and E. Garfield Street on the north, beyond which are Westlake and Eastlake. The portion of South Lake Union east of Fairview Avenue N. was historically known as Cascade, though the distinction is less often made today.

Its main thoroughfares are Valley, Mercer, and Broad Streets (east- and westbound) and Dexter, 9th, Westlake, and Fairview Avenues N. and Eastlake Avenue E. (north- and southbound). The city is currently addressing transportation issues and considering changing Mercer Street into a two-way, six-lane, tree-lined boulevard. Valley Street would become a two-way, pedestrian friendly road.


19th century

Lake Union is known in Chinook Jargon as "Tenass Chuck" ("little water", as against Lake Washington, "Hyas Chuck", "big water"). It is similarly known in Duwamish as "meman hartshu", "little lake". When white pioneers arrived in the 1850s, Native Americans—probably Duwamish or Southern Coast Salish—were encamped near the southwest corner of the lake and along a stream near the present-day corner of 8th and Thomas; another stream ran near Boren Street. There was a trail from the south end of the lake to Elliott Bay. At the time, there were deer and elk in the area; natives also ate fish, clams, root vegetables, camas, bracken, wapato and berries. Significant native settlement in South Lake Union lasted until 1875, when a windstorm knocked over a tree, destroying a longhouse in what is now Cascade. [Harvnb|Link|2004|p=2]

Pioneer David Denny (of the Denny Party) staked a claim in 1853. Denny's claim ran from South Lake Union (where the lake extended farther to the south and west than it does today) south to what is now Denny Way and west to include the area that is now the Seattle Center grounds. [Harvnb|Link|2004|p=2] In 1882, the Lake Union and Lumber Company established a sawmill (the city's largestJames R. Warren, [ 10 Who Shaped Seattle: David Denny beat founders to Elliott Bay] , "Seattle Post-Intelligencer", November 13, 2001] ) on the south shore of the lake, near what is now the corner of Mercer and Westlake; Denny bought it in 1884, renaming it the Western Mill. He cleared the land along the south shore of the lake and, in 1885, cut a weir from Portage Bay at the northeast corner of the lake to Lake Washington, which allowed logs to be floated to Lake Union, so that the entire area of the larger Lake Washington was a catchment for his mill. [Harvnb|Link|2004|p=3] [Harvnb|Fiset|2001]

Denny operated the Western Mill until 1895, and many of his employees settled nearby, some with families. During this time other mills opened in the area. In addition, the lake became a link in the transport of coal, which came from near Issaquah via Lake Washington, wagon to Portage Bay and thence to Lake Union. At first, coal was transported from South Lake Union to the downtown docks by wagon, then from 1872 to about 1877 on a narrow-gauge railroad that followed the route of present-day Westlake Avenue to Pike Street. The railroad, however, was abandoned, and the route degenerated back to a wagon trail. [Harvnb|Link|2004|p=3]

20th century

After David Denny's bankruptcy 1895, this mill operated until the 1920s under new ownership of Brace / Hergert Mill Company. The last remaining portion of the mill business was Brace Lumber Company which operated from 1925 to 1988, the end of the mill era. The area also saw a growth in manufacturing toward the turn of the century. Cabinetry and furniture led the way in the 1890s, [Harvnb|Link|2004|p=7] followed by shipbuilding, Bill Boeing's first airplane factory, manufacturing seaplanes [Harvnb|Link|2004|p=10] and, in Cascade, Seattle City Light's Hydro House (1912) and Lake Union Steam Plant (1914) and the first Ford Model T assembly plant west of the Mississippi River (1914). [Harvnb|Link|2004|p=9] Both of these buildings now have landmark status. [ [ Landmarks Alphabetical Listing for F] and [ Landmarks Alphabetical Listing for L] , Individual Landmarks, Seattle Department of Neighborhoods. Accessed online 9 February 2008.] The former steam plant now houses Zymogenetics [ [ ZymoGenetics' Steam Plant Facility: A Brief History] . Accessed online 9 February 2008.] and the former Ford building is used for rental storage space. [ [ Point 5: Ford Motor Company Assembly Plant (John Graham Sr., 1913) 700 Fairview Avenue N] , HistoryLink Cybertour of Lake Union. Accessed online 9 February 2008.] Meanwhile, the Northern Pacific Railway ran a railroad line around Lake Union and down Terry Avenue, where a freight station opened in 1913. [Harvnb|Link|2004|p=9]

With industrial and commercial growth, more residential centers sprang up to house company employees and other residents. Preeminent among these residential centers was Cascade. At the center of the community established by the Russians, Swedes, Norwegians, and Greeks who settled there in the late 19th and early 20th centuries was the Cascade School (built 1894; demolished after a 1949 earthquake), a public elementary school from which the neighborhood took its name. From the 1930s, South Lake Union became less residential, evolving into an area of small business, warehouses and auto-oriented services. Cascade slowly lost its identity as a neighborhood distinct from the rest of South Lake Union, especially after construction of Interstate 5 cut it off from Capitol Hill. [Harvnb|Link|2004, "passim." More specific citations can be found in the article "Cascade, Seattle, Washington".]

When the Lake Washington Ship Canal opened in 1917, the locks at Ballard kept Lake Union at its historic level, while the canal gave it a water connection both to Lake Washington and to Puget Sound, an arm of the Pacific Ocean. This was a further boon to industrial and commercial development. Many timber-framed buildings survive from this era, with masonry exterior walls of brick or, for some commercial buildings, terracotta. For a time, the neighborhood held numerous automobile dealerships; the surviving Ford McKay and Pacific McKay buildings are examples. Most of the city's large laundries were in the area, especially in Cascade although the large, surviving Troy Laundry Building (1927) is immediately west of Fairview Avenue E. [Harvnb|Link|2004|p=11] These were soon joined by the Seattle Times Building (1930). [Harvnb|Link|2004|p=11]

21st century

Only a few of the older residential and light industrial structures of historic Cascade retain their original uses today; the historic Immanuel Lutheran Church and St. Spiridon Russian Orthodox Cathedral remain. Within the boundaries of Cascade as of 2008 are the REI flagship store, NBBJ architects (in the Alley24 office and apartment development built around the landmark New Richmond Laundry Building), the headquarters of PEMCO, the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and the headquarters of Zymogenetics (in the old City Light Steam Plant).

Elsewhere in South Lake Union the picture is similar: quite a few older buildings survive, but few retain their historic uses.

In April 2008, the new Lake Union Park opened to the public with a pedestrian bridge across the western waterway, a walkway along the waterfront, 1.6 acres of green space, landscaping and much more. The 12-acre park should be complete in 2010. The historic ships wharf will provide long-term moorage for historic vessels; and the Maritime Heritage Center will provide an array of cultural, educational, and recreational activities. Vessels currently moored at the wharf include the steamer "Virginia V", [ [ "Virginia V"] , official site.] the lightship "Swiftsure", the tug "Arthur Foss", the fireboat "Duwamish (fireboat)", and the salmon troller "Twilight". The schooner Wawona is also moored nearby at Northwest Seaport, and several smaller historic boats are just to the east at the Center for Wooden Boats.

In December 2007, announced it would be consolidating its Seattle offices in South Lake Union, with occupancy to begin in 2010. [Eric Pryne, [ Amazon will move headquarters to S. Lake Union complex] , "Seattle Times", December 21, 2007. Accessed online 5 February 2008.]

South Lake Union is also home to Denny Park, the oldest park in the city.

Future as a hub for life sciences

Due to recent development plans by Paul Allen's Vulcan Inc., as well as other prominent developers, South Lake Union is becoming a hub for life science organizations. Some in the area include: Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Zymogenetics, Battelle, Seattle Biomedical Research Institute, Seattle Children's Hospital, Rosetta (now part of Merck & Co.), Bio-Rad, and University of Washington Medicine.

The South Lake Union Campus of the University of Washington School of Medicine now includes 1250 people (researchers and staff) in four buildings. [ [ "UW Medicine opens South Lake Union complex"] . Accessed online 3 June 2008.] The oldest is the "Blue Flame" building (the former home of Washington Natural Gas) at 815 Mercer St, which houses 4 floors of biotechnology and medical research laboratories. Among the varied research areas are four Centers, focused on Allergy & Inflammation, Cardiovascular Biology & Regenerative Medicine, Lung Biology and Translational Medicine in Women's Health.

Plans for development of a biotechnology hub in South Lake Union has been somewhat controversial, as it is seen by some as an example of influential private companies receiving benefits from the city. There were early worries that formerly affordable housing would be destroyed and not replaced. The non-profit Low-Income Housing Institute (LIHI) now has 5 buildings in South Lake Union and Denny Triangle. [ [ "Seattle LIHI Properties"] . Accessed online 15 July 2008.] Vulcan Real Estate opened the low-income Borealis Apartments on May 20, 2008. [ [ "Vulcan Opens New Affordable Housing Development"] . Accessed online 15 July 2008.] Alley24 has 20% of its units set aside for those earning less than 60% of the median income. Additionally, Seattle’s Office of Housing began construction of the affordable Cascade Senior Housing in July 2008. [ [ "Groundbreaking Ceremony for Cascade Senior Housing"] . Accessed online 15 July 2008.]

In 2007, the South Lake Union Streetcar began operation, connecting Westlake Center to the south end of Lake Union at Yale Avenue N., near the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

Living in South Lake Union

Historically, Cascade was the only district in South Lake Union with many residential options, with housing options ranging from single-family houses and houseboats to apartments and condominiums, while the rest of the neighborhood's housing restricted to apartments and condominiums, most of recent vintage. As early as 1972, the mayor's "In-City Living Task Force" proposed the creation of 50,000 housing units in high-rise apartments in South Lake Union and Belltown. [cite book
first = Nard
last = Jones
year = 1972
title = Seattle
publisher = Doubleday
id = ISBN 0-385-01875-4
pages = p. 21
] Since an economic redevelopment was initiated by the City Council in 2003, South Lake Union has seen a marked increase in housing with 1,850 new units, or convert|2000000|sqft|m2 of housing, either completed or scheduled to be completed by the end of 2008.cite news | url= | title=South Lake Union is booming | publisher=Seattle Post-Intelligencer | author=Joseph Tartakoff | date=2007-11-27 | accessdate=2007-11-30]

Green Space

* Denny Park
* Cascade Playground
* South Lake Union Park
** Northwest Seaport
** Center for Wooden Boats

Landmarks and Registered Historic Places

For landmarks and Registered Historic Places in Cascade (using the city's current official definition of that neighborhood) see Cascade, Seattle, Washington. With the exception of the Pacific McKay and Ford McKay buildings and the boats at Northwest Seaport, all of these landmarks fall within the maximum extent of Cascade, as the neighborhood was understood in the early 20th century. [ History, Organizational Description, Boundaries] , Cascade Neighborhood Council, November 1997. Accessed 3 February 2008.]

Raisbeck Performance Hall, a former Sons of Norway hall, is now part of Cornish College of the Arts. It sits just south of Denny Way near the William Volker Building (see list above, which is also part of Cornish. Hence, it is officially just outside of South Lake Union.



* Fiset, Louis, [ Seattle Neighborhoods: Cascade and South Lake Union – Thumbnail History] , Essay 3178, April 9, 2001. Retrieved on 9 September 2007.
* citation
title=2003 Cascade Historic Survey: Buildings, Objects & Artifacts, Revised Version
publisher=Seattle Department of Neighborhoods

External links

* [ South Lake Union] on the Seattle Channel site
* [ South Lake Union] on the site of the Mayor of Seattle
* [ South Lake Union Streetcar]
* [ South Lake Union Chamber] (chamber of commerce)
* [ South Lake Union Friends and Neighbors (SLUFAN) Community Council]

Parks and museums

* [ South Lake Union Park]
* [ Denny Park]

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