Friday, January 11, 2013

Some Interesting Yesler Swamp History

Here is a recent post from the Yesler Swamp Blog written by Jim Thompson:

The creek flows from Big Rock in Wedgewood down past the Ravenna School; piped under the 2 lane brick Sand Point road ; then past Jimmie the Jap’s truck garden on the East side (now Laurelon Terrace which was owned by the Shibyamas); and a large home on the west side, which home was purchased in 1950s by Dr. John and Jane Thompson – of which the basement become the first Laurelhurst Medical Clinic and the forerunner of Children’s Hospital; into the swamp at the foot of NE 41st, (now Bruce McCaw’s children’s enterprise) where we had trap lines along with the trap lines in now University Village, and then piped under NE 41st into the Yesler Mill mill run — which is alongside of now Surber Drive.. The Yesler’ mill run was still stuffed with logs.

The Yesler mill was vacated and it burned in the late 1920s. The smoke from the sawdust piles was prevalent for many years after. And don’t forget the railroad to the Yesler mill and the cedar shake mill on Portage Bay – now the U of W police department building.

The Horticulture Center now occupies much of the Yesler Mill Property and one can dig down through old sawdust for many feet to bare hard ground. Accompanying all of this was the City garbage dump to the west which was a haven to shoot Norwegian water rats with a 22 caliber rifle. As you know, the U of W Athletic facility now occupies this property.

Our trap lines produced, muskrats, rats, beavers, and an occasional mink, and other critters which were sold to Professor Kincaid at the U of W Zoological Department for the unheard of sum of $0.50. if still alive. If dead, no value, We utilized bicycles as our transportation. The road was the “2 lane fill in” which is now NE 45 past 5 corners and the village. There, of course, was no viaduct up the hill but instead access to the U and the top of the hill was a winding road through a tunnel under the railroad which was located approximately where the IMA Building now exists.

Surber Drive was a fill and put in as a short cut to Webster point as opposed to 42nd NE.. It was motivated by DE Skinner to facilitate his guests – a waste of money and strongly opposed!!! When built there were very few homes in this area — Probably Austin Thayers and one other on Union Bay waterfront plus Dean Guthrey’s and Stevenson Smith’s which were at the top of the rise with entrances from NE 41st The hill was still primarily an orchard running to the lake; all from the hunting days of the meat provider hunter for Laurelhurst and Ravenna.

The only homes were those facing 42nd NE starting at NE 41st with the Blanchard home and children (Norm, Eunice, and Carlyse) – later owned by Al Hundorf,CPA – At the other end south was the Terry and Lucile home at 3803 – 42nd NE Terry and Lou lived on their property for 74 years starting in 1932. This home was originally owned by Terrel of dog food fame. Up the Hill, at the northwest corner of 43rd NE and NE 38th was Hec Edmundson’s home. The little brick home mid block north on NE 38th was built by May Everett for her sister, Hettie Renshaw – my grandmother.

Lake Washington, Portage Bay, and Lake Union were lowered several feet to accommodate building a much smaller Hiram Chitenden Locks thus saving several millions of dollars. The mill run was dug deep enough to accomodate a tug and thus still exists even with the lowering of the lake. We kept an old very small sailboat – the tar baby – in the mill run.

Be certain that you know how the logs were towed from the log boom where the apartments are now on the North side of Madison and then positioned in the mill run for the recut at the mill. These were 4-5 feet diameter and or larger and sometimes 100 ft ++ long thus they were very difficult to manuever.

Also there are 60- 80 lb carp in Union Bay and the mill run being dumped into Union Bay after the Alaska Yukon Expo. I have caught and speared them as a little shaver.

Anymore lies, let me know, I have a million of them.
jim thompson
(photo courtesy of Yesler Swamp Site)

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