Diablo Dam incline railway climbing Sourdough Mountain, 1930. Courtesy Seattle Municipal Archives, 2306.
Children waving to ferry, 1950. Courtesy Museum of History and Industry.
Loggers in the Northwest woods. Courtesy Washington State Digital Archives.
This Week Then
Free from Pollution
This week marks the anniversaries of three milestone events in the efforts to make Lake Washington's waters safe and clean. On July 20, 1961, Metro celebrated the groundbreaking for the Renton Treatment Plant with a parade through the "Metro Subway" -- a tunnel made from nine-foot-diameter sewer pipes. The treatment plant took four years to build and was dedicated on July 22, 1965. A year later, on July 20, 1966, Metro dedicated the West Point Treatment plant in Magnolia.
In 1972 Metro got into the bus business, and over the years reform advocates argued that the independent Metro agency should be merged into King County government. Voters nixed the idea in 1979, but other merger proposals continued to surface over the next 10 years. In 1990 U.S. District Court Judge William Dwyer found that the Metro Council, which included elected officials and appointed representatives from King County, major cities, and unincorporated areas, violated the "one person, one vote" requirement for representative proportionality and was unconstitutional. In 1992 King County voters approved a charter amendment that absorbed Metro's water-quality and transit functions into county government.
In 1995 secondary-treatment tanks were installed at West Point. The treatment plant has now occupied all of its allotted space and cannot be further expanded. With Seattle currently experiencing rapid population growth and large-scale construction -- which leaves less open ground to absorb rainwater -- the facility has been operating at full capacity more and more often during the rainy season. Last year the aging plant experienced a major failure that caused millions of gallons of wastewater amd raw sewage to be dumped in Puget Sound. Improvements are currently being made to the West Point facility and long-term planning is underway to make sure that our waters stay clean.
On July 23, 1900, Ralph Hopkins arrived in Seattle after driving his Woods Electric automobile west from Chicago to San Francisco and then north (with lifts from trains helping out here and there). His car was the first to travel Seattle’s streets and was most likely the first one ever seen in Washington.
By 1904 there were enough cars in Washington to warrant creation of the state's first Auto Club, the predecessor of AAA Washington. This group collaborated with Sam Hill's Good Roads Association to promote the construction and improvement of public highways. The Good Roads Association also pushed for the creation of a State Highway Board, which was established in 1905.
The need for speed increased once Henry Ford’s Model T was introduced and cars became affordable for middle-class Americans. In 1911 Governor Marion Hay signed the Permanent Highway Act, which created a fund for construction of hard-surfaced roads between centers of trade. The Federal Aid Road Act of 1916 assisted in these efforts. Over time the State Highway Board evolved into the Washington State Transportation Commission, which now oversees the Washington State Department of Transportation.
On July 20, 1909, the Dime Theater opened in Walla Walla at a time when movie tickets typically cost 10 cents. Within a few years ticket prices went up a nickel, and Seattle movie-theater operator John von Herberg promoted a novel way to capitalize on this. Legislation to mint a 15-cent coin was introduced in Congress in 1918, but no change came of it.
Speedsters whetted their passion on July 20, 1929, when the state's first hydroplanes zoomed across the waters of Seattle's Green Lake. The sport later found a home on Lake Washington. This week also marks the anniversary of the first unlimited hydroplane race on the Columbia River, which took place at the Tri-Cities on July 24, 1966.
Feel the Beat
On July 24, 1939, Seattle's Showbox Ballroom opened as the Show Box. Over the years this venerable venue from the Jazz Age has moved with the groove and featured rock, punk, hip-hop, grunge, pop, and more. In other music history, this week marks the anniversary of the three-day Seattle Pop Festival, when Led Zeppelin, the Doors, Santana, Chuck Berry, and other rockers performed in Woodinville beginning on July 25, 1969.
On July 20, 1990, King County welcomed Ted Turner's Goodwill Games, which left the Federal Way aquatic center in their wake. Exactly 12 years later, football fans got their first glimpse inside Seahawks Stadium, now known as CenturyLink Field.