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Looking back: Stone Way Bridge, Once the Route
to North Seattle

Stone Way Bridge looking southward.

Stone Way Bridge looking southward.

Between 1911 and 1917 the Stone Way Bridge crossed the northwest corner of Lake Union, connecting Westlake Avenue on the south shore to Stone Way on the north. 

That was an era, like the current one, during which Seattle was undertaking large scale projects that would determine the city’s future for generations.  In particular, the long sought after connection between Lake Washington and the Puget Sound via the aptly named Lake Union was underway.  This mega-project would include three parts:

  • dredging a deeper, wider route along the stream by which Lake Union drained down to Salmon Bay and out to Puget Sound;
  • building a set of navigation locks to enable ships to be lifted up and pass through the newly dug canal; and
  • connecting Lake Union to the much larger, and higher, Lake Washington by excavating a channel to be called the Montlake Cut.

Historically, Lake Washington flowed to Puget Sound from its southern end, past Renton, through the Black River into the Duwamish.  Afterwards Lake Washington would flow through Lake Union to Puget Sound.

Before 1911, the very first Fremont Bridge provided access between Seattle and the growing areas of Fremont, Ballard and Green Lake.  However the Fremont Bridge was in the way of the planned Ship Canal dredging operation and had to be removed.  A new route to the areas north of Seattle would be needed so the Stone Way Bridge was built, opening on May 31, 1911. 

The Fremont Bridge was torn out shortly afterwards, but by 1912 the canal construction had progressed far enough to allow it to be rebuilt.  However, it was taken out again in 1915 to allow construction of a permanent bridge that could opened for ships that would use the future canal. 

On June 15, 1917 the present Fremont Bridge began service.  It featured a steel double-leaf bascule opening mechanism and would be a full 30 feet above the surface of the water.

Demolition of the Stone Way Bridge was begun the very next day, in preparation for the opening of the Lake Washington Ship Canal that took place just sixteen days later – on July 4th, 1917.  Aside from our memories, a few photos, and perhaps some sub-surface pilings, are all that remain of the Stone Way Bridge.

Stoneway Bridge looking northward.

Stoneway Bridge looking northward.