A view from Beacon Hill, past and (almost) present

A view of downtown and what is now the stadium area from North Beacon Hill, 1959. The most visible buildings are King Street Station and the Smith Tower, though other recognizable buildings still exist today. No freeway yet! Photo courtesy of the Seattle Municipal Archives.
A relatively close match to the 1950 view, taken in October 2008 by Bridget Christian, and found in the Beacon Hill Blog photo pool on Flickr. The camera is pointed slightly more to the left than in the old picture. You can still see the King Street Station tower here (partially hidden by another building) and the Smith Tower is still here as well, but blends a bit into the building behind it. Neither building dominates the modern view like it did in the 1959 view.

6 thoughts on “A view from Beacon Hill, past and (almost) present”

  1. The folks over at VintageSeattle.org might be interested in this neato then and now series. It’s interesting that even though in the old photo there was no freeway, you also couldn’t see across the bay due to what looks to me like a substantial amount of smog. But I guess it could have just been a foggy day.

  2. For many years, from the 30’s (or maybe earlier) until the 60’s, Seattle was an real economic backwater. And that’s a good thing for preserving old buildings. If there is no economic activity, old buildings are utilized not torn down for new structures. The “Big Black Box” was built, that signaled Seattle was on a growth spurt. But the legacy of Seattle’s earlier economic troubles are quite a few older structures still in the area.

    And I like that.

  3. Actually think air pollution was worse in the ‘old days’ there were iron smelters on the Dwamish. People burned coal and kerosine for heat and stuff like that. But 1959? Any older folks have first hand impressions they could share. Leonard?

  4. Pollution was worse all around, my mother moved to Seattle from central Oregon in 1960 and described Lake Washington, pre Metro, as pea green and stinking, from the raw sewage that flowed directly into the lake from all the surrounding communities.

    This white building in the foreground (1959 photo) is the City of Seattle maintenance shops. Sort of visible between the freeway ramps.

  5. Looking at the two photos makes me consider something that I hadn’t put much thought into before: But, perhaps, one of the reasons that Beacon feels sort of isolated (for better and worse) from downtown and the rest of Seattle is because it is wrapped on the Western and Northern edges by freeway (I-5 and I-90, respectively). I know there are still over and underpasses, but at the same time, I imagine it would change the dynamic of the hill if one was able to walk down the hill and be in downtown as appears to be possible in the photo from ’59.

  6. It would still have been quite a walk, and if I remember my old maps correctly, it’s not like there was a full street grid over where I-5 and I-90 are now. (They were built up against the slopes for a reason.) I think Beacon Hill has always been largely isolated, at least since the Dearborn Cut was put through (and before then there wasn’t much to be isolated from, anyway)!

    It would be interesting if there were more ways to get off the hill, though, especially to the north and west.

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