Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Madison Park as commercial hub

As we’ve previously chronicled, Madison Park began life in the mid-1800s as a private waterfront estate, Laurel Shade, which later grew into a lakeside village. By the turn of the 20th Century, the neighborhood had been developed into a prime recreational, entertainment, and sports venue for Seattle, and it also served as a major Lake Washington transportation hub, connecting Seattle by ferry to the Eastside.

In the early 1900s, Madison Park also had at least a slight pretense to industry.  For example, there was an active coal yard in the neighborhood for many years, as shown in the photo above. The yard (which also provided wood, sand, gravel and "auto storage") was located north of E. Madison Street, probably in the block between E. Newton and E. Lynn Streets.  This is the view, circa 1915, of the coal yard from the water side:

Coal was brought into the yard by barges pulled (or in some cases, pushed) by tugboats such as the one shown below, also circa 1915.

The coal was probably sourced in Newcastle, in the Coal Creek area east of the Lake.  Coal had been mined there since it was discovered in the 1860s.  At least by the late 1800s, most of the coal from Newcastle was transported across the Lake to a receiving yard located near what is now Husky Stadium.  From there it was sent by train to bunkers on the Seattle waterfront, for later shipment by boat.   The Madison Park coal yard was almost certainly just a local distribution site, designed to provide fuel for homes and businesses in this and surrounding neighborhoods. 

Another commercial business that operated in Madison Park in the early part of the last century was the Castle Dye Works, shown in the photo below.  The company’s fanciful building was located at the corner of 42nd Avenue E. and E. Madison Street (the current site of the building that houses Bing’s and Museum Quality Framing).

Jane Powell Thomas mentions this building in her book, Madison Park Remembered. Her father, George Powell, said that back in the day, neighborhood kids called the place “Katzenjammer Castle” after a popular comic strip, The Katzenjammer Kids.  The building apparently pre-dated the arrival of the commercial enterprise. The castle, whose turrets were reportedly made of metal, had originally been part of the earlier amusement park that graced the area north of the City park.

Other than coaling and dyeing, we are unaware of any other primarily non-retail commercial businesses that historically operated in Madison Park. If you are aware of others, please let us know and we will do a followup.

[Coal yard and barge tug photos courtesy of the Museum of History and Industry.  Castle Dye Works photo courtesy of the Washington State Archive.  Interesting aside:  the tug boat, S.L. Dowell, shown above, sank in Lake Washington in 1922 after hitting a snag near Mercer Island.  Its remains on the bottom of the Lake were discovered and photographed by the Submerged Cultural Resources Exploration Team, SCRET.  The watery grave of the tug is shown here.]

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