The Borders of Eastlake Photography Project

As a project for the Eastlake News, local photographer, Matt Maberry, is doing a series on the borders of Eastlake. The Eastlake News is the newsletter for the Eastlake Community Council; both came into being at the same time and will turn 50 in less than two years (2021). Because one of the first things discussed in the first newsletter were Eastlake’s borders, that seemed like a good photography subject as the ECC approaches its golden anniversary. The feature photo for this blog post is also the cover of the Eastlake News (Winter 2019-20) and is of the old City Light building, the southern border of Eastlake. (The southern border was chosen because of all the construction happening there, which is also emblematic of what is currently happening in Eastlake.) Photos of other angles of the southern border are below:

The front of the former City Light building viewed from Eastlake Avenue.
The little Hydro House adjacent to it is now a popular lunch spot.
Northern view.
Southern view.

Matt shot the photos on Cinestill 50D film using a Mamiya RB67 camera.

His article about the site is also published in the newsletter and below. (The next border subject is still to be determined.)

The neighborhood of Eastlake, nestled between the eastern shore of Lake Union and the I-5 corridor, also has distinctive northern and southern borders. These demarcations are adorned by the landmarks of the University Bridge, and the Lake Union Steam Plant, respectively. The latter is situated in the crook of Fairview Avenue East and Eastlake Avenue East, both of which are current sites of construction.

The story of the site on the southern end of Eastlake actually begins with the Cedar River Falls hydroelectric facility, which provided electrical power to Seattle’s homes starting in 1905. As power demand increased, additions to the Cedar River facility were planned, eventually culminating in a design to dam the river. The steam plant on Lake Union was first proposed as an ancillary source, creating electricity by means of coal-fed steam-driven generators. Due to construction lag time however, the adjacent hydro facility, which fed off the Volunteer Park reservoir, was constructed and began operation in 1912. The steam plant itself was finished in 1917. Additions were made in subsequent years until the current arrangement was realized in 1921. The iconic smokestacks carried away the byproduct of the coal firing.

The plant was decommissioned as a power supplier in 1984. Since 1990 it was home to ZymoGenetics until Fred Hutchinson leased the space in June 2018.

The building complex is currently flanked by roadwork on either side. Neither project is associated with preparations for the new lessor, however. When the steam plant was finished, Fairview Avenue did not yet exist. It was constructed later atop pilings. These pilings are now being removed and replaced, among other efforts to upgrade the roadway and meet current safety regulations. The road was closed on September 23, 2019. The project is slated to last for 18 months. A detour currently reroutes traffic along Eastlake Avenue East; however, the detour itself is stymied by various projects in that stretch, principally development of a building at 1165 Eastlake Ave. E.

The hydro plant and the steam plant received landmark status in 1987. The presence of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center will usher in a new chapter of rich history for the site, as will the upgrades to Fairview Ave. and removal of the last major timber-supported bridge-roadway in the city.