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November 1, 2011 at 12:24 PM
Sketched Oct. 26, 1:44 p.m.
I don’t use the Viaduct for my regular commute, so I can’t say I missed driving on it last week, when it closed for several days during the first phase of its demolition.
Did the hyped “Viadoom” slow you down?
What really stuck with me on a visit to the demolition zone was how many people were there in the middle of the day, just watching the construction crews chip away at the concrete and taking photos. I spent about an hour or so and saw more than a dozen people come and go.
Julie Newcombe, of Burien, had made a point to get out of her car this time after just driving by on previous days. She was upset to see the Viaduct being destroyed. It’s a mistake, she told me, because of the huge cost and because the new tunnel won’t provide access to downtown.
When asked about the Viaduct, others have told me that tearing it down is a mistake, especially when I spent a day walking under it back in September. But something makes Newcombe’s sentiment more poignant. When the 6.8 Nisqually earthquake shook it all up ten years ago, she was one of the people driving on it.
Here’s an excerpt from a story she wrote back then and shared via email:
“On Feb. 28, 2001, I was headed North on Hwy. 99 towards downtown Seattle. About 8 blocks south of the Seneca off-ramp, the left rear of my car dropped about a foot and I heard a loud clang of metal on metal. Flat tire was my first thought.
Up to that point, I had only had two flat tires in my life and one of them was on the viaduct, how could this happen to me twice!! Then the right rear slammed down equally as hard. Oh no – two flat tires – I must have driven over a whole pile of nails! Then the rear end of the car began to oscillate violently. The rear axel! That must be it. Somehow I must have broken my rear axel! I know I must sound clueless, but this all happened in about six seconds. As I was struggling to keep the car in the lane, the thought of “earthquake” did cross my mind, but I was listening to the garden show on NPR where everyone seemed to be acting as “cool as cucumbers.” I was approaching the Seneca off-ramp and decided it would be best to get off the viaduct. As I coasted down the ramp, and watched people pouring out of office buildings on First Avenue, I heard NPR’s Steve Scher calmly remark, “All right I guess we call that an earthquake.” And with the same degree of calmness, “Wow, that’s a serious earthquake.” At that point, I limped away in my ’93 Saab, glad that the only damage I had incurred was broken rear shocks to my car.”
September 4, 2011 at 10:31 PM
Sketched Aug. 30
“An elevated freeway right on the waterfront? What a waste of space.”
That’s what my little tourist brain thought about the Alaskan Way Viaduct when I first visited Seattle in 1995, more than a decade before I moved here for good.
But now I understand why the viaduct is there. When it was built in 1953, the waterfront wasn’t quite the playground for tourists it is today. It was a logical spot to build the city’s first major transportation corridor, replacing some of the railroad tracks that had run along the industrial shoreline since the late 1800s.
As the worn-out structure begins to come down next month, I find myself wondering if anyone will miss it.
I recently sketched my way from Battery Street to the stadiums, trying to capture the scenes that will likely disappear by the time the aging freeway is completely demolished in four or five years.
The folks I ran into were an eclectic bunch: day laborers, lost tourists looking for Pike Place Market, ferry commuters, the homeless and entrepreneurs who set up their businesses here decades ago.
Most of them agreed there’s not much they’ll miss about the viaduct itself. Not the noise, not the obstructed views. But I happened upon Tom Lelinski of Buffalo, N.Y., who was enjoying an ice cream cone beneath the viaduct during his fifth visit to Seattle. It became clear that even tourists acccept the concrete giant as part of the vista. “It’s part of the culture,” said Lelinski. “It’s hard to picture it not being here.”
These sketches from my Aug. 30 walk follow in chronological order:
A-1 Laundry has been a fixture at the historic Hull Building at the south entrance of the Battery Street Tunnel since the 1950s. The owner can’t understand why the viaduct is being replaced with a tunnel that has no downtown exits.
If it wasn’t for the chain-link fence topped with barbed wire, the “Rave Wave Cave” art project at Bell Street and Western Avenue could be as interesting to explore as the Fremont Troll digs. The installation, by local sculptor Dan Corson, was commissioned by the city in 2002.
Unfortunately, the spot is far from a tourist destination. As I sketched, day laborers stood awaiting jobs, a man walked by looking inside trash cans and someone else asked me if I had change for a twenty. “Don’t worry, I’m not going to rob you,” said the same woman who later walked by with two guys, each carrying their own six-pack of beer.
The cavernous space under the viaduct is perfect for parking. A German tourist said he paid $6 to park for 2 hours.
The viaduct may be an eyeshore, but the views you can see through it are another story. I found a multitude of interesting vantage points framed by the freeway’s pillars. I sketched this view of Elliott Bay, with West Seattle in the background, from the outdoor staircase of the Pike Place Market garage.
Thank goodness for the fish tacos I had at El Puerco Llorón for lunch. They gave me enough energy to continue sketching all the way to Sodo! Brent Youngren, owner of the Mexican restaurant at the Pike Street Hillclimb, said he’s ready for the elevated freeway to go away. “I won’t miss the constant noise, and I won’t miss the obstructed views.”
Ken Eubank opened his Seattle Antique Market in the shadow of the viaduct in 1978. He fears small businesses may not survive the redevelopment of the waterfront. But they won’t miss the threat of the freeway falling down.
Eubank recalled seeing streetlights along the top swinging back and forth like fishing poles when the 6.8 Nisqually quake hit in 2001. “I was scared to death,” he said.
What do shoes and photography have in common? A space near the viaduct where Jim Hadley has run his fashion photography studio and his Experience Shoes store since 1976. The native New Yorker, who was getting ready for a photo shoot when I stopped by, said he is indifferent about the fate of the viaduct. “People come here because of my product,” said Hadley, adding that he was the first one to bring Dr. Martens shoes to the Pacific Northwest.
Ferry commuter Kim Bullman said she can’t imagine the viaduct being gone. “The viaduct IS Seattle!” she exclaimed. Her solution: save a piece and turn it into a park.
Robert Joseph Tripp is one of eight homeless men who camp at the south end near the stadiums. “I’m out of here,” he said when I asked about his plans. “I have a ticket to North Dakota in my backpack.” Demolition of the viaduct in Sodo will begin in October.
Construction of a new viaduct ramp in February made it hard for customers to access the Triangle Bar, a popular watering hole near the stadiums. Owner Brian Honda (below) is not looking forward to any more road closures due to construction, but he said the city will be better without the viaduct. “It will open up the waterfront, and that’s a good thing.”
February 18, 2011 at 7:00 PM
Sketched Feb. 15, 2:12 p.m.
Consider the countdown to the viaduct’s demise officially started.
On Friday, construction crews began demolishing a portion of the First Avenue South northbound ramp next to Qwest Field. It was the first piece of the 57-year-old structure to come down.
Northbound access is scheduled to be restored by April 1, when drivers will access the elevated freeway via a new ramp at South Royal Brougham Way.
Richard Addington, manager at nearby deli, Blazing Bagels (see earlier post), said the changes will be good for the city in the long run, but traffic will be a mess as the viaduct is dismantled.
Brian Honda, owner of Seattle’s historic Triangle Pub, said a lot of free parking under the viaduct has disappeared and fears it will be hard to attract new customers.
I will continue exploring the viaduct over the next few months, capturing soon-to-disappear views and talking to people who live or work nearby. Please share memories and story ideas on my blog or by e-mail.
Sketch-worthy Seattle. Where should I take my sketchpad next? Do you know of a good sketch story waiting to be drawn? I’d love to learn about it. You can send me your suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org or via Facebook or Twitter.
February 17, 2011 at 11:25 AM
Sketched Feb. 15, 10:18 a.m.
Chain link fences and jersey barriers seem to be everywhere around the viaduct in Sodo, but I was happy to find a quiet spots to sketch under the 1st Avenue S. northbound ramp, which closes Friday. A portion of it will be the first piece of the 57-year-old elevated freeway to be demolished.
I thought I’d be dry sketching under the viaduct, but, as it rained harder, water started gushing down through the cement joints. You can see the drops of water on my sketchbook on this photo I tweeted from the scene.
I plan to spend some time sketching under the viaduct and welcome your tips, stories or memories of the aging freeway soon to be demolished. You can share and read some accounts posted so far on this post.
The Washington Department of Transportation website has a very good page with all information related to the viaduct and seawall replacement project.
January 20, 2011 at 4:24 PM
Sketched Jan. 11, 12:26 p.m., from Victor Steinbrueck Park.
I’m looking to sketch some views around the viaduct before it’s gone.
I saw it for the first time in 1995 during a weekend visit to Seattle when I lived in Reno, Nevada, where I worked for the local newspaper as a graphic artist, my first job in the United States after crossing the Atlantic all the way from Spain.
Who knew I would end up moving here 11 years later!
I don’t drive through the viaduct or have any more interesting personal stories about it, but I wonder if you do. Did your car ever break down here? Were you driving through it during the 2001 Nisqually quake? Do you live nearby? Do you remember when it was being built or when it opened in 1953?
I bet every Seattleite has some viaduct story or memory to share. Soon, that’s all we will have left of it.
April 23, 2009 at 10:12 AM
March 2, 12;29 p.m. [View larger]
We’re closer to the day when the Alaskan Way viaduct may be demolished. Yesterday, the state House approved a plan to replace it with a tunnel under First Avenue. As a person who lives here, I can’t wait for that day. A redevelopment of the waterfront is much needed. As a sketcher, I’ll miss the interesting views the aging elevated freeway creates. They seem very fitting of a comic book set in a decadent futuristic metropolis.
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