Wallingford Geography Challenge

Occasional Wallyhood contributor and constant Wallingford historian Paul Dorpat wrote us recently with a challenge:

Below are two photographs, one map and a Wallyhood reader challenge.

The map is a 1912 Baist Real Estate Map that shows the Gas Works Point (aka Wallingford Peninsula) still with the old street names. Part of the challenge is that I will not update the names, but there are enough clues or evidences in the map to make the “translations” or name changes possible for most persons familiar with the point to figure it out. You will note that the now-south Avenues are OK as is.

Now the challenge.

The map shows the old Seattle Lake Shore and Eastern Railroad (SLSER) right-of-way (much of it the Burke Gilman recreation trail now). Note how the track divides near the foot of Densmore Avenue to make a spur into the Gas Works. But then one block later at the spur’s intersection with Wallingford Avenue (as it is depicted in the map) it is crossed by another track and thereby creates its own spurs both to the east and to the west.

The challenge is this. In the photograph showing two tracks, where was the photographer standing? Is the track on the left the main line of the SLSER or is it the “spur from the spur?”

I’ve included a second photo, which was also taken during March 1907 – the year that the Gasworks were built. The second subject may be helpful.

Let the “winner” be convincing. Truth is I don’t know the answer, although I have my suspicions. I want to be persuaded. Don’t you?

So there’s the challenge: where was the photographer of the first picture standing? Paul has offered up a copy of his book Building Washington: A History of Washington State Public Works, co-authored with Genevieve McCoy to the person who can offer the best answer with the most convincing argument (and super bonus points for providing a modern day photo from the same spot). We will offer to “sweeten the pot” by offering a jar of our Wallingford honey (made by bees in our very own Wallingford backyard) as a prize to the winner(s).

  1. Eric said,

    In the railroad fork at Wallingford and 29th, for a few reasons…
    – The placement would be correct for the round thing on the map and being built in the picture
    – Also on the map, there’s no building between forked rail lines after the fork at densmore, but there is after the fork at Wallingford and 29th

    If I’m right, the location today is a bit off the bottom of the Wallingford steps. Google maps link for picture:


    Tue, October 5 at 11:19 am
  2. Chuck said,

    I think he might be standing on Burke between 29th and 30th, placing the building in the picture close to the number “4” on the map.

    I’m basing this on the more dramatic curve of the mainline SLSER as it turns and heads north as compared to the straight spur in the first photo. Plus, I don’t think we’d see as much water in the second photo if he were too much further west – though I could be misjudging it because of elevation.

    Thanks for the fun!

    Tue, October 5 at 11:39 am
  3. Don said,

    I agree with Eric and Chuck’s points, and call the track on the left the spur from the spur.

    I was also drawn to the curvature of the tracks. The main line continues to curve left until well beyond the park, whereas the spur turns right and then straightens out in front of the building under construction.

    The building is the one under the S in GAS on the map, and the photographer is standing at or just east of the base of the 1. (just north of 29th, between Wallingford and Burke)

    I used Google Earth to open the map, and aligned it with the current aerial view of the park. In the photos at this link you can see the overlay, and then I made it more transparent to determine the modern day location. The current location is just south of the trees and just east of the foot path that connects the parking lot and the central part of the park, as it goes through the trees.


    Tue, October 5 at 12:02 pm
  4. Adioz said,

    Taken at position marked 1 on the map, looking east. Between Wallingford and Burke.
    At the base of the digit 1.
    Fits the curvature of the tracks; the building in front (yellow on map, with ‘s’ of ‘gas’ on it),; and the round structure to the right (south) (red circle on map, with the ‘o’ of ‘works’ on it).
    The tracks are too close to each other to be at position 4. Also no circular object there.
    Don seems to be pointing to the same spot as I am.
    Thanks. Fun.

    Tue, October 5 at 10:19 pm
  5. Adioz said,

    actually, I shift my position slightly west of the base of the ‘1’ – based on the trajectory of the straight track running to the east, aiming just left (northish) of the midpoint between the building and the circular object.
    At the base of digit ‘1’ on the map, the straight track is directed at the building, so could not be there.

    Tue, October 5 at 10:26 pm
  6. Chris said,

    Agree with Adioz. I would say the base of the 1 is likely where the men in the photo are standing and the track jogs there to straighten out twds the building. Plus the two tracks are very close together where the photographer is standing so he has to be almost in that spur-spur intersection

    Tue, October 5 at 11:07 pm
  7. Chris said,

    You guys are tough competition! I’m going to have to rely on extra credit. Look for my diorama using Thomas track, Lincoln Logs an Erector set and Fisher-Price Little People in the morning…

    Tue, October 5 at 11:14 pm
  8. iyqtoo said,

    Great challenge! Wish I had time to check it out right now. Arial photos posted on the Friends of Gas Works park website, http://fogwp.org/, might help nail nail it down if you’re not sure.

    Wed, October 6 at 3:18 pm
  9. Darwin said,

    One of these tracks was elevated, at least in later decades. Maybe the map is making a 3-dimensional overpass look like a 2-dimensional crossing?

    Wed, October 6 at 9:13 pm
  10. Adioz said,

    The photo at this link shows another view of the park, and the circular structure is easily identified.
    Still matches the view of the railway lines as noted before.
    However, the 1912 map is very confusing with its overlapping/crisscrossing railway lines, and I like the suggestion of Darwin that this might indicate that there were bridges/tressles. The second photo clearly has the track on some kind of tressle, though I cannot reconcile that track with the puzzle photo: there is a wall in the way – is there another track that pops out from the other side (east) of the wall? And is that the track shown in photo 2 on the tressle? If so, then the puzzle photo is really taken at Densmore, (SE of the ‘B’ of “Burke’s”). Then the curved track is the main line. Further supporting this reasoning is the point that the tressle line goes very close to the building in photo 2, while in the puzzle photo, the curved line has structures between it and the building, including a wall, that is not seen on photo 2. This must mean that the tressle line in photo 2 comes out from behind that wall. Then we are further away from the building than we imagined, and at Densmore.
    I do note that the photo 1 perspective seems to be closer to the circular object that this would appear at Densmore, but lenses easily foreshorten views – they do not move walls and crossing tracks!

    Wed, October 6 at 10:51 pm
  11. Adioz said,

    sorry, forgot to include my link to a 1951 photo in the UW library collection:

    Wed, October 6 at 10:53 pm
  12. paul dorpat said,

    Dear Erik, Chuck, Don, Adioz, Iygtoo, Darwin & Jordan.
    We are not, I think, ready to make the awards as yet. The two photos come from an album that includes other Gas Works construction scenes. I will go looking for these and if any of them seem helpful I’ll send them off to WALLYHOOD in hopes that they will hold back their honey and print the new evidences. I say this as a matter of faith, for I cannot be certain that any of the remaining images will be of much help. Hold on please.

    Fri, October 8 at 3:20 pm
  13. iyqtoo said,

    Here’s my guess:
    Do you think the photographer might have stood south of Northlake Way near (or on, if it was constructed in 1907) the end of the concrete wall where it curves around to the SE on Northlake Place, just across the street from Waterway 20 & the Harbor Patrol, looking down the spur with the SLSER on the left? I can’t tell from the resolution on my monitor, but that might be the tops of the cracking towers behind the circular structure (coal storage?) that used to sit where kite hill is now and the framing for the buildings that were east of the towers.

    The Parks Dep’t has a 1965 aerial photo and Richard Haag’s design drawing for the park that I found helpful. The hill that appears on the far left of Paul’s photo may have been removed to install the big tanks between the SLSER and Northlake Way, where the parking lot and empty space to the west are now located.

    Of course, I know zip about photography and the effect of lenses on perspective, so I could be completely wrong!

    Sun, October 10 at 3:12 pm
  14. paul dorpat said,

    I’m searching for more evidences, like from the same album that those two shots came from. And files, folders, binders, stacks, and anything. This will go on for a while with the good graces, its seems, of the admired & compassionate Wallyhood Brass.
    There may well be some evidences in the Municipal Archives or the Public Works morgue (for records). I, however, will not be the one to pursue those leads for the moment – the long moment. My eyes will be kept to what is within twenty feet of my shoulders here in this Wallingford basement.
    P.S. There will be prizes for everyone if rewards may also be counted in moral victories and intellectual rigor and rectitude – and also video histories of Seattle – but not necessarily certainty. That’s PRIZES FOR . . .

    Sun, October 10 at 6:42 pm
  15. Sheryl said,

    Hi Paul – are there more copies of the Baist maps for Wallingford online? I’ve done a search, but not finding any of the quality you have posted above. I’m particularly interested in Bagley Ave – my house was built in 1905 and I’d love to find some old pictures of my immediate neighborhood.

    I looked on your website (www.pauldorpat.com, just in case you won’t self-promote on wallyhood!), but your site is hiccuping.

    Very cool contest!


    Tue, October 12 at 9:47 pm
  16. Wallyhood said,

    Checking in with Paul now to see who the winners are. More shortly.

    Sun, October 17 at 8:57 pm
  17. paul dorpat said,

    It was a tough decision but had to be done. I have chosen the winner – or winners, for there are several. (Where do I deliver the prizes?)
    The winners are . . .
    Eric, Chuck, Don, Adioz, Chris, Iygtoo, and Darwin.
    Sorry Sheryl you did not win because you only asked for other Baist maps. But I have an answer for you on that one. For the blog dorpatsherrardlomont we have scanned the entire 1912 Baist map, and we mean to put it up on that blog soon. So keep looking to dorpatsherrardlomont and we surprised. We also mean to illustrated it through time. I mean we will put little check marks or boxes or circles that user will click to see pictures that related to the map-spot on which they sit. What fun. Stay with us Sheryl.
    The prizes are all the same. Copies of the 2-hr long documentary (illustrated lecture) on Seattle History from pioneer landings to WW2. It is called Seattle Chronicle and you get DVDs.
    WFW – Whooppee for Winners.

    Mon, October 18 at 5:34 pm
  18. paul dorpat said,

    Post Script for Sheryl
    Give me a hint of your location and I’ll make a GRAB off that portion of the page and put it up on dorpatsherrardlomont with “For Sheryl” as a header.

    Mon, October 18 at 5:39 pm
  19. Wallyhood said,

    I can’t argue with Paul. Seven winners it is. E-mail me your house addresses at [email protected] and I’ll grab the DVD’s from Paul, supplement them with a jar of Wallyhood honey, pile it all into my bike and do drop-offs this week.

    Thanks everybody!

    Tue, October 19 at 11:29 pm
  20. Darwin said,

    Excellent! Thank you so much, can’t wait to see it.

    Fri, October 22 at 9:22 pm
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