The western border of Eastlake is, of course, none other than Lake Union itself (with the legal border somewhere in the middle of the lake). Residents in much of the neighborhood enjoy the ability to look down the hill toward the lake and see the likes of sailboats dotting the water, Gas Works Park in the distance, or seaplanes operating. One does not need to look further than the floating homes or street-end parks along this border to be reminded of the stories that give Eastlake its life.
As previously mentioned in the Borders series, Eastlake is one of the oldest neighborhoods in the city. One of the most significant events here happened in 1915. It was in December of that year that Bill Boeing organized the construction of a three-plane hangar on the lake at what is now the foot of Roanoke Street. The intent was to provide a space for pilot training for WWI. But Bill Boeing quickly developed business ideas and soon began using his hangar space for research and development, as well as construction of his first aircraft, the Boeing Model 1 “Bluebill”. The initial flight was made from Lake Union in June of 1916. What would become the Boeing aircraft company started with military aircraft, later expanding to air-mail service, and finally passenger service. The Boeing Company’s time on Lake Union was brief; it effectively moved off the lake by 1920. But the “hangar” remained – what was left of it anyway – one quarter of a dilapidated marina – until 1971. Most of the ramp, the essential component for connecting the structure to aviation, had been removed in 1944, all of it by 1950. What was left of the hangar was demolished for construction of a residential project, “Roanoke Reef”, which itself was never finished amid pressure from both the Eastlake Community Council and the Floating Homes Association.
One of the staunchest advocates for the floating homes which have become so iconic and tied to the character of Eastlake was a man named Terry Pettus. A former journalist living on a houseboat since 1958, Pettus helped form the Floating Homes Association in 1962 and worked with the city council to develop the Shoreline Management Act of 1972.
Today, a street-end park is dedicated to him at the base of E Newton Street. The first houseboats in Seattle were built in the 1880s by loggers and other laborers. These origins as cheap living arrangements for workers would set the tone for struggles with other Seattle citizens who would lodge complaints citing everything from unsanitary conditions to the reputation of the people inhabiting them. Over the years the number of houseboats in Seattle would dwindle though zoning and eviction for construction projects from over 2,000 in the 1930’s to around 500 today. However, thanks to advocacy of people like Pettus, they have retained a place in the visage of the Eastlake, and it is hard to imagine the neighborhood without them.
Above photo taken from Waterway 11 across the street from Fairview Park. More photos by Matt Maberry of the western Eastlake border are below: