If you’re in the West Seattle neighbourhood with some time on your hands, go in search of the West Seattle Murals, commissioned in 1989 to capture some major moments in the neighbourhood’s history. There are eleven murals in total; most of them clustered around The Junction at the intersection of California and Alaska. I went for a wander around the area earlier this week and got a few photos of them; some of them around the backs of buildings, on the sides of banks and post offices; some of them partially obscured by rubbish bins, foliage and parking lots full of cars. The search made for a fun afternoon and I got to know a little bit more about West Seattle’s history along the way.
Mural #1: West Seattle Ferries, showing two early steam-powered ferries that ran between downtown Seattle and West Seattle, a cable car that connected the ferries to the centre of town and on the right, the Luna Park amusement park of yore. The park ran from 1907 to 1913 and was designed by Charles Looff, the same chap who carved Coney Island‘s very first carousel. In fact, the name Luna Park was a nod to the Luna Park in Coney Island.
Mural #2: The Junction, depicting one of two streetcar lines that connected at the intersection of California and Alaska. It was this junction that gave the intersection the nickname ‘The Junction” which is still used today, even though the last cable car stopped running in 1940.
Mural #3: Midnight Call; an action-packed mural of the old Junction fire/police station and a horse-drawn fire rig responding to a midnight call.
Mural #4: Mosquito Fleet Landing; passengers disembarking the Clan McDonald steamer which was part of Puget Sound’s Mosquito Fleet. The fleet consisted of thousands of steamboats that sailed from port to port along the west coast; so numerous that they resembled a swarm of mosquitoes on the surface of a pond.
Mural #5: The First Duwamish Bridge; showing the very first bridge to span the Duwamish River, connecting West Seattle to the then separate City of Seattle. It was across this bridge that early Seattleites would travel in search of amusement at Luna Park.
Mural #6: Morgan Street Market; the market opened in 1924 and billed itself as a one-stop shopping centre. How very modern!
Mural #7: Alki in the Twenties; this was painted from a photograph showing a panoramic view of Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains. Look closely and you’ll see the Mosquito Fleet dock and a trusty steamboat making its way across the water.
Mural #8: Tuesday’s Bank Day, depicting thrift education in the twenties which was aimed at inculcating in kiddies the habits of thriftiness and saving money. It promoted responsible consumerism during the flapper era; judging by the reckless consumerism that followed and still persists today, I’d give thrift education a zero in efficacy. Appropriately enough, this mural is located on the side of a Chase bank.
Mural #9: The Hi-Yu Parade; Hi-Yu is a West Seattle non-profit that was founded in 1934 and is still going strong today, organizing an annual festival and parade. Hi-Yu means ‘plenty, much, abundance’ in the Chinook language.
Mural #10: The Old Mud Hole. Today, West Seattle’s Lincoln Park has a heated, saltwater pool called Colman Pool , but it began life in 1929 as a tide-filled swimming hold lovingly referred to as The Old Mud Hole, which the fire department would hose out periodically to clear accumulated mud and debris.
Mural #11: Press Day; which shows the frenzy of press day at the West Seattle Herald pre-WW2, complete with web-fed Duplex press and typesetting done by hand.
These eleven murals are just the tip of the iceberg. It would appear that mural fever has hit Seattle and soon, blank walls may become a fleeting memory. Every day I discover a new and wonderful mural lurking around a corner, down an alley, in the most unexpected of places. Don’t you just love public art?
They are fantastic
They really brighten up neglected walls, that’s for sure, Alastair. 🙂
I believe they commissioned artists from all around the world to do these murals, they’re very impressive.
These murals are great! The detail shot of Press Day reminds me of Normal Rockwell paintings. The murals all look to be in good condition for their age…do they require a lot of maintenance? I’m especially impressed there is no graffiti on them!
I think they’re all retouched periodically – the Hi-Yu mural was retouched in 2007 – on the far left there are two little boys holding balloons – the first balloon says ‘painted in 1992’ and the second one says ‘refurbished in 2007’. You’re right, now I look at the Press Day mural it does remind me of Rockwell. 🙂
The level of detail on some of them was quite extraordinary; the Press Day one was fascinating to look at. 🙂
Interesting! I think you mentioned that the murals were commissioned in 1989, not so very long ago, but due to the style some of them look many decades older, no strident colours….I like them.
The First Duwamish Bridge one looks ancient, Sue, all gentle, faded colours. It’s beautiful.
Great works and very well captured… 🙂
Thanks Drake, some of them were so huge it was pretty difficult to capture all the details. They’re pretty impressive. 🙂
Love the murals! Thanks for sharing 🙂
Glad you enjoyed my tour around the murals of West Seattle, Timothy. 🙂
Ailsa — Nice job of reporting on the Murals of W. Seattle. Love the looks and the history they visualize.
I love the spirit of them, Tom, what a great community initiative. 🙂
They are all so beautiful! Thanks for sharing!
So glad you enjoyed my little detour into West Seattle’s history 🙂
i am impressed how they have kept it clean all these years, free of graffiti and vandalism.. i especially like the bridge mural..
I know, Elizz, I was amazed, there wasn’t a scrap of graffiti to be seen.
Wonderful post … I lived in West Seattle for several years but it was before many of these were done. Love that you have included the history of each. Now I want to go back and see them for myself! Also, my stepson is a muralist in Seattle — he works with spray paint!
Ooh Paige, how wonderful. If you’re talking to your stepson in the near future, ask him the location of some of his work, I’d love to check them out. xxx
Great post Ailsa. I like that you included some shots w cars to give perspective. Well done.
Thanks Tina, I actually love that the cars and trash cans are placed in front of them, it gives them a strange gritty beauty.
Can’t believe that I have missed all those murals … amazing street art you have in your city. Thank you so much for sharing. *smile
Well you know I LOVE a bit of urban art so this is superb. My favourite mural #6 – as you say, so modern.
In recent years Edmonton, where I come from. has begun to ask companies or organizations to sponsor murals around the city. The murals help to stop graffiti and beautify what is usually a somewhat drab area of town. I wish I would have thought to take some pictures before we moved. Perhaps when we return for a visit sometime this year I will. You’ve also given me some thoughts about checking out the walls in our district towns for art!
Great pictures, they seem to leap right off the computer! 🙂
Great posts and I must visit them if I have chance to visit West Seattle. I really like the one at the carpark with a beach on it. Drivers must be careful not to crash into the beach….eh…wall!
What a fun way to explore the city and I love your introduction to each mural! We have a mural society here in Edmonds that has sponsored 14 scenes from the city’s history around the downtown area and there are maps for guided walking tours. I keep meaning to follow the entire path, now I know I need to set a date. 🙂
I really like the way the show the city’s history and culture, fantastic!
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Very cool! I love murals!
I love street art, and I absolutely adore Seattle! One of my favorite cities in the US!
These murals are fascinating! I like that you did some close ups of some of these. There is so much detail and so much to see. Excellent photo expedition. 😉
Great! I visit West Seattle about once a year to visit my husband’s family – now I’ve got a goal in The Junction!
Twenty years ago was the first time I saw a wall mural like that in the middle of a street whilst in Rome ,Italy how I loved it and today in Jerusalem there are a few I enjoy but your blogpost has made me put Seattle on my list of travel places next time Im in the USA. Thank you.
These are really great murals, Ailsa. I love the bit of history that goes along with each one. Thanks for sharing. 🙂
Excellent post….absolutely love those murals and the period they depict.
All — quite wonderful. Great info too. Thanks. ‘Bank Day’ gave me a big chuckle. )Does anyone still say chuckle? 🙂
they are really beautiful, I hope there is a way to preserve them for the future, they tell great stories
Wonderful murals, and so many of them!
Lovely. I haven’t been to Seattle in years. Time to go back.
These are fascinating. I found a giant mural (60 feet by 17 ft) in the little town of Morley, near Leeds, UK, which I felt obliged to photograph (and post, on 28 April, trying out my newly-acquired 30 year old Olympus OM series camera for the first time).
Very cool! Thank you for sharing, Ailsa.