House Histories of the Fremont Neighborhood in Seattle

Fremont is easily reached from downtown Seattle by traveling along the west shore of Lake Union.

Fremont is easily reached from downtown Seattle by traveling along the west shore of Lake Union.

Fremont in Seattle was one of the city’s first neighborhoods with its own identity.  It was founded as a land development, like a suburb, with the name of Fremont taken from the home city of two investors who came out from Nebraska.  In 1888 these men formed a business partnership with local investors to develop the site in a very advantageous location, reachable from downtown Seattle via a streetcar line along the west side of Lake Union (Westlake Avenue).

Information about Seattle’s historic neighborhoods like Fremont can be found on the Department of Neighborhood’s Historic Preservation page.  There is a database of historic properties by address, or you can put in the neighborhood name such as Fremont, and see all of the buildings which have been “surveyed” (reviewed for historic info).

The “context statements” like the one for Fremont,  are mini-histories which were developed during a grant-funded project to survey and identify historic properties.  Here is one paragraph from the context statement for Fremont:

The early Fremont Bridge was a wooden trestle.  This 1903 view to the north as we cross the bridge into Fremont shows the lumber mill in the foreground and B.F. Day School on the horizon.  Photo courtesy of HistoryLink Essay 3309.

The early Fremont Bridge was a wooden trestle. This 1903 view to the north as we cross the bridge into Fremont shows the lumber mill in the foreground and B.F. Day School on the horizon. Photo courtesy of HistoryLink Essay 3309.

The historic settlement and development of the community of Fremont can be largely attributed to its advantageous geographic location. This setting almost directly north of the original Seattle townsite along the heavily wooded northwest shore of Lake Union was also connected to Salmon Bay and Puget Sound to the west by way of a slough or narrow stream – known as “the Outlet” – making it a convenient and accessible site for early Euro-American settlement and industries dependent on water-borne transportation. Centered between other settlements in Ballard to the west and Edgewater, Latona, and Brooklyn (now the University District) to the east, Fremont became the natural path for commerce, movement of logs and later, train and streetcar travel.     (Page 8 of context statement for Fremont, “Settlement, Land Use Patterns and Platting History.”)

Edward C. Kilbourne was vitally involved in early development in Seattle, including streetcar lines.  Photo from Bagley's History of Seattle, 1916.

Edward C. Kilbourne was vitally involved in early development in Seattle, including streetcar lines.

The local investor who assisted in the development of Fremont was Edward C. Kilbourne, who was also a major developer of electric street car lines.  He favored Fremont in the route so that he could advertise house lots for sale in Fremont with the advantage of transportation to the site.  In the 1880’s some people would paddle a canoe across Lake Union to get to Fremont and other communities on the north shore of the lake.  Kilbourne had that route covered, as well, as he was the owner of a twelve-passenger steamer, the Maude Foster, which carried people back and forth across Lake Union.

Beginning in 1889 Kilbourne’s streetcar line ran from downtown Seattle up Westlake Avenue to Fremont.  At Fremont there was a transfer point, now marked by the Waiting for the Interurban statue, to continue travelling in any of three directions: to Ballard on the west, to Green Lake or to Guy Phinney’s zoo (Woodland Park Zoo) to the north/northeast, or eastward to the University District.  This was how the Fremont neighborhood became known as the Center of the Universe: you had to go there first before you could go anywhere else.

Valarie has researched the history of this house for the display at the Fremont Branch Library in May 2015.

Valarie has researched the history of this house for the display at the Fremont Branch Library in May 2015.

The rich history of the Fremont neighborhood will be celebrated all during the month of May 2015 at the Fremont Branch Library, 731 N. 35th Street (one block east of Fremont Ave N.)

The Fremont Historical Society has researched and developed the historical info which was first identified during the survey of residential housing in Fremont in 2009.  During the month of May 2015 the exhibit at the Fremont Branch Library will feature four house histories, a display about the architecture of the library building, a panoramic photo (circa 1910) of the Fremont hillside taken before the Ship Canal was built, and a map showing houses extant as of 1905.

cropped-aurora-and-fremont-bridges.jpg

About Wedgwood in Seattle History

Valarie is a volunteer history writer for the Wedgwood neighborhood in Seattle, Washington.
This entry was posted in Architecture, Fremont neighborhood in Seattle, Houses and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to House Histories of the Fremont Neighborhood in Seattle

  1. thanks for another lesson in Seattle history

  2. I learn a lot from you! I had no idea Woodland Park zoo had a previous name, and I love the idea of having to canoe to get somewhere.

  3. The earliest Seattleites took their cue from the Indians, who also canoed everywhere, because there were few roads and bicycles had not yet been invented! People were already living in Fremont in the 1880’s before it acquired its name, and in other communities on the north shore of Lake Union.

  4. it makes perfect sense to me! Only bad time would be the heavy wind and wave days! I’ve flipped my share of canoes in my time!

  5. There are hundreds of boats which sank in Lake Union, still on the bottom: http://www.lakeunionhistory.org/Shipwrecks_Map.html

  6. alesiablogs says:

    Nice history lesson!!!

  7. Orion T says:

    I love the Fremont area, and was curious about its history. This is good stuff. Thanks for the info 🙂

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