Seattle’s Ship Canal crosses the city like a waistline, joining the freshwater Lake Washington to the waters of Puget Sound and the Pacific Ocean beyond.
The building of the Ship Canal in 1911-1917 was one of the biggest events in the history and development of Seattle, creating economic opportunities and advantages for maritime and for industries of all kinds.
The 2016-2017 centennial year of the Lake Washington Ship Canal and the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks (Ballard Locks) is being celebrated with a wonderful series of events and historic research projects.
The ship canal centennial project, called Making the Cut 100, will consider the impacts of the construction of the Locks, the Ship Canal, and the lowering of Lake Washington. The Making the Cut introduction to the history of the Ship Canal says,
“On July 4, 1917, Seattle’s local papers heralded the grand opening of the Lake Washington Ship Canal. A carnival and fireworks attracted 50,000 celebrants.
The canal connecting Puget Sound with the freshwater Lake Union and Lake Washington had been a long time coming. The history of the canal involves dreamers and schemers who combined self-promotion, subterfuge, and politics to achieve their goals. Contending forces ranged from one man with a shovel to the United States Navy, who initially desired a safe place to dock their ships, to local citizens, who stood to benefit financially from the canal. Despite their differences, they all shared a common belief that nothing less was at stake than the future direction of Seattle.”