Seattle: Mill Street by Moonlight in 1884


Following the San Francisco gold rush of 1849, the demand for lumber to supply material for the rapid expansion of the West fell predominantly on the mill ports of Puget Sound. At that time Seattle was a small sawmill village located at the lower end on the east side of the Sound. By the date of this scene it had grown into a town of 3500 people.

Despite its distance of 125 miles from the open ocean by water, the city was to grow into the northwest’s major seaport, but as in so many other similar instances, its original harbor area would be lost to modernization.

The initial wharves of the fledgling port were at the south east end of Elliott Bay where Mill Street was extended out to deeper water. Yesier’s Wharf is located in this area. Compared to the busier lumber ports on the opposite side of the sound which would gradually decline, Seattle, because of its strategic location and easier access to all the northwest, attracted all the other diverse industries of the region, and grew into a major city with a population of 300,000 by 1920.

The viewpoint of this moonlight scene looking north down Mill Street shows the snow capped Olympic Mountains just beyond West Seattle’s northern promontory. The star attraction is the handsome Port Madison bark “Tidal Wave” which has just arrived through a storm and is drying her sails prior to unbending them for stowage below.

The scene shows a group of late nighters in the bright moonlight as they head back home following a celebration at one of the buildings on the busy street.

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