Above/featured: Facing east at The Junction: SW Alaska Street at California Avenue SW. At left (northeast corner) is the red-brick Campbell Building from 1911, oldest in the neighbourhood and a designated City of Seattle historic landmark since 2017.
What: Paintings depicting the history of West Seattle.
Where: In and around West Seattle’s The Junction.
Why: Arts project with community and pride.
Technically, West Seattle is an area consisting of several neighbourhoods within the city of Seattle. Historically, West Seattle feels separate, a peninsula separated from the centre by the flow of water and peoples along the Duwamish river valley. West Seattle had incorporated as its own city in 1902, before agreeing to annexation by Seattle in 1907.
One key to West Seattle is “The Junction”: an intersection of 2 former streetcar lines “West Seattle” and “Fauntleroy”. As expected, commercial activity took root at the intersection and although streetcars have vanished, the nickname has remained as a simple useful designation.
A product of West Seattle, retired businessman Earl Cruzen (1920-2017) launched a local arts and community project in the late-1980s, inspired after visiting other towns in Washington as well as Chemainus on British Columbia’s Vancouver Island. Cruzen promoted the project with support among residents and business owners, generated fundraising efforts, and brought American and Canadian artists into the city to paint wall murals to highlight the history of people along the Duwamish river and the history of West Seattle. A total of 11 murals were painted, dedicated, and unveiled between 1989 and 1993.
Over time, the murals deteriorated and faded without touchup or maintenance. Members of the Southwest Seattle Historical Society engaged the community in 2018 with questions about the murals, and about raising money to support revitalizing the murals. In May 2018, Adah Cruzen honoured her late-husband with a gift of 100-thousand dollars to the West Seattle Junction Association to boost the restoration process.
So, what do the murals mean to the people of West Seattle?
Find The Paint
- Alki in the Twenties #
- Easy Street Records
- The First Duwamish Bridge #
- The Hi-Yu Parade #
- The Junction #
- Midnight Call #
- Morgan Street Market #
- Mosquito Boat Landing #
- Mural Alley SW
- The Old Mud Hole #
- Press Day #
- Tuesday Bank Day #
- West Seattle Ferries #
- West Seattle Lofts
- Directions & Locations
I’ve listed these alphabetically, but # Murals of West Seattle (MWS) have been listed numerically at wsjunction dot org.
Alki in the Twenties (MWS no.7)
• 4755 Fauntleroy Way SW.
• Mural by Bruce Rickett; new/2nd location in 2016.
As a recreation of the original mural, the 2016 version of the mural on the west-facing wall of The Whittaker apartment building (and behind the Alki Masonic Center) highlights living conditions for white settlers in the 1920s, a prominent vintage-era Chevy automobile, and west-facing view of Puget Sound from Alki. The mural’s original location was about 500 feet to the southwest at the corner of Fauntleroy and Edmunds; the building housing a car dealership was demolished to make way for gentrification.
Easy Street Records
• 4559 California Ave SW.
On the south-facing exterior wall of Easy Street Records are the following two murals memorializing local musicians. At left is a Chris Cornell mural by local artist Son Duong, and at right is a mural of Mother Love Bone’s Andy Wood by musician Jeff Ament. I included this spot in my Seattle tour to find traces of Chris Cornell in his hometown.
At the Junction, Easy Street Records resides within the Crescent-Hamm building which has been a city landmark since 2017.
The First Duwamish Bridge (MWS no.5)
• 4740 44th Ave. SW.
• Mural by Robert Dafford.
From the south side of the parking lot, the mural appears on the north-facing wall, directly behind Northwest Art and Frame. The First Duwamish Bridge constructed in 1910 was a west-east swing bridge across the Duwamish river connecting Seattle with West Seattle. The mural as viewed from Pigeon Point* is a sweeping east-northeast view of the landscape; large mud lines created by tides were drained and filled to make Harbor Island.
* North end of 20th Ave SW, the view today is obstructed by houses and other foliage.
The Hi-Yu Parade (MWS no.9)
• 4412 California Ave SW.
• Mural by Lanny Little; renovated 2007.
Taking up the full width of an exterior wall at a branch location of the US Post Office, the mural highlights one of the area’s oldest community celebrations, and memorializes the Hi-Yu organization which began in 1934 as a volunteer service club and produced an annual summer festival; a float from the 1973 parade is featured in the mural. Hi-Yu came to an end in 2017. The West Seattle Parade is now run by the West Seattle Rotary Service Foundation.
The Junction (MWS no.2)
• 4747 California Ave SW.
• Mural by Eric Grohe.
Facing the parking lot behind, the mural on the south-facing wall of the building shows the streetcar crossing or junction at California and Alaska, as it appeared in the early 1920s. Also shown at the northwest and northeast corners of the intersection, respectively, are the Crescent-Hamm Building (1926) and the Campbell Building (1911); both have been designated official city historic landmarks in 2017.
Midnight Call (MWS no.3)
• 4713 44th Ave SW (removed).
The mural was a reproduction of a photograph showing a horse-drawn carriage leaving under a full moon. With signs of extreme fading and lack of upkeep, the mural by Don Barrie was removed in 2016. Consultations continue among city and community officials and the artist Barrie about a new rebuild and a new home for the mural.
Morgan Street Market (MWS no.6)
• 6501 California Ave. SW.
• Mural by Bruce Rickett; restored by Bob Henry in 2018.
Behind Starbucks at the corner of Fauntleroy and California in West Seattle is a mural showing the Morgan Street Market, which opened in 1934 at this very spot called the Morgan Junction. The market at the time was served by the Gatewood and Fauntleroy streetcars. The scene shown in the mural is from 1937; the service station burned down in 1949, and the market was demolished in 1955.
Mosquito Boat Landing (MWS no.4)
• 4554 California Ave SW.
• Mural by Susan Tooke; restored by Bob Henry in 2018.
Facing the alley, this mural illustrates a “Sunday scene” in 1910: the arrival at Alki of the paddle-wheel ship S.S. Clan McDonald, which provided key ferry transport around Puget Sound. It appears people disembarking the ferry are dressed in their “Sunday best.”
Mural Alley SW
Mural Alley SW is a narrow corridor between Northwest Art and Frame and the Puerto Vallarta restaurant; it was always a “walk through” connecting California Ave SW and 44th Ave SW. The alley was repurposed as a showcase for community art and inaugurated in 2019. One piece is Blue Geisha Tattoo’s “Chasing the Dragon” with a very prominent Hedy Lamarr. Born Hedwig Kiesler in Vienna, she escaped the Nazis and moved to the U.S. where she became an actress and co-invented frequency-hopping technology which is crucial to today’s wireless empire. The story is Lamarr’s granddaughter who lives in West Seattle learned about the mural and was moved to tears when she saw her grandmother.
The Old Mud Hole (MWS no.10)
• 4520 44th Ave. SW.
• Mural by Mike Svob.
The mural portrays the old swimming pool in Fauntleroy’s Lincoln Park. The old “hole” filled with water from Puget Sound with a tide gate; periodic cleaning got rid of mud and debris accumulated with the tides. With concrete construction completed in 1941, the heated saltwater pool was named after the local benefactor Colman family.
Press Day (MWS no.11)
• 4727 44th Ave. SW.
• Mural by Alan Wylie; undergoing off-site restoration.
This mural portrays the classic Duplex two-sided printing press at the West Seattle Herald newspaper in the years before World War 2.
Tuesday Bank Day (MWS no.8)
• 4501 California Ave. SW.
• Mural by Alan Wylie.
The mural on the north-facing wall (of the Chase Bank building) shows a school classroom in 1923 and students queueing to make their “cash deposits.” The simple idea to promote financial literacy from an early age was a weekly “bank day” at school where children with modest allowances learned about savings and banking. The idea was first developed in Germany in 1820.
West Seattle Ferries (MWS no.1)
• 4707 California Ave SW.
• Mural by Bill Garnett; restored by Bob Henry in 2019.
On the west-facing wall, this mural portrays the first two Puget Sound ferries which from 1888 to 1921 ran eight-minute sailings between West Seattle’s Duwamish Head and downtown Seattle.
West Seattle Lofts
• 4535 44th Ave SW.
There are other works of art around the neighbourhood, including this 2015 mural by Jesse Link at (West Seattle’s) Lofts at the Junction. I’m reminded of a tugboat freshly plucked from the waters of the Salish Sea.
Directions & Locations
Various buses serve West Seattle, including the RapidRide C route to The Junction. In summer, there’s regular daily water-taxi service between downtown’s Colman Dock and West Seattle’s Seacrest Dock. As always, check online for information, updates, etc.
The map below shows the locations of the murals described in this post.
I acknowledge my time on the traditional and ancestral land of the first people of Seattle, the Duwamish (Dxʷdəwʔabš) People past and present, and honour with gratitude the land itself and the Duwamish Tribe. I made all images above on 6 Mar 2020 with a Fujifilm X70 fixed-lens prime. This post appears on Fotoeins Fotografie at fotoeins DOT com as https://wp.me/p1BIdT-h2o.