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The Seattle Great Wheel – Victor Steinbrueck Park – Seattle, WA

From day one Seattle was destined to be defined by water both in terms of the climate and Puget Sound. Arthur Denny and his party came ashore at Alki Point on November 13, 1851 and began the practical work of implementing Manifest Destiny.

Three years later the region became formalized as the Washington Territory led by Governor Isaac Stevens. His most enduring piece of work was the 1854 Treaty Of Medicine Creek which was the pretext used to displace some 4000 years of Native American culture. With that nasty bit of business out of the way and the desire to make a ton of money Seattle began its ascent as an international seaport.

The original waterfront has been re-purposed from a fishing hub and an import and export center to one that is more focused on transportation, Alaskan cruises, restaurants, hotels, and other cultural entertainments.

The modern working port, where the literal heaving lifting takes place, is in the background where the vast North American consumer demands are met by just as vast Asian economy that is more than up to the task of meeting those needs.

The Great Seattle Wheel, the center piece of this image, is a brand new addition to Seattle and one of the first clear symbols about the changes that lay ahead.

In 1953 a two level elevated segment of highway 99, known as the Alaskan Way Viaduct, opened up as the major north and south route that ran smack between the waterfront and downtown Seattle. To be fair, as a roadway it served the transportation needs of the city admirably for 50 years. It also was something of a concrete blight that acted to disrupt what could have been a seamless connection between downtown and the waterfront. A Seattle Berlin Wall in a manner of speaking.

Then in 2001 the Nisqually Earthquake rumbled through the region and put the Viaduct on life support.

This bit of nasty luck left the Viaduct in such a state that its concrete began to randomly come apart and fall to earth. A clear signal that one more good shake and the whole thing would come crashing down. A decade of contentious debate about the future of the waterfront and transportation in Seattle ensued. In March 2012 the preliminary work began for the tunneling machine that will claw out new route beneath the old one and by doing so create that connection long disrupted.

Two months later, in June 2012, the Great Wheel opened on Pier 57.

These two events are highly connected and represent Seattle’s future that will play out over the next 100 or so years. Given the changes brought by that treaty in 1854 one can only imagine what Seattle’s future will become.

Copyright 2012 By Katherine Johnson – All Rights Reserved.

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