Press "Enter" to skip to content

At Home in King County: Images from the Collections

This sampler of photographs from the collections of the King County Archives is itself a snapshot of some of the places, lives and times of people who called 20-century King County their home. Health, safety, recreation, and transportation are some of the topics that appear in these photographs.

This online exhibit was created in honor of Washington State Archives Month 2008. It is based on a physical display “A Baker’s Dozen: Images of King County from the Collections” originally created in 2003 by Assistant Archivist Helice Koffler.

Department of Public Works photograph files: Community Relations and Communications. Series 415, Box 1, Folder 43, Photo No. 415.0316.

Home Sweet King County

King County’s former Department of Public Works used this photograph of an unidentified King County farmhouse in its 1981 annual report to illustrate a graph representing rural demographics. But the photograph also depicts a specific structure on a specific site, at a particular time. As such, the photograph may also be of interest to property researchers and family historians.

A dock with a ship moored. There are small buildings and houseboats alongside one side of the dock.
Road Engineer wharf files. Series 375, Box 5, Folder 21.

South Lake Union

In the early 1900s, King County began building public wharves to serve as dock facilities for the ferry routes that the county was then operating. In October 1912, the county commissioners passed a resolution “that the westerly portion of Block 69, Lake Union Shore Lands be purchased from J. M. Clapp, for dock purposes,” and later built the Prospect Street ferry dock and waiting room, photographed here in 1937. With the rapid rise of automobile transportation, King County ferry services were gradually discontinued, or assumed by private companies or by the state of Washington. After World War II, King County removed its remaining wharves and converted many former sites into parks.

A nurse in uniform applies gauze to a woman lying in a bed.
Seattle-King County Department of Public Health photograph, circa 1940. Series 275, Box 1, Photo No. 90.02.2558.

Home Nursing Care

This photograph shows an elderly patient receiving in-home care from a visiting nurse, who was likely associated with the Seattle Health Department’s Visiting Nurse Service. This program was established in 1912 under American Red Cross administration. In 1928 it was transferred to Health Department administration. The job of the nurses was, upon request from any family, to visit the home, help interpret the doctor’s orders, give necessary home nursing care, and teach the family to understand the illness and care for the patient. The Visiting Nurse Service was a part of the merged Seattle-King County Department of Public Health until 1975.

Seattle-King County Department of Public Health photograph. Series 275, Box 2, Photo No. 90.2.3169.

All Aboard the X-Ray Bus

This 1955 photograph shows one mobile unit screening Burien residents. The Seattle Area Chest X-Ray Program was established in 1948 as one component of an ongoing public health effort to identify cases of tuberculosis and other related conditions among the general population. Administered by the Seattle-King County Department of Public Health, the program also was sponsored by the King County Medical Society and the Anti-Tuberculosis League of King County (operators of the first mobile x-ray unit in King County). By the mid-1950s, the county had been divided into 36 districts with mobile units assigned to each of these areas in rotation.

A person kneels on the ground and extends their hand to a duck.
Department of Transportation photograph and moving image files. Series 400, folder 482.

Man and Mallard

In the early 1960s, drainage and erosion issues along Standring Lane in Burien’s Shorewood area presented challenges both for homeowners and for King County’s engineers. Here, on a beach behind some waterfront houses, a county worker or contractor clearing damage from a spring 1965 storm takes time to engage with a friendly mallard duck. Some years later, Surface Water Management personnel would also utilize some four-footed assistance at one Cedar River levee inspection.

Small homes in the foreground standing among small bushes and scraps of wood. In the background, there is a warehouse painted with the words "Wild Rose Lard" on one side.
Seattle-King County Department of Public Health photograph files. Series 275, Box 1, Photo No. 90.2.0688.


Taken February 6, 1933, this photograph illustrates two historical events. In the foreground one of Seattle’s several “Hoovervilles,” this one along the railroad tracks near Sixth Avenue South and South Holgate Street. During the Great Depression, encampments of displaced people sprang up throughout the United States. These settlements were known as “Hoovervilles,” mockingly invoking President Herbert Hoover’s failed economic policies. In the background, the sign for “Wild Rose Lard” identifies the Frye and Company meat-packing plant at 2203 Airport Way. Ten years later, that building became the site of one of Seattle’s worst disasters when, on February 18, 1943, a prototype Boeing B-29 Superfortress bomber on a test flight crashed into the building. Thirty-one lives were lost in the crash and subsequent fire.

Two people crouch on top of a piece of machinery. The machine straddles a trench and a chute extends down into the trench.
Series 415, Box 1, Folder 46, Photo No. 415.0336.

Mighty Mole of Cedar Hills

This piece of experimental equipment was used (1968-1971) in a federally funded demonstration project at King County’s Cedar Hills Regional Landfill near Maple Valley. Designed by the Renton architectural and consulting firm Johnston, Campanella, Murakami & Company, the 150-ton Mole was intended to compact and bury solid waste in a manner allowing for better utilization of existing county landfills. A scoop shovel machine would precede the Mole and clear a 15-foot trench. Garbage would be placed in the Mole’s hopper. The garbage was then compacted under pressure and released from the rear of the Mole. Finally, a bulldozer would follow behind the Mole and cover the trench with the dirt. The project ultimately concluded that the type of soil conditions present at Cedar Hills were not suitable for the Mole’s continued operation. Department of Public Works photograph files: Community Relations and Communications.

A bridge spans a railroad track with hills on either side of the track. A car is driving on the bridge.
Road Engineer bridge files: photographs. Series 474, Box 5, Folder 13, Bridge 389A, 3092-OX.

Wilderness Overcrossing

King County is responsible for inspecting road and street bridges within its jurisdiction. A record of inspections, often including photographs, is maintained for each bridge. The Wilderness Overcrossing Bridge, on present-day 220th Avenue SE near Lake Wilderness, was constructed in 1915 as a frame trestle over the Pacific Coast Railway, 60 feet long and 16 feet wide, with the railway company and King County sharing costs. The bridge was rebuilt several times over the years, including a 1933 refurbishment (shown here) that incorporated creosoted piling timbers re-utilized from a demolished county wharf on Vashon Island. The bridge eventually was replaced with a reinforced concrete slab structure in 1958 and another new span was built in 1996. The former railroad grade is now a popular trail.

View of a partially constructed bridge. A road leads to wooden planking held up by tall wooden beams.
Road Engineer bridge files: photographs. Series 474, Box 10, Folder 21, Bridge 3001, 2462B.

Jumping over Julia’s Gulch: The Marine View Drive Bridge

In 1929, the county commissioners of King County and Pierce County jointly passed resolutions authorizing the construction of a bridge to be built “across county line between King and Pierce Counties on the road known and designated as ‘Marine View Drive’, at an estimated cost of $55,000.” According to the agreement, King County was to pay for 60 percent of the costs, with Pierce County responsible for the remainder. The firm of S. A. Moceri, Inc., based in Tacoma and Seattle, was contracted to furnish and drive the foundation piling for the bridge at a cost of $1.25 per lineal foot. This photograph of the bridge under construction near Dash Point may show a worker from that company.

A cow stands in a pasture in front of a small bridge.
Road Engineer bridge files: photographs. Series 474, Box 12, Folder 13, Bridge 3071, 1378A.

Out to Pasture

Bridge inspectors occasionally tried to enliven photographs used in their reports by incorporating human figures or animals into the composition. This image, taken in the mid-1950s of an unnamed bridge on SE 424th Street, also shows an attractive cow in a pasture by Newaukum Creek near Enumclaw.

A woman walks on a trail with an umbrella in hand.
Parks System photograph files. Series 467, Box 8, Folder 10.

On the Trail

Voters’ 1968 passage of the Forward Thrust bond initiative approved funds for the acquisition and construction of park sites and recreational facilities across King County. During this period of expansion, the King County Park System acquired large parcels of land for passive-use parks and trails. One was the Lake Sammamish Trail, where this woman was photographed taking a stroll.

A group of people in swimsuits lay on their stomachs on a dock while another group lays their hands on the back of the swimmers. A standing man in a swimsuit looks on.
Parks System photograph files. Series 467, Box 11, Folder 11.

Celebrity Lifeguard

The years following the Second World War saw an increased demand for recreation services in suburban King County. The first swimming programs under the auspices of the newly created (1948) Parks and Recreation Department started with the establishment of beach lifeguard rules and the development of standards and programs for swim safety personnel. Prior to 1955, local branches of the American Red Cross provided training for lifeguards in Seattle and King County at their Aquatic Schools. The Aquatic Schools were held at various sites each year, including the Beaver Lake resort (later acquired as a park site) in King County. This photograph was most likely taken at Beaver Lake during one of the training classes. Clint Eastwood has been identified as one of the students shown in this photograph.

A smiling man stands in a snowbank that reaches to just below his waist.
Seattle-King County Department of Public Health photograph files. Series 275, Box 1, Photo No. 90.2.0880.

Winter in the Watershed

The Cedar River is one of the sources of the City of Seattle’s drinking water. Following recommendations made in a 1924 report, the city embarked on an ambitious program of improvements to the Cedar River watershed. To this end, Camp 1 was established, initially to provide living quarters for workers assigned to clear driftwood out of Cedar (now Chester Morse) Lake. By the end of 1933, the federal Civil Works Administration (CWA) had sponsored several projects in the watershed. Some of the two hundred CWA workers were also housed at the Cedar Lake camp. The following year, the Federal Transient Service took over the administration of the work program and continued on into 1935. This 1935 photograph most likely shows a member of the Seattle Health Department’s sanitary inspection team, Mr. McLaughlin, at Camp 1.

Aerial view of a circular stadium with a domed roof.
Department of Public Works photograph files: Community Relations and Communications. Series 415, Box 2, Folder 4, Photo No. 415.0473.

The Kingdome, 8 Months To Go

In 1968, as a part of the Forward Thrust initiative, voters approved a $40 million bond to construct a covered multipurpose stadium for King County. Ground was broken for the structure in 1972 and the new stadium, christened the Kingdome, officially opened on March 27, 1976 in a gala ceremony. At the height of its operations, the Kingdome was home to four major sports teams and host to numerous trade and consumer shows, concerts, and other special events. Changing public preferences resulted in the demolition of the Kingdome in March 2000 to make way for a new football and soccer stadium.

A person stands on a horse-drawn cart filled with gravel, rake in hand. The cart is in front of a wall lined with chutes.
Road Engineer wharf files. Series 375, Box 5, Folder 6, Photo No. 93.1.0183.

Gravel Petitions

In response to citizen pleas and petitions such as this one, King County commissioners made a concerted effort during the early years of the twentieth century to first gravel, and then pave the surfaces of county roads. To satisfy the growing need for road improvement materials, the county purchased rock, sand and gravel; acquired or leased numerous gravel pits; and constructed gravel bunkers in which to store the materials. This 1908 photograph shows a worker at the Fall City bunker loading gravel into a horse-drawn county wagon.

Planning Commission reports and studies. Series 432, Box 1, Item 1.

King County Plans Its Future

From 1937 to 1959, the King County Planning Commission was the county agency responsible for approving development under the county’s zoning codes. The Planning Commission also researched and wrote various reports and studies. The cover of this 1948 report shows what the Commission thought a neat, tidy postwar housing development should look like. After 1959, the county’s Planning Department continued to undertake land use research and analyses. One project was a decade-long documentation of all existing county land use, using large-scale maps such as this one showing a portion of Renton.