The Sledgehammer – Version 2.0

May 15, 2009

An Aerial View of Downtown Bellevue From 1979

Filed under: Bellevue, History — Brian Lutz @ 10:26 am

I just wanted to put up a quick post this morning to point over to Vintage Seattle, where a number of interesting high-res aerial photos from April of 1979 submitted by a reader have been posted.  Among photos of Seattle Center, Downtown Seattle  and the Opening Day boat parade in the Ship Canal is one that should be of particular interest to readers of this site:  an aerial photo of Downtown Bellevue.  For all the research  I have done on the history of Bellevue and the rest of the Eastside, there are still a couple of surprises to be found there (in particular, the huge chunk of undeveloped land in the middle of the Downtown Bellevue area visible in the photo.)  Perhaps if I get a chance (and permission to do so) I will take a closer look at this and do some analysis on the photo later.  In the meantime, the rest of Vintage Seattle is highly recommended for people with an interest in history on the other side of the lake.


  1. Bryan,
    I just jumped over here from Vintage Seattle by following the link on your name. I’ll explore your blog a little more later on (I’m on line), but I’m curious what your relationship with the Eastside is. I grew up there. I’m not that old (I don’t think), but I remember when the Fire Department burned an old farmhouse on the top of the hill at 108th and NE 4th or so, about where the Koll Center is now. I was small. The house belonged to an old lady we knew (Mrs. Duncan). My father took us up there to watch, and I didn’t understand it was a controlled burn and that Mrs. Duncan had moved. I remember being worried for her while the smoke poured out of the house.

    Comment by Matt F — May 15, 2009 @ 11:52 am

  2. Oh yeah, you noted the huge undeveloped patch in the photo over on VS. Keep in mind that that big acre is on the east-facing slope of the 108th ridge, that is, on the side away from the Bellevue Square, so it’s not really “in the middle” of downtown. I don’t know how developers felt about it, but I always thought of 108th as a sort of boundary, so that this patch would be in a sort of “near east Bellevue”. Still, I agree that it does look mighty strange, all that scotch broom and thistle right in the middle of the city.


    Comment by jstwndrng — May 16, 2009 @ 8:17 pm

    • Well, there are a couple of factors to consider here. First of all, in 1979 high-rise construction in downtown Bellevue was still a relatively new development at that time (the 13-story Paccar Building was the first such building in downtown Bellevue, and it was completed in 1970. It remains the tallest structure built in Bellevue during the Seventies.) I actually found something in a Bellevue American (circa 1968) about the approval of the first high-rise development in Bellevue at one point, but I don’t have a date on it right now, and would probably have to go dig it up again. Second, whether intentionally or otherwise, freeways have a strong tendency to act as sort of an artificial barrier to the growth of the urban core of a city. You can especially see this in Seattle, and although there are high-rise buildings outside of the main downtown core, you don’t really see any true skyscrapers east of I-5. The same holds true of Bellevue, where aside from the hospitals and a handful of taller buildings over on the Microsoft campus (and even those aren’t really all that tall,) there really isn’t much high-rise development anywhere east of 405.

      Comment by Brian Lutz — May 16, 2009 @ 9:14 pm

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