South Park is a small neighborhood in West Seattle, nestled between West Marginal Way and the Duwamish River. It’s a relatively poor neighborhood with depressed property values and an unhealthy proximity to Seattle’s heavy industry. South Park’s soil is laden with heavy metals, and nobody knows exactly what’s in the Duwamish.
South Park used to have a bridge.
The South Park bridge connected the neighborhood to Georgetown and the rest of civilization. It was built in 1931 by a tribe of Seattle engineers unable to envision a bridge that didn’t in some way involve bascules. “How else would a ship get past a bridge? Ships can’t climb over bridges!” they reasoned.
Regardless, one must concede that the drawbridge style did give the bridge a certain aesthetic appeal.
A nearby marina adds to the attractiveness of the area.
Possibly the lowest budget marina in a city that appears to have thousands, the South Park Marina’s most interesting feature is that it’s located downriver from a superfund site (or, as the marina’s describes it, the “fresh, calm waters of the Duwamish River”).
The marina is also across the river from Boeing’s infamous Plant 2, concretely building 2-41 . The source of many of the more toxic elements currently found in the Duwamish, engineers at Plant 2 manufactured airplane parts using heavy metals, cyanide, mineral acids and bases, petroleum products, PCBs, and chlorinate solvents.
All in a day’s work.
Plant 2 was built in 1935, and was key to the US war effort during World War II. At its peak, Plant 2 produced 16 B-17 bombers a day, and an astonishing total of 6,981 were created during the war. Plant 2 also produced B-52s and 737 passenger jets.
During the war, Plant 2 was camouflaged to look like a suburban neighborhood. Netting, fake houses and fake trees were used to cover the factory installations, aiming to make it harder for hypothetical Japanese air raids to hit such a juicy target.
Plant 2 is currently scheduled for demolition.
Returning to the bridge, and fast-forwarding to 2001… Already in a state of disrepair, the South Park bridge’s shaky timbers were rattled by the Nisqually Earthquake. A year later, it was rated at 6 out of 100 on the infamous Federal Highway Administration scale – the bane of many a crumbling piece of infrastructure nationwide.
According to King County, the bridge’s foundations were heavily cracked as they settled into the liquifiable soil underneath. And like a Seattle rock band, the “substandard concrete in the piers was undergoing a self-destructive process that could not be reversed or repaired.”
The South Park Bridge was closed in the interest of public safety on June 30, 2010. The neighborhood threw a large farewell party, and lovingly graffitied its bascule leaves.
The bridge’s leaves were removed in August and September of 2010, leaving a melancholy sight and a neighborhood completely cut off from its urban artery.
In late 2010, after several dramatic failures to raise funds, various King County fund-raising endeavors and a drama-infused federal TIGER grant succeeded in reaching the $100 million mark required for reconstruction. A new South Park bridge will be built, with its reopening date scheduled for 2013.
We’ll be there.
The complete Flickr set.