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Posts Tagged ‘Kalakala’

There are plenty of ruined buildings in the world but no ruined stones.

Hugh MacDiarmid

Where were these photographs taken? Sarajevo? Beirut? Chernobyl? That’s what I would guess if I hadn’t taken them. These were taken last Friday in Kirkland, Washington. The last of the Kirkland Parkplace buildings was coming down.

The group of brick buildings we knew as the Kirkland Parkplace shopping center have been replaced by a massive mixed residential-commercial development called Kirkland Urban. Its many stories and underground parking are more Bellevue or Seattle than Kirkland. Kirkland Urban contains a huge flagship grocery store and a much welcome pet supplies store. Many say it’s a vast improvement over the sometimes sleepy Parkplace. But its architecture falls into that Anywhere U.S.A. category, so there is nothing distinctively Northwest about it.

Here are the raw photos. The first five were taken on March 11th, 2020 when I noticed equipment near the building off 6th Street south of Central Way. The others were taken at two different times about four hours apart on Friday, March 20th. They speak for themselves, and I’ve left one of the quirkier photos in because of the interplay of a bright setting sun. I doubt there will be anything left standing if I drive by tomorrow.

The power of the hydraulic demolition equipment is startling. Those jaws rip chunks of concrete and rebar off of structures like a T-Rex shredding an afternoon snack. I was told that once this building was properly skeletonized, it would have to be pulled forward so the new building behind it wouldn’t be harmed. This demolition signals the end of Kirkland Parkplace; all evidence of the old movie theater, bookstore, bakery, seafood store, fountain, and other fixtures is now gone.


For those who can stand it, Rhine Demolition, the company handling the project above, was also tasked with dismantling the Kalakala. Video here.

You can find what remains of the Kalakala, which was built in Kirkland, here and here.


©2020 H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com. All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com.

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Safe indeed by land to journey,
But the way is rough and trying,
Long the road and full of turnings;
Lovely is the ship on ocean,
Beautiful to ride the billows,
Journey easy o’er the waters,
Sailing in a trusty vessel;
Should the West-wind cross our pathway,
Will the South-wind drive us northward…

The Kalevala, Rune XXXIX

If you are a regular here then you may recall last October’s post, The Second Most Photographed Object in the World. In that post I showed parts of what’s left of the ferry Kalakala, which in its heyday was the second most photographed object in the world behind the Eiffel Tower. It sat unwanted for years until it was carved up, its choice pieces now weathering on the shoulder of the Cross Kirkland Corridor and next to Salty’s at Alki Beach.

Exiting the West Seattle Bridge at Harbor Avenue, I remembered the giddiness of decades past when friends and I would cruise this strip, feeling so adult in our newly acquired vehicles. I had a sharp reality check as I passed derelict RV after derelict RV along the roadside.

Arriving at Salty’s, where scuba divers were simultaneously suiting up and stripping next to their vehicles, I realized how long it had been since I’d actually stopped here.

As on the Cross Kirkland Corridor north of 7th Avenue, you have the distinct impression that you’ve stumbled upon the remains of a first generation mother ship. This part of the Kalakala occupies the northwest corner of the Salty’s parking lot.

This part of the wheelhouse faces east towards downtown Seattle and Harbor Island. At first glance it looks like you might be able to put a quarter in it and go for a quick cruise. But it, too, is rusting away, perched on terra firma instead of plowing through the Sound.

I’m not sure what is in the foreground. If my source is correct, the owners of Salty’s had to move some of their “urban reef,” pieces of the old Spokane Street Bridge, to accommodate the Kalakala when it moved there in 2015.

Inside of the wheelhouse, you feel as if you’re gazing out of an oversized Corinthian battle helmet made for Henry J. Waternoose III (Monsters, Inc.).

The views from here are entrancing. This is certainly a spot where shadowy superheroes come to brood over the Emerald City at night, capes flapping in the brackish breeze.

The voluminous clouds on this Sunday afternoon reminded me just how small this big city is in the grand scheme of things.

And yet the city just keeps going up, up, up…

Hmm. This does look like a defeated tripod from War of the Worlds, still ready to fire upon humanity…

Das Kurbelwelle. A relative just made a beautiful table using a crankshaft as the base. This crankshaft would be more appropriate for a table for Paul Bunyan. It’s massive.

It may look like Medusa saw her own reflection and shattered, but I think this is probably more of the old bridge.

This does quite good on its own as a modern art statement.

Those clouds…

Das Ruder. This rudder steered a dead weight of about 750 tons.

This shot reminds me of a tugboat. Or like the Kalakala is looking east, telepathically reaching out to its other half that is languishing on the side of a trail 15 miles away.

Thankfully you can turn the camera so it still seems like the Space Needle dominates the Seattle skyline.

Another view from the helmet…

Oddly, I didn’t find any signs telling people what these relics are. At this point a couple was standing in here with me and I explained the Kalakala’s story. I thought the owner was going to do more with these, but five years on, here they remain.

Three cormorants, three towers… every time I see the towers on Queen Anne I’m reminded that my dad would climb them to do maintenance.

The patina in here, where it hasn’t been vandalized, is gorgeous.

Unk, standing at a porthole, wept quietly. He was weeping for love, for family, for friendship, for truth, for civilization. The things he wept for were all abstractions, since his memory could furnish few faces or artifacts with which his imagination might fashion a passion play.

Kurt Vonnegut, The Sirens of Titan

Thank you to the Seattle history titan who reminded me of the whereabouts of the Kalakala’s other half. For a treasure trove of Kalakala facts and photos by the real experts, click here.


©2020 H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com. All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com.

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This was once the second most photographed object in the world. Author Steven J. Pickens said that in its heyday, only the Eiffel Tower attracted more shutter snaps.

This is the green and grey rusting metal sitting on the side of a trail in Kirkland. People ask when the unsightly “junk” will be removed or muse about a new outhouse.

This is the Kalakala, or what remains of it. Born as the Peralta and originally running on routes in the San Francisco Bay, the Kalakala literally arose from the ashes of its original incarnation.

This Art Deco ferry carried people across the Puget Sound from 1935 to 1967. Post-1967, she went to Alaska to serve as a fish processor and cannery.

An effort to bring her back to Washington succeeded, but the money needed to bring her back to life never materialized. She sat disintegrating in various locales until the decision was finally made to auction off pieces of her instead of trying to save the whole boat.

The City of Kirkland successfully bid to save large pieces of the ferry and will be preserving it as part of an art project.

It’s fitting that the “mother ship” (above) has come home to Kirkland. The Kalakala was built in Kirkland and after decades of wandering around, will live on, resurrected for a second time.

The sun may be setting on the remains of the Kalakala, but right now it’s like a seed in the ground, waiting to pop up in the spring.

I see you! The portholes look like the eyes of a giant spider.

I believe these are the car doors. You can see a list of the parts that were salvaged here. You can also see a beautiful picture of the Kalakala on the wall of Kirkland City Hall outside of the Peter Kirk Room.

The Kalakala could carry thousands of passengers and many vehicles. People liked to hang out of these futuristic windows as they cruised across the water. Since the Kalakala was still operating at the time of the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair, its photographic popularity that year was only eclipsed by the Space Needle.

Here is another look at what was saved.

Nearly a century after its construction, the Kalakala eagerly awaits a place in the public eye again.

There are many photos and videos of the Kalakala online including this one-minute video showing the ferry in motion.

Could you imagine riding this during the Great Depression? You must have felt like you were on a spaceship.

This is another short video that shows some of the interior as well. There is more on YouTube.


Steven J. Pickens, author of Ferries of Puget Sound, plans to release an update to that book soon. The original follows the lives of Puget Sound ferries up to 2006. You may be shocked at what has happened to some of the boats we’ve commuted on for decades.


©2019 H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com. All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com.

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