West Seattle history mystery: Any clue what this was all about?

Local historian Paul Dorpat shares that photo of what’s believed to be a West Seattle scene – two women in furs, on the beach, sawing a log, many decades ago. It is from a new item on his website, in which he specifically asks WSB’ers for help:

I have just posted – proudly too – SEATTLE CONFIDENTIAL No.3, in hope that you and your gallant and curious readers will help identify it. Even as a mystery it is quite wonderful, but most likely it is a scene on Alki Beach.

Here’s the link to the item on his site. Any clue?

47 Replies to "West Seattle history mystery: Any clue what this was all about?"

  • Tom July 19, 2010 (4:22 pm)

    Well, from the fur coats, we can tell that the month is probably July…

  • onceachef July 19, 2010 (4:29 pm)

    The first women’s lumberjack contest? :)

  • mpento July 19, 2010 (4:32 pm)

    I’m guessing that it might be more likely lincoln park area kind of looking from colman pool towards the ferry dock?

  • Lynne July 19, 2010 (4:35 pm)

    LOL Tom!

  • Vanessa July 19, 2010 (4:42 pm)

    That must be near the first fire rings on Alki Beach, getting ready for bar-b-que chupacabra.

  • west by southwest July 19, 2010 (4:42 pm)

    I’m with onceachef. Looks like practice for a log cutting contest (or maybe the actual contest), the way they are sawing off the very end of a well prepared and measured log. The same thing happens at old fashioned logging shows today. The event is timed and the pair with the shortest time wins.

  • celeste17 July 19, 2010 (4:47 pm)

    Maybe sawing logs for a cabin?

  • Mike in the Junction July 19, 2010 (4:49 pm)

    To me it looks like a ski lift in the background. Maybe the ladies are sawing off posts for the polls that hold up the skilift?

  • Denise July 19, 2010 (4:58 pm)

    Tom, you took the words right out of my mouth.

  • Dotti July 19, 2010 (5:10 pm)

    I would say it is Beach Drive, before the Schmitz Estate, and there husbands made a bet that there wives couldn’t saw a log with there firs on. It looks like her stole is giving her a hand (or a mouth), lol

  • Smitty July 19, 2010 (5:18 pm)

    I’m guessing it’s actually on the east-facing side (is that still considered Alki?), with the current Salty’s “roughly” where the house/cabin is off in the distance.

    It appears like they are doing something involved with pile-driving, but I’m not sure if there are any pile dikes on Alki – though I suspect there are.

  • pigeonmom July 19, 2010 (5:20 pm)

    Anybody know Morey Skeret? Maybe he could help figure out the mystery.

  • clark5080 July 19, 2010 (5:23 pm)

    Here is my guess. I think it is looking west from the circed area in the picture

  • Silly Goose July 19, 2010 (5:24 pm)

    They are helping to build Luna Park!!

  • clark5080 July 19, 2010 (5:25 pm)

    Here is my guess. I think it is looking west from the circled area in the picture in this link


  • waterworld July 19, 2010 (5:53 pm)

    Enlarge the picture and look at the house behind and to the right of the lady on the right. I can’t quite make it out, but there appears to be a stone chimney and possibly a big dormer. Is it possible that’s the old Fir Lodge, later the Homestead?

  • JayDee July 19, 2010 (6:07 pm)

    I concur with Jim Clark to some degree. I would place it a little further SW along the beach. One piece of evidence is the light–I sincerely doubt this is a morning shot, and the ladies’ shadows appear elongated. I’d say 53rd and Alki.

    Second the ridgeline looks like the area between 51st and Stevens along Admiral. The house on the beach just south of the sawyers has distinctive lines if anyone knows the area: Stone trapezoidal fireplace (likely made from beach rock), craftsman-like rustic architecture.

  • JayDee July 19, 2010 (6:10 pm)

    What about an opinion on fashion? Furs speak of wealth, and the hat on the lady to the left? 1920’s? I tried looking on the archives from the city and this area was still pretty wild-looking in the ’20s.

  • Cami July 19, 2010 (6:16 pm)

    Can they comeback from the dead and help restore the Homestead? They are really dressed up to saw logs!

  • Admiral Janeway July 19, 2010 (6:25 pm)

    Because of the shadows, tide action and wood debris, it probably is on Puget Sound and not Elliott Bay. It looks more like Shilshole than Alki.

  • Dina July 19, 2010 (6:41 pm)

    The fashions predate the 20s, unless Seattle was way behind the predominent fashion curve (very possible). My guess: The lady on the left is wearing a 1910s World War I-era above-the-ankle shapeless coat and a round hat, which was precursor to the ubiquitous mid-20s cloche. The lady on the right more resembles a 1900s Teddy Roosevelt-era look, with flared floor-length skirt, fitted jacket, and dramatic hat.

  • Rhonda Porter July 19, 2010 (6:47 pm)

    I can picture Emma Schmitz View Point with Jacobson behind the ladies.

  • Bob Loblaw July 19, 2010 (6:58 pm)

    “Construction of the first West Seattle Trader Joe’s was abruptly halted after West Seattle Stone Tablet readers complained about Eloise showing too much ankle. It would be almost 100 years later before the company considered opening a store in the area again.”

  • JayDee July 19, 2010 (7:17 pm)

    Paul did imply that we WSB readers could figure it out…The angle of the sunlight would be appropriate for 53rd and Alki if it is summer. The furs and the same shadow angle might argue for a more westerly exposure like Mee Kwa Mooks–why wear furs unless you had to? Especially for cutting wood. He also implies we can identify the people doing the cutting, hence fairly well known folks 100 years on…

  • westseattledood July 19, 2010 (7:19 pm)

    I’m with JayDee. The embankment where the shack-like structure (to the left of the woman on the left) looks like the right height for where the current retaining wall is (at it’s heighest section) The curve of the ridge to the right and the gradual slope of the hill just behind the woman on the right looks familiar.

    And I would agree with Dina about the fashion bring WW I-ish.

    Now that I see the power lines on the road above them, I’m wondering where they first ran power out there and when.

    Fun stuff to ponder.

  • SomeGuy July 19, 2010 (7:24 pm)

    Sawing logs for the first (unfortunately cancelled) Trader Joe’s?

  • steve July 19, 2010 (8:18 pm)

    Emma Schmitz?

  • rudy July 19, 2010 (8:24 pm)

    Was this some sort of groundbreaking ceremony? They don’t look like they are working too hard. Are they participating in grooming the first log for a new structure? It is fun to wonder!

  • Gina July 19, 2010 (9:12 pm)

    I’ll guess that the time range is 1910-15, Beach Drive, the land is being replatted for home building (or should I say estate building), and the two women are related to the developers of the area. The saw and log are symbols of the building in the area. The little shanties on the hill belong to the workers.

    Or these are Ivar Haglund’s aunts sawing a log to hide a clam chowder recipe, about to be rediscovered by a camera crew 100 years later.

  • Tom July 19, 2010 (9:28 pm)

    Looking more carefully at the photo, I agree with those that think it’s on the western Puget Sound side, because of the logs on the beach, and mid-afternoon because of the sun. It’s titled “Alki sawyers” so let’s concede it’s near Alki.

    I’m gonna guess it is at the current Constellation Park, facing south. I’d guess that retaining wall that is perfectly in focus is about where Beach Drive curves east and becomes 63rd.

    Around here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/rhondaporter/2728362918/


  • Cheryl July 19, 2010 (9:44 pm)

    Not sure of the location, but Dina is definitely correct regarding the womens dress, early 1900’s – 19-teens. Also, remember that images such as these were often “staged” for picture postcards, promotion of an event or location, or just plain novelty. The furs are probably an added “fancy” item, or maybe it was just cold?!

    Whether the truth may be, it’s a wonderful image!

    Love the Trader Joes / Ankle Showing comment above. Hilarious!

  • westseattledood July 19, 2010 (10:16 pm)

    Ok. I was wrong. Now I’m siding with Tom. That perspective of the ridge past Constellation Park looks kind of perfect. And now that embankment seems to fit too.

    I propose three winners. Tom for the location, Dina for the fashion era and Gina for the story.

    Sorry JayDee. I gotta’ go with the most winning posts. Just the way I roll. ;) But I was there with you for a minute.

  • Jamie July 19, 2010 (10:20 pm)

    I say if you want the job done right! You have to do it yourself! So! There you go! the ladies were tired of watching the men do it wrong so they had to jump in and do it them self’s even with the furs on! lol! ;-)

  • 3dogslater July 19, 2010 (10:48 pm)

    That very saw (or one similar) now is an art piece and will be on display at the Bohemian restaurant look for it within a month…seriously…my mom has one just like and she’s artist and did a painting on one.

    I think these woman were the(wives)of the owner’s- the building- original owner’s of the Homestead and they are cutting the first log much like busting a bottle of champagne over the bow of a boat…well at least that’s my theory and I am sticking to it.

  • patt July 19, 2010 (11:00 pm)

    Dina fashion date is right, I have pictures of my G-aunt at Alki on 4th of July 1908. She was dressed the same way….sans the fir.

  • 3dogslater July 19, 2010 (11:23 pm)

    Furs…yuk..Yeah for pleather and fake fur…who needs either? Right? SAVE THE ANIMALS!

  • sa July 20, 2010 (6:46 am)

    clearly they are preparing log beams for the Admiral Road Diet.

  • Dina July 20, 2010 (7:37 am)

    3dogs: Repulsive as it looks today, a furry animal skin draped around a woman’s neck, including head, paws, and tail, was fashionable through the 1940s, I believe.

  • miws July 20, 2010 (7:45 am)

    Maybe it was an early PETA/EarthFirst! combined message, showing the greed of the wealthy, at the expense of innocent animals and the environment.



  • KBear July 20, 2010 (8:03 am)

    “I cut down trees, I wear high heels, suspenders and a bra…”

  • miws July 20, 2010 (8:14 am)

    To add to my previous post: the middle class and poor were very appalled at the greed and blatant arrogance of the uber-wealthy, that had the power to do these destructful things, just because they had the money to do so.


    However, the lower classes were able to get some satisfaction, when they passed, by a landslide, I-98 which imposed an income tax on individuals making more than $20,000.00 per year.



  • CurlyQ July 20, 2010 (8:34 am)

    I like Constellation Park,or maybe Weather Watch Park a little further south, across from La Rustica. If memory serves, there was a ferry dock there in the early 20th Century that connected the West Seattle summer community with the city folk of Seattle proper, same vintage as these women (that was also near the the first Alki Congregational Church, a block away at Chilberg and Carroll, built in 1909/10, which started as a summer Sunday School in the Schmitz home around 1906). Maybe these women are ceremonially cutting the first log for the ferry dock?

  • sun*e July 20, 2010 (9:38 am)

    @KBear – LOL! I love Monty Python! :) Yeah, so maybe they are actually men dressed as women. Who really knows?

  • Joe July 20, 2010 (1:08 pm)

    I’m with CurlyQ… La Rustica area near the old dock due to the shadows and washed up logs. Clearly Emma Schmitz and Phyllis Diller.

  • Dave L July 20, 2010 (1:44 pm)

    The cabin homes just above the center appears to be the homes above what now is the Harbor View condos that stick out over the water on Beach Drive at Charlestown Street. Those old homes are still there on the hillsides of 59th and 60th Ave. SW and were all built around 1909. To the left of the ladies and out of the picture would be Rose Lodge on what is known as South Alki aka the rocky beach today.

  • cj July 20, 2010 (3:28 pm)

    My guess is the picture is promotional due to the way the women are dressed. Perhaps a community clean up effort to clear off the wood on the beach?

  • Tracey July 21, 2010 (2:55 am)

    This looks more like the southwest side of Lincoln Park, the section that is now in between Colman Pool and the ferry dock, with Arbor Heights being the steeper-looking area in the distance (upper right corner). I don’t understand why they would assume it’s on Alki just because it was in the loghouse museum? Certainly the historical pictures left behind there were taken in various sections of West Seattle, not just Alki.

Sorry, comment time is over.