Lake Washington lowering cut off original floating homes

Published online: Sep 27, 2010 News Paul Dorpat -
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When the photo-postcard purveyor M.L. Oakes selected this houseboat for his 667th subject in 1907 (or possibly 1908), many more floating homes were on Seattle's waterways than the tightly regulated 400 or so that now survive, mostly on Lake Union. This charmer is one of a small community that was moored on Lake Washington's Union Bay, then still 9 feet higher than Lake Union. Nearby was the student boathouse.This happy shoreline soon became a neverland when Lake Washington was lowered those 9 feet in 1916, and this floating retreat and many others around the lake had to either adapt to the new beach or find new moorage. At Madison Park some of the houseboats were pulled ashore and survive today as small homes.

I don't know what became of this floating home, but perhaps it was towed through the new Montlake Cut and delivered to a moorage in the large Lake Union houseboat community. Perhaps some reader will let us know of it.

It is now 10 years since the Times' wine expert Tom Stockley and his wife, Peggy, died in a plane crash. They had been floating homers. In 1995 Tom wrote . . . "We had a year's lease on a vivid blue Lake Union floating home (with an option to buy), rented our land home and accepted the fact that possessions had to be pared down by half.

"Spring was in the air as we carried our belongings down the long dock. Greenery was popping up from window boxes, the ducks and geese were already into their mating rituals and it didn't take long to notice that the water made reflective ripples on the ceiling. Wow. About two weeks later, as we sat dangling our feet in the water, Peggy turned to me and said, 'Do you think you could live here for long?' 'Only the rest of my life,' I laughed, but I wasn't kidding."

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