Working at PEMCO alongside the West Coast’s busiest freeway, it’s hard to imagine a time when there was no Interstate 5, when PEMCO’s Cascade neighborhood side streets crossed Eastlake Avenue and continued up onto Capitol Hill.
But in the grand scheme of things, I-5 is a relative newcomer to Seattle.
In fact, PEMCO predates the freeway by 14 years.
Washington’s legislature approved an “Everett-Seattle-Tacoma Superhighway” in 1953, and President Eisenhower’s Interstate Highway System of 1956 (technically called the National System of Interstate and Defense Highways) provided federal aid to make it a reality.
The Seattle P-I reported that in 1958-59, WSDOT “paid homeowners fair market value for their homes, then auctioned the buildings for either removal or salvage.” More than seven blocks of residences on the east side of Eastlake earlier had been razed, in 1957.
Not all Seattle residents embraced the looming freeway. On June 1, 1961, residents of First Hill and nearby neighborhoods marched in protest along the planned route of I-5 through downtown Seattle. Gov. Albert Rosellini rebuffed their outcries for delay, and I-5 clearing and construction continued.
On Aug. 28, 1963, the section of I-5 alongside PEMCO opened on the same day as the new Evergreen Point Floating Bridge.
On Feb. 3, 1965, workers completed the 19-mile Seattle-to-Everett stretch of I-5, and on Jan. 31, 1967, the last remaining freeway section opened from Olive Way in Seattle south to Midway. For the first time, motorists could travel nonstop from Everett to Tacoma.
The accompanying photos show three “then and now” scenes from nearby our PEMCO headquarters neighborhood, plus an aerial shot of early 1960s freeway construction.
Top pair: Eastlake and Harrison, near the northeast corner of our property, looking north – the older shot was taken in 1927. The garage on the left appears to be in the vicinity of today’s Foreign Auto Rebuild.
Middle pair: Eastlake and Republican, one block farther north, looking north – the older shot is dated Feb. 23, 1962, and shows I-5 construction on the right, just two months before the Century 21 World’s Fair opened. Somewhere down the road, on the left, are the Carolina Court Apartments.
Bottom pair: Eastlake and Roy, in front of TIAA-CREF (formerly the Cellular One building) at 617 Eastlake Ave. E. – these shots look northeast, across the street. The older photo from 1937 shows a large home at 702 Eastlake and Roy Street, perched directly above what is now the Mercer Street onramp to southbound I-5.
The aerial photo at the top shows I-5 under construction, with the Mercer-Fairview intersection recognizable near the lower right corner. Note the distinctive Lakeview Boulevard overpass angling above the freeway.
Photos courtesy Seattle Municipal Archives