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This Month In History: Freeway Construction Shutters Denny Way Access to Capitol Hill.

Temporary wooden bridge extending from Olive Place to Yale Ave. Circa 1962, looking west Image: Washington State Archives

For those of you, whether on foot or on wheels, gnashing your teeth over how frustrating it has been this summer to traverse the construction-ridden Denny way corridor as thousands more flood the area each month, here's a look back to a summer that was just as bad or worse. It was the summer of 1962 and Seattle was mid way through its Century 21 World's Fair. Millions of visitors had passed through the city and millions more were yet to come and as if that didn't make getting around hard enough, I-5 construction was occurring simultaneously.

On July 3rd 1962 this construction required the shutdown of Denny Way between Eastlake Ave and Melrose Ave in order to build the Denny Way bridge over I-5. To supplement the loss of access, a temporary, two-lane, wooden bridge constructed one block south (pictured above) took its place.

The yellow line in the image below is where the wooden bridge connected Yale Ave on the left to Olive Place on the right. That triangle building on Olive Place is the home of Knee High Stocking Company.

Present day birds eye view with location of the former wooden bridge highlighted in yellow. Google Images.

According to the Capitol Hill Times, the roughly 10,000 drivers who took Denny Way each day would have to take this detour. Also, Capitol Hill businesses responded to the situation with a "shop-at-home" campaign with the assumption that it would simply be too challenging for residents to take the detour and shop elsewhere.

Fifteen months and $36,000 later (worth $286,000 today) Denny Way reopened as a widened 4-lane thoroughfare crossing over I-5 up to Bellevue Ave beyond which it narrows down again.

A nearly complete Denny Way bridge under construction circa September 1963. Image: Seattle Times.

Another view of the temporary wooden bridge extending from Olive Place to Yale Ave. Circa 1963, looking north. Image Frank Shaw (via Paul Dorpat)

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