Thursday, April 16, 2009

Seattle Border: Ship Canal

This border is fairly easy to get across. All one has to do is follow it until they come to one of the 6 bridges that cross it, not including the top of the locks that can be walked across. It serves to separate the northern half of Seattle from it's southern half. Effectively it creates a residential/business border. North of the ship canal is dominated by housing while south of the ship canal houses Belltown, Downtown, and the businesses around Lake Union. An interesting note about this separation is that until the mid 20th century, Seattle was segregated such that people of color could not live north of the canal. This largely explain the present demography of the city where the area north of the canal is wealthier and less diverse, while neighborhoods like Capital Hill, Beacon Hill, the Central District, and the Rainier Valley are highly diverse when compared with the northern half of the city.

Another probable dichotomy between the two halves of the city is that people living north of the ship canal probably cross it more than people living south of it. Practically, the business districts of Seattle are across this divide, so it makes sense. People living south would have few reasons to come north when anything on north is also presented on the south side.

As far as imposing borders go this one is not. It is largely stagnant, dirty water with a few ducks and a lot of parks and water-front property if you are willing to live in a houseboat. Still, it's enough to make crossing without a bridge incredibly undesirable, though not impossible. Mostly though, the ship canal is something to look at on sunny days and something to mostly ignore the presence of on other days.

In terms of my own feelings of the ship canal, as a student looking for housing for next school year, it presents a huge psychological barrier to look at houses or apartments across the Montlake Bridge, even though crow-wise, they may even be closer. Similarly, I-5 has that effect. It is more interesting with I-5 though, because the distance between 5th Ave. and 4th Ave is equal to any other block, but houses bearing an address west of the line are given considerably less attention than something equally far north of campus. It's not an imposing border by car or bus because the time it takes to cross is negligible. But on foot, and especially when the majority of my activities take place on the other side of the ship canal, it presents a significant psychological barrier.

Here is a more interesting article on the Ship Canal than the previously linked Wikipedia article. This has historical pictures of the construction of the canal and of the locks as well.

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