This small green metal table and chair grace the deck of a brightly colored houseboat on Lake Union’s north shore. Seattle has long been familiar with houseboats or housebarges, as early well-to-do Seattleites lived aboard floating summer homes in Lake Washington around Leschi, Madrona, and Madision where the Victorians called them ‘Amphibian Houses.’ Whereas the hard-scrabble working man and ne’er-do-wells would live in locations such as the Duwamish River, Salmon Bay, Lake Union, and Portage Bay. At the turn of the new century in 1900 there were about 1,000 houseboats in Seattle. Through the years zoning laws, freeway construction, and shoreline development have shrunk the colonies significantly. These days there are less than 500 houseboats still clinging to the shores around the city and if the city had their way there will be much less.
This small houseboat (with the table for one) is moored along the north shore of Lake Union, just a few hundred yards west of the Montlake Cut which connects Lake Union with Lake Washington to the East. These houseboats have a sweeping view of downtown Seattle and the Space Needle to the south. You may recall the popular movie ‘Sleepless in Seattle,’ starring Tom Hanks featured a houseboat in Lake Union. That houseboat really does exist, it is moored on the west shore of Lake Union and is one of the largest houseboats on the Lake at just over 2,700 square feet. I, for one, would love to live in a small place, having less stuff to attend to and clean, and a houseboat would fit the bill nicely and be the cats’ meow! Would you?
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