IMAGES COURTESY OF MOHAI
The West Seattle Junction was little more than boggy woodland until April 1907, when two streetcar lines were connected at California Avenue SW and SW Alaska Street (then 9th Street). Within a month, a dozen real estate agents had opened offices at what quickly became known as “the Junction.”
By 1911, the Junction had grown from a ramshackle collection of real-estate offices into a full-fledged business district. At least three grocery stores, two lumber companies, a hardware store, two electrical firms, three physicians, and two fuel outlets were located within a half-mile radius of the streetcar crossing. On the other hand, the streets were unpaved, the only structures were single-story and made of wood, and there were still more Douglas firs than buildings.
The first brick building in the neighborhood was the eight-room, three-story Thomas Jefferson School, which opened in January 1912 on a 1.69-acre site one block southeast of the Junction. Only 135 children, in grades one through five, were enrolled that first year. “We rattled around like peas in a pod because we had so few students,” one student recalled. “We had to be quiet to not disturb people” (Jefferson School History). By 1917, Jefferson was bulging with 443 students in grades one through eight. The school board bought an additional acre and a half the next year and added a five-room annex to handle the overflow.