Jacob Ambaum and wife Mary sit on their porch with family house guest in 1905 (photo from Mary Ambaum Deleuw and "White Center Remembers" by Mike Knapp and Peg Young.

The history of Ambaum Boulevard, Part 1

by Rob Clay and Sharon Burkhart

Editor's note: This is part one of a story about historic Ambaum Boulevard, the main road that connects Burien to White Center and West Seattle. Ambaum Boulevard wasn't always a boulevard and certainly not paved but is currently traveled by thousands of vehicles each day. Here is the story: As told from oral histories of Marian Ambaum Deleuw to Sharon Burkhart in 1992.

A sometimes muddy wagon trail ran along the trolley tracks from S.W. 112th St., near White Center in 1912; the tracks were part of the Highland Park and Burien street car line built with wheelbarrows, picks, shovels and plain grit. Old growth fir was cut, stumps blasted and sweat poured from men like Jacob Ambaum. Ambaum was determined to also get a road built that followed the tracks, all the way to Burien. The "road builder" barely got the two back-breaking blocks completed before the city of Seattle took over and helped finish the job.The rail line was out of money that year with no takers. Regardless, Ambaum knew a road could be built never realizing it would be named for him. His dream had been to follow the trolley tracks all the way to Seahurst. The city agreed, finishing the job in 1916.

Formerly, the trolley brought citizens from Seattle, either up McKinnon Rd (now Delridge) or from another line up from Marginal way to Henderson St. where it met up with the Dumar line at Roxbury and 16th in White Center. It continued to Yarington's Funeral home where it turned east to Mt. View Elementary school and then south down 12th S.W. to Salmon Creek.

East of White Center, a road came up from South Park. It was a "Puncheon" road made of one side, flat-cut fir logs for the grade now known as Meyer's Way. It continued up into what became "Top Hat" or Beverly Park. These roads made development south of White Center a reality by 1918.

Jacob Ambaum was an ambitious immigrant from Germany, by way of Ohio in 1902. With his wife, Mary, he homesteaded on the land now occupied by St. Bernadette church at 128th and Ambaum. He'd purchased the land from Mr. Solomon after Solomon became troubled by constant winter flooding in an area then known as Hermes depression. Solomon dug a trench east to a larger, lower part of the depression, hoping the water would flow east and keep his area dry. When that failed to solve his dilemma he sold to the Haselton's (Hazel Valley) and the Ambaum's.

Jacob Ambaum was 34 and already had a career as a baker in Ohio before heading west to Washington State in 1902. Jacob began work on the Cedar River road and rail line east of Renton, a lengthy commute by horse and wagon with his wife Mary in tow. Mary worked as the camp cook. Around that same time, Jacob helped clear the ground from South Park, up the hill to Henderson St. for the road to follow the trolley line there. By this time his "road builder" moniker stuck.

Several men in Burien were interested in a streetcar line, enlisting Ambaum's help in 1905 working with the City of Seattle to extend the line from just south of Spokane St. all the way to Seahurst at the west end of 152nd St. Ambaum wanted the line too, setting out to help from what would become White Center*. Part (2) next week.

*White Center was not actually White Center but rather a small development with simple named districts on the street car line like Carvella, Oak Park, Mt. View, Salmon Creek, Hazel Valley, until a coin flip in 1918 between two pioneers gave the nod to the winner, George H. White.

We encourage our readers to comment. No registration is required. We ask that you keep your comments free of profanity and keep them civil. They are moderated and objectionable comments will be removed.