Photo by Tim Robinson-1974
Clarence Gresset, WC resident and historian posed for this picture of the remains from a skid road at the Salmon Creek curve, close to where Schick Shadel Hospital is now.

The history of Ambaum Boulevard, Part 2: Hard work

by Rob Clay and Sharon Burkhart*

From Ohio in 1902, Jacob Ambaum arrived with his wife Mary, found work helping clear land for part of the Cedar River rail line near Renton that same year. He also helped clear the land along SW Roxbury St. up to the intersection of McKinnon Rd. (now Delridge) and 16th S.W. in what is virtually downtown White Center.

Seattle was a bustling place at the turn of the century. The city had streetcars all the way to the tide flats at Spokane Street. and across them to the shores of Harbor Avenue. The growth of immigrant families, Italians, Germans, Slavs and a few Irish were intent on developing the south end. Chicken farms became popular along the streetcar line, especially from 120th to 128th in what became part of Burien.

The street car line was the ambition of George White who secured a permit from King County by 1912 when construction began. The streetcar would become a reality once a path was cleared. Several moneyed investors helped finance the line that followed West Marginal Way south from Spokane street and up the hill to Holden street just north of White Center. There it turned west to 16th S.W., turning again south to 107th (where Yarington's Funeral home is now. The line turned east again to head up the hill to Mt. View elementary School before turning south all the way to Salmon Creek. A major landslide knocked the line out of service for almost 18 months.

Operations resumed by May 1914 but progress did not stop for Jacob Ambaum. Ambaum was a leader.. He was determined to get a road built from just south of present day White Center to Burien. Ten years before, he very likely worked on the Puncheon Rd coming up the hill on what became Meyers Way. There is some reference to heavy, flat-sided timbers being used instead of the actual view in the illustration provided.

Ambaum's road did not follow the streetcar line but took a more direct path initially. Heading due south from 112th street, it met up with the streetcar line at Salmon Creek. With a team of horses, necessary tools and back-breaking labor, Ambaum hired a crew to cut the swath of timber from 112th SW, through and around the Salmon Creek curve and on to Burien (then called Sunnydale) at 152nd Street.

Ambaum Rd. 1927 at S.W.122nd Street. Note cement roadway and streetcar tracks Highline Times 1974

At Salmon Creek, the ravine posed a serious problem. It was a convenient slope with a "skid road" for timber coming up from the mouth of the creek (much larger outfall then). Clarence Gresset (community historian shown in photo) stands on the old timbers the loggers used to bring the cut wood up to the top of Salmon Creek ravine.
Clarence Gresset, WC resident and historian posed for this picture of the remains from a skid road at the Salmon Creek curve, close to where Schick Shadel Hospital is now. Photo by Tim Robinson-1974
The street car and the road had to follow the slope. That would not happen easily, so Ambaum and the streetcar investors created a big loop in the line heading it more east to avoid the creek before resuming a straight line to S.W. 130th where it curved slightly at Pasquan's Hill (formerly the site of Standring Hospital and currently Milan Recovery Center).
Pasquan’s Hill may have been part of the problem of flooding in the area known as Herme’s Depression( a small pond) and an issue for Jacob Ambaum and the road crew. The runoff from Pasquan’s Hill helped fill the low areas just east of where Ambaum Rd would be built. Marian Ambaum DeLeuw* (Jacob’s adopted daughter) recalls rafting in the small pond after heavy spring rains failed to drain away. Her dad tried unsuccessfully to drain it further east. It remained an issue for the county for many years after and can be seen today as a retention pond just east of the Goodwill store at 128th and Ambaum.

Clarence Gresset, WC resident and historian posed for a picture of the remains from a skid road at the Salmon Creek curve, close to where Schick Shadel Hospital is now.

At the beginning of the Great Depression (not Hermes) Marian was starting school at Mt. View where she would ride the streetcar line north to 107th. The line had been in operation for nearly 17 years but fell on the hard times requiring maintenance and money.

In 1929 Jacob Ambaum was approached by the Highland Park management to inquire if he was interested in taking over the line. The line was in debt. Ambaum turned it down. The failure of the line was bad news for Marian who claimed she would ride to Seahurst at the end of the line, head down the hill Three Tree Point and play all day with her friends. She’d walk back home with her friends thinking nothing of the distance (2.5 miles). She was barely 11 years old when the tracks were finally removed. The old wagon road from 112th to Burien, improved by Ambaum, was graveled, bricked and eventually cemented as the number of cars and people increased.

*(Sharon Burkhart was raised near Salmon Creek. Her family befriended Marian Ambaum DeLeuw (daughter of Jacob and Mary Ambaum) in the 40’s when Marian’s father and Sharon’s dad worked together at Todd Shipyards. Sharon was very close to Marian and her own daughter JoAnn. In later years Sharon interviewed Marian about her life from the early days of the 30’s until her taking residence at Providence Mt. St. Vincent where she (Marian) passed away in 2013.

(Next week part 3 illegal alcohol and how the new road helped make it happen)

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