A Little “Dirt” On Seattle Houseboats History You May Not Know

Seattle houseboats

Colorful Seattle Houseboats History on The Log Foundation docks of Eastlake in 2014. Image courtesy of Cooper Jacobs Real Estate.

Seattle Houseboats History Has A “Colorful” Background & Entrepreneurial Spirit Transcends Time…

To look at all the colorful and cheery Lake Union floating homes today is to never know how truly Seattle houseboats history is. Seattle floating homes are a living and evolving part of Seattle’s history.  From their humble beginnings over a hundred years ago as floating shanties compiled of pillaged lumber, it is amazing to see that some sell for over $3 Million dollars in today’s real estate market.

Seattle houseboats were originally built in two different ways.  Either the worker would utilize his commuting work boat and build living quarters above it, or they would gather “loose” logs and raft them together to build a completely free floating structure.  It was an inexpensive way of living and was tax free on top of it.

Madison Park Seattle houseboats

Map of Seattle houseboats along shores of Madison Park. Image Courtesy of Seattle Municipal Archives Item #944

At the peak, the Seattle floating homes community was as large as two thousand houseboats lining the shores of the city in various locations which even included Madison Park in Lake Washington.  The residents of the surrounding Seattle neighborhoods reportedly snubbed them and looked down at this way of life.  They apparently felt that it was beneath their standards and so began the struggle of Seattle houseboats to Stay Afloat In Seattle™.  Today there are around 500 Seattle floating homes and probably another two or three hundred liveaboards that are officially newly categorized as Seattle Floating On-Water Residences (final count once all have registered themselves in the latest legislation). The latest Seattle floating home dock was a new construction floating home development called Ward’s Cove.  Very specific requirements need to be in place in order to develop new construction Seattle floating homes, so it is next to impossible to do so.

If The City Historically Wanted Them Gone, Why Did They Allow Docks To Begin With?

Denny Hill View

Here is a view towards Downtown from the South slope of Denny Hill in 1886 (photo courtesy of Seattle Municipal Archives Item # 2869)

The short answer is The University of Washington. Wait.  What? The long answer is that Seattle has a very long history of making some incredibly hairbrained decisions as far as infrastructure goes. A perfect example (and my apologies for going off subject here for a minute, but….) The Denny Regrade: The hill is too big?  Scrape it into the Puget Sound. In 1900, the city decided to basically eliminate a whole hill which covered 62 city blocks.  Denny Hill was a significantly beautiful hill in Seattle.  It had a gorgeous crowned jewel of a hotel atop it that was so grand that even President Theodore Roosevelt stayed there! It had an old cemetery and a beautiful park on it with expansivel views in all directions.  In all, they removed a reported six million cubic yards of earth.

Connecting the dots:  What does this all have to do with Seattle houseboats and The University of Washington? Let’s go backwards.  The modern day campus of The University of Washington was largely laid out and shaped by The Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition of 1909.   In 1907 the city of Seattle platted and sold the submerged “parcels” in Lake Union to the adjacent waterfront property land owners.  This enabled docks to be built and Seattle houseboats to be moored to them.  According to The Lake Union Mail on an article about Submerged Parcels Park on the Cheshiahud Loop, “The “Lake Union Shore Lands” were created in 1907 as a funding mechanism for the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition (S.B. #101). Water extending from shore approximately one block (roughly 400 feet) was platted as buildable land, then sold. These parcels didn’t sink, they started sunk. And they were considered valuable.” Now you know how a World’s Fair, Denny Hill, The University of Washington, and Seattle Houseboats are related.

Seattle houseboats booze hatch

While replacing the carpet for one of our Seattle historic houseboat listings in 2010, we found an old booze hatch left over from Prohibition days. Image Courtesy of Courtney Cooper.

More Shady Past on The Lake: Life Afloat In Seattle℠: You Want To Stay Dry, Except When It Comes To Your Drink…..

Creativity has always been a strong characteristic of the Seattle floating homes community.  This was never so true as during the prohibition era. According to the 1996 article by Sharon Boswell in The Seattle Times, “But for those who couldn’t afford the pleasures of Doc’s or one of the hundreds of other boozy night spots and music clubs along Jackson Street, in Belltown or even on Lake Union houseboats, there was always a bottle of locally produced bootleg available to consume in the privacy of home.”  If floating homes seem like an unlikely place to get your alcohol fix then consider that In his highly acclaimed book, “Seattle’s Unsinkable Houseboats”, Howard Droker tells the story of a very enterprising entrepreneur who along with the cedar bark he sold off his boat, also sold smuggled Canadian liquor.

It’s absolutely true.  If you take a peek under carpets of older floating homes you will see the leftover evidence of the Prohibition era and how crafty houseboaters were able to not stay dry.  Many of them have hidden trap doors under the floor that were used for storing alcohol.  At one point in time there were regular “rum run” routes such as the one Droker writes about which would make their rounds delivering to Lake Union floating homes. These booze hatches were ingenious and stored between the floating logs with a wire cage so that the waters of the lake itself could keep the liquor cold and well hidden.  According to HistoryLink.org, The Seattle Times noted at one point that in regard to those wild times, “Some of the stories behind the houseboat population are as colorful as anything that ever came out of Seattle’s history, but respect for another’s privacy and past is an unspoken code on the lake.”

Seattle houseboats for sale in Eastlake

This historic Seattle houseboat was once used as a floating dance hall. It is for sale today for $697,000. Listed by Cooper Jacobs Real Estate. Molly Cartwright 206-841-6800

Seattle Houseboats Are Still Afloat & Strong Today

Go experience their magic – Take a kayak tour through Lake Union and Portage Bay where you will find what is left of the Seattle floating homes community.  Take a walk around Lake Union on the Cheshiahud Loop. Lake Union is the very heart of the city. Try and imagine the colorful past as you look at the beauty and creativeness which is so abundant today.  This is a living and breathing Seattle neighborhood, but also a significant part of Northwest history.  It is as vibrant as the wonderful people who live in it.  I am so thankful to have known so many of them and appreciate how they have enriched my life so far.  Please also take a minute and donate to the Seattle Floating Homes Association if you can.

Want more information on Seattle houseboats?

seattle houseboats expertsWe are happy to help!  Please call Courtney or Molly.  We are Seattle Houseboats Experts ℠, and have been Seattle Realtors specializing in floating homes and waterfront for many years. We look forward to helping you find your piece of Lake Union.

Molly Cartwright 206-841-6800   Courtney Cooper 206-850-8841
We can immediately answer your questions or email us at houseboats@CooperJacobs.com
Seattle Afloat ® We want to help you live your life Afloat In Seattle Cooper Jacobs Real Estate

Westlake Floating Home Tour In Style

Westlake Floating Home – $965,000 and just gorgeous Seattle waterfront living.

This is the perfect place to play all summer and cozy up in winter time by the fire to write your novel.  Seattle is full of life and with companies like Weyerhaeuser and Expedia moving in to close in Seattle neighborhoods, Westlake is a perfect place to live! Washington is still ranked as number one for bikes across the country and this Westlake floating home is right on the Burke-Gilman Trail!  With beautiful pathways and parks, Westlake has a lot to offer those looking at Seattle houseboats.

Please watch the video and then let us know if you would like more information.

seattlehouseboats@cooperjacobs.com  Molly: 206-841-6800

Cooper Jacobs Real Estate proudly presents:

our gorgeous Seattle floating home listing at 2420 Westlake Ave N.

Please let us know if you would like more info on Seattle houseboats, Seattle floating homes, or Seattle waterfront homes.   Also, if you are thinking about listing your Seattle home, please know that we are among the few that pay for our client’s staging bills.  This will save you thousands of dollars and can end up netting you tens of thousands of dollars over list price.

Please email one of us for details (no catch – promise).

courtney@cooperjacobs.com or molly@cooperjacobs.com

Seattle Houseboats For Sale: 2031 Fairview Ave E #G

Looking for Seattle houseboats for sale?

We just listed this gorgeous Seattle floating home on The Lake Union dock!  In looking at Seattle houseboats around the lake, this is one of two that are for sale right now that we really like. It is on a very large float and has a lot to offer for the perfect Seattle waterfront lifestyle.

If you would like to see it, please call Molly 206-841-6800 or email us at seattlehouseboats@cooperjacobs.com

Open Houses:

Thursday 11AM – 1PM

Sunday 1PM – 4PM

2031 Fairview Ave E #Gseattle houseboats

Marketing Remarks From the Listing in the NWMLS:

Second from the end on one of Eastlake’s most charming docks, this one level floating home offers an amazing lifestyle afloat on Lake Union! Situated on one of the larger floats on the lake, this well built Cape Cod home features newer appliances, newer roof (with stairs for rooftop access and big views), maple hardwoods, french doors, and a real working fireplace. Catch all the action on the lake from your living room or front deck and enjoy the security of ownership a cooperative dock offers.

$975,000

Seattle Floating Home Features

Double Pane Storm Windows, Dining Room, French Doors, High Tech Cabling, Vaulted Ceilings, Walk-in Closet

Additional Information on this home:

  • Property Description Cable TV, Deck, Dock, Fully Fenced, High Speed Internet, Moorage
  • Taxes $1,993
  • Waterfront Lake, No Bank
  • View Lake, City
  • Lot Size 0.00 Acre (1 SqFt)
  • Exterior Wood
  • Fireplaces 1 Fireplace
  • Heating/Cooling Other-See Remarks
  • Roof Composition Roof
  • Flooring Ceramic Tile Floor, Hardwood Floor

Seattle Houseboats Real Estate Market Holiday Update

Dead of  Seattle winter during the holiday break… what could possibly be shaking down on Seattle Houseboats real estate?


 

Seattle houseboatsNot a ton, although, if you are a buyer, this is a great time to get out there because you have no competition on the lake or otherwise.

Right now there are only a couple choices in Seattle floating homes for sale and they are both priced between $1.1M and $1.6M – one in Eastlake and one in Portage Bay.

As far as recent sold Seattle houseboats, Molly and I listed the little guy in Portage bay at 3012 Fuhrman Ave N, Slip #D for $229,000 and it closed just before Christmas on 12/19 with a final sales price of $235,000.  We also listed and sold the Seattle floating home on 2331 Fairview Ave E, Slip #A which closed on 10/31/2014 and had a final selling price of $345,000.

Other recent Seattle floating homes for sale that have closed in escrow are as follows:Seattle houseboats

2207 Fairview Ave E #1  Listed for $800,000 and sold for $730,000  2 bedrooms, 1.5 baths 986 sq feet closed 12/9/2014

2351 Fairview Ave E #K Listed for $1,150,000 and sold for $1,100,000 2 bedrooms, 1.75 baths 1300 square feet closed on 11/14/2014

There are quite a few off market Lake Union and Portage Bay Seattle houseboats opportunities at the moment as well.  Spring will being more of these listings to light, so let us know what you are looking for and we will keep you in mind as they come up. Molly 206-841-6800 Courtney 206-850-8841 houseboats@cooperjacobs.com

Seattle Houseboats: What A Difference A Few Weeks Makes In The Floating Home World!

Wow!  What a difference a few weeks makes for Seattle houseboats.


If you want to go back and review my Seattle Floating Homes Market Report from September, then please do so. In the course of three days in the first week or so in October, four Seattle floating homes went pending and one closed in escrow! There are only five Seattle floating homes for sale currently and only 2 of those are under $600k.

Seattle houseboats

Seattle Houseboats:  What A Difference A Few Weeks Makes In The Floating Home World!

Seattle houseboats for sale:  Of the five floating homes available for sale, here is the info:  These range in price from $550,000 to $1,890,000 with a median list price of $1,100,000.  Of these, my favorite is 2017 Fairview Ave E , Slip #O. It has owned moorage – the only one under $600 that owns its own slip.  It is well done, charming, updated, and on a great dock. They are also offering $6000 to go towards your closing costs. It’s a steal…

Pending in the MLS: There are 5 pending Seattle floating homes per the NWMLS.  These Seattle houseboats range in price from $345,000 to $1,300,000.

Seattle houseboats SOLD:  2369 Fairview Ave E #2 has closed in escrow! This is a luxury floating home on the high end Fairview Landing dock. It was listed for $2,950,000 and had a final sales price of $2,850,000 (96.61% sales price to list price). The home is a 3 bedroom 1.75 bath 2150 square foot “houseboat” built in 2009. It sold for $1,325.58 per square foot.


Would you like more information on these sales or Seattle floating homes both off and on the market? 

Courtney Cooper 206.850.8841 courtney@cooperjacobs.com

Molly Cartwright 206.841.6800 molly@cooperjacobs.com

Cooper Jacobs Real Estate:  Seattle Houseboats Realtors