News Blog for Seattle's University District Neighborhood


U-District History: Ice skating on Lake Washington and professors on skis

November 29th, 2010 · 1 Comment

Last week’s pre-Thanksgiving snowstorm left some motorists with little to be thankful for as they waited in Interstate-5 traffic for hours.

This one, though, won’t be one for the history books. Probably not even a “decade’s worst” list. Then again, it’s only November, and a La-Nina winter looms ahead.

Let’s just hope we won’t have a repeat of Feb., 1916 blizzard that dropped 21.5 inches during 24-hours in Seattle, still a record. It was, in the words of UW atmospheric scientist Cliff Mass, “the biggest of the big” Washington snow storms.

Around the U-District that year, workers heaved snow off the roof of the university’s Denny Hall. They weren’t interested in sniping unsuspecting students below. No lightheartedness here. Actually, nothing light at all; the roof could have collapsed under the tremendous weight of all that snow.

A few yards away, the university’s grandstands did collapse. Apparently, the wet snow weighed a lot more than the hundreds of people the grandstands were meant to accommodate.

The Daily of 1916 reported during a 1917, anniversary-story that the weather hampered travel so much that “professors came to classes on skis and in wagons when they came at all.” For freshmen registration, a whopping total of 22 students braved the snowy weather to register, still a record low.

In another winter first, the U-District played host to the first UW ice-skating competition on a frozen Lake Washington during Jan., 1930. The Daily had the details:

“Each aggregation will be built around four men, every one of whom will circle the course twice – a distance of approximately 700 yards.”

The winning team, though, seems lost to history.

Oh, yes, and our lovely snow-maiden photograph. That was the result of some vigorous sculpting by some university students during 1950:

“Take a little snow, add the right touch of moisture, skill, willingness, and memory, stir up a little college blood, and what do you get? Answer: Minerva, the goddess of love – in snow, yet.  The statue is currently reclining on a snow bank in front of the Theta Delta Chi fraternity, where passing students can view with full appreciation this high tribute to – ah – art.”

The inevitable melting of the 1950 storm, the only snowfall to rival 1916’s, The Daily reporters chronicled these happenings:

“Campus walkways turned to slush and then to ice. The Book Store’s basement stockroom began to leak. Coeds fell into interesting heaps. Noses ran. Men cursed.”

Chaos. We’ll have to wait and see what’s in store for this winter.