Regional Impact


“The bridge, however, changed everything [for the Eastside]. The long trip around the lake was now a 20-minute dash across it. When the tolls were lifted in 1949, there was nothing between a generation of families — the parents of the baby boomers — and their new homes in the suburbs.”[1]

After the opening of the Floating Bridge the rural Eastside of Lake Washington experienced explosive growth.

“Freeman, a former Yakima newspaper publisher and once a confidant of President Herbert Hoover, had been campaigning since early this century for a swifter route to carry Eastern Washington farm produce over Snoqualmie Pass to Seattle's markets and docks. He swung his weight behind the bridge plan. Six years after it opened. Freeman and his son Kemper built the $600,000 shopping center that became Bellevue Square.”[2]

Six years after the bridge is completed Bellevue Square Mall opens, one of the first shopping centers of its kind in the nation.

“The bridge encouraged development of the Sunset Highway corridor, and underlay the Eastside's explosive postwar growth. On Mercer Island, population and property values leapt more than 300 percent between 1940 and 1950. Irate island landowners angrily protested their 1944 assessments, blaming wartime inflation for prices that approached $100 per lakefront foot. Bellevue's strawberry fields bristled with “For Sale” signs. The first tenants of Bellevue Square — the Bel–Vue Theatre, the Crabapple Restaurant, and Frederick and Nelson...”[3]

Without the bridge its very likely that the Eastside would have remained a sparsely populated farming area, like much of Eastern Washington due to the long commute into Seattle around Lake Washington. Today remanants of the once vibrant farming communities can still be seen in Bellevue, notably the Mercer Slough and Larsen Lake Blueberry Farms both of which were purchased by the city in 1940 in order to preserve Bellevue’s agricultural heritage.[4]

“It all happened so fast. Bellevue's last strawberry festival was in 1941; Mercer Island’s last deer-hunting season was in 1942.”[3]
“The construction of the first bridge across Lake Washington in 1939 was instrumental in changing Bellevue from a farming community into a bustling suburb.”[5]

Page Works Cited

1. McOmber, J. Martin. “Fledgling city with a sense of destiny.” The Seattle Times 25 March 2003. 2. Engstrom, John. “Our hearts sank Seattle's soul took the high road over a floating concrete bridge; [FINAL Edition].” Seattle Post–Intelligencer 20 December 1990: C8. 3. Boswell, Sharon and Lorraine McConaghy. “A bridge to the future.” 16 June 1996. The Seattle Times 1896-1996. 10 October 2009 <>. 4. “Bellevue Blueberry Farms.” 2010. City of Bellevue – Find Bellevue Parks and Facilities. 4 March 2010 <>. 5. Stein, Alan J. “Bellevue — Thumbnail History.” 9 November 1998. The Free Online Encyclopedia of Washington State History. 4 December 2009 <>.