News blog for Seattle's Maple Leaf neighborhood

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Peek beneath the Maple Leaf covered reservoir

Posted by Mike on December 8th, 2011

One of the more interesting structures found beneath the lid of the rebuilt Maple Leaf Reservoir is a clearly marked column.

It’s a readout, not of how many millions of gallons of water are in the reservoir, but of how far above sea level the water surface is.

Thus it’s possible to see that although you’re some 30 feet underground in possibly the city’s biggest current construction project, you’re still higher than most of Seattle. (As Maple Leaf Life is fond of pointing out, we’re the third highest hill in town, rising 466 feet outside the Blue Saucer on Roosevelt Way Northeast.)

In preparation for Saturday’s fully booked tour inside the reservoir, we took a trial run on Wednesday, accompanied by photographer Marcus Donner. (The photos with this post are copyright by Marcus R. Donner.)

On Saturday those taking the tour willl walk halfway across the white reservoir lid to concrete stairs at the south end of the reservoir. That walk takes less than four minutes. There are 48 steps leading down into the reservoir.

Underground, it doesn’t feel claustrophobic, and it’s not especially dark, either. The space is cavernous, broken up by dozens of pillars. The ceiling is 25-33 feet high. The acoustics are grand! It’s completely dry now – next month it will be flooded with 60 million gallons of drinking water.

A piece that won’t be on the tour is the circular mechanical vault, shown below, where the drinking water leaves the reservoir and heads for our kitchen taps.

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8 reader comments so far ↓

  • 1 Dan M // Dec 9, 2011 at 12:40 pm

    Thanks for this preview, Mike. Those of us who missed the cut will have to be content with pics.

    Could you be sure to get LOTS of pictures like these? Your descriptions are good and enlightening.

    Also, please make some sound recordings of what it’s like in there. Get everyone to be quiet, then one person clap their hands and listen to the decay. Have the recording device be in various locations relative to the person clapping, so the full decay of the reverb can be heard.

    Also, to pick a nit, the water from this reservoir won’t be going into OUR kitchen taps, based on an earlier article about the tower in which you said we get our water from the Lake Forest Park reservoir, which I didn’t previously know.

    Thanks again for this great site.

  • 2 Bitter Beaver // Dec 9, 2011 at 12:40 pm

    Boo for the city not expanding the tours to the rest of us whom responded within a few hours of the post (above and beyond the first 100). :(

    Wa-hoo-wa for a new, larger park for the kids! :)

  • 3 Jim Read // Dec 9, 2011 at 12:55 pm

    Thanks for your efforts with this fantastic site. I am sad that those of us who have lived with this project in our front yards are not able to take the tour and see the results of what we have put up with for nearly two years. I would have though that the tours would have been offered to “Local residents” first and then the general public afterward. For those who were working when the initial notification was given, it excluded them.
    Thanks again,

    Editor: It’s our understanding that Seattle Public Utilities is planning a separate, private tour for the folks who live on Northeast 88th Street and have had that mountain of dirt looming over them for two years. Not sure if SPU has set the date for that one yet. -Mike

  • 4 Participant in the cold... // Dec 10, 2011 at 9:46 am

    Like the Beav, I am also bitter about not being able to get in on a tour. Hearing that the people on NE 88th get a special tour just rubs salt into the wound. I live on the south side of the park. Though not as much, we were also impacted by the project. Many of us were also involved in all of the park planning meetings, donating our time. Most of us also work to get money so we can pay taxes to pay for such projects, so were not aware within minutes of the opportunity to do the tour. By the time we were aware of it, the slots were gone. Nobody even replied to our requests. It leaves a foul taste…

    I also agree that it’s a great project and am looking forward to the expanded park.

  • 5 Kiki Kane // Dec 10, 2011 at 3:29 pm

    Tour was so great – thanks to all who made it possible. What a unique opportunity! Would love to see more photos if anyone got any really great shots!
    Editor: We had a photographer on site for the first tour and anticipate posting those photos tomorrow Sunday. In addition, The Seattle Times had a photographer on the third and fourth tours. -Mike

  • 6 Jack Remick // Dec 10, 2011 at 5:47 pm

    Hi Mike,
    Terrific show today. A lot of people who couldn’t make the tour are anxious to see some of the photos the visitors took. I hope we see some postings. Thanks for making this happen.

  • 7 Jack Remick // Dec 10, 2011 at 6:25 pm

    PS: I was amazed to learn that the tower with the Maple Leaves, the neighborhood logo, is not on line and will not be used in the future. Instead, the tower will, at some time, be taken down. That’s too bad.
    Editor: Afternoon, Jack. Good to see you there today. It’s been our understanding all along (or at least since August) that we get to keep the water tower. We confirmed it with SPU this morning. That’s why they are repainting it. They are using it as a giant antenna support; in addition, it would cost a minor fortune to take it down. -Mike

  • 8 Edward J. Dyer // Dec 13, 2011 at 1:59 pm

    Fantastic article. This is just great journalism. Be proud of this.