Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The floating gardens of Seattle

Houseboats are something I usually connect with Amsterdam, but they actually are a distinctive part of Seattle too. Some of us might remember them as a background scenery in the romantic comedy "Sleepless of Seattle", where Tom Hanks portrayed a lovesick father looking for a new mother for his only son. Or was it the son looking for new partner for his father? Anyway, some of the earliest houseboats were constructed already in the 1880s by mill workers on the West Coast, but by the early 1900s many of there were converted into weekend cottages, suitable for recreation by the lakes in the summer time. By 1920s there was about 2500 houseboats in Seattle, since then the popularity has somewhat declined. Some time ago, I bought Caroline T. Swolpe's book "Classic Houses of Seattle. High Style to Vernacular, 1870-1950" to learn more about the early housing styles here, and found some interesting pictures of these early houseboats, small houses complete with porches and Victorian scrollwork.

Even today, there are several houseboat communities by the lakes in Seattle. I walked by one of these at the Western shore of Lake Union, and despite the signs of "no trespassing", I could not help slipping down to the piers and taking some photos. The houseboat owners here seemed to be very garden orientated; there did not seem to be much that you cannot grow on a houseboat. Tall grasses, topiary, bamboo... all of them in pots and containers, gently swaying with the waves. I really felt my bohemian side calling me, telling me to leave the present bourgeoisie life and to settle down on one of these cute dwellings... I could almost see me sipping tea and growing vegetables by the lake, taking a tour with my kayak before sitting down to write that hugely successful book. I wonder if the reality of a houseboat dweller is as romantic as I imagine?

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