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Alki Natatorium - 2/4 Leathurby-Smith
Seattle, Washington
2600 block of Alki Avenue, between 58th and Marine
Organ installation timeframe: 1934 - 1936
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Alki Natatorium, after 1939
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Aerial view, Alki Natatorium, c. 1940s
The Alki Natatorium, or swimming pool, was a favorite recreational spot for Seattle residents. Built by a private developer in 1934, the facility was forced to close in 1939 after an accidental death at the pool.
Following a lawsuit, the City of Seattle assumed ownership of the property in 1941, and in 1942 the "Nat" was rennovated and reopened.
The Alki Natatorium had 2/4 Leathurby-Smith theatre organ. This instrument was previously installed in the Liberty Theatre in Ketchikan, Alaska. According to Eugene Nye's detailed records, the organ was installed in 1934 for a cost of $750. Mr. Nye was one of the regular organists. The instrument was removed in 1936.
According to Jim Stettner's review of the Bill Bunch/Eugene Nye records, the organ was subsequently installed in the Marketeers Club (specific date unknown). After a fire there, the chests were removed to Dittleson's Funeral Home in Kelso, and the relay and switchboard were moved to the William J. Bunch residence in Seattle. Current disposition is unknown.
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Alki Beach boardwalk showing Natatorium in the distance, c.1940s
By the late 1940's the Natatorium had fallen into disrepair and in 1948, Seattle voters approved $165,000 for refurbishment. Over the next few years, plans were drawn up for a combination natatorium and fieldhouse. Unfortunately, constructions bids for the project came in at $50,000 over budget, and in 1952, residents settled for a compromise fieldhouse that did not include a natatorium.
The "Nat's" days were numbered. Vandals smashed virtually every window in the abandoned building. Seagulls dropping clams finished off the glass skylights. In March 1953, the Alki Natatorium was sold to a demolition firm for $2,870 and razed.
<---- Here, kids peer through shattered windows of the deteriorating Natatorium. August 1950.
Interestingly, the Alki Natatorium was not the first facility in West Seattle to offer salt water swimming. The Luna Park Natatorium was the first on record, opening in 1907. In 1911, the Alki Bathing Pavilion was built. A glimpse of this structure is shown at the lower right of the aerial photo above.

From Pacific Magazine, Seattle Times. Paul Dorpat, February 6, 2005
For the 19 years that the Alki Natatorium covered the beach, it was closed and or in disrepair about as much as it was open to plungers and other recreation ists. The sprawling center was camped on the tides side of Alki Avenue between 58th and Marine Avenues Southwest.
IF WE COULD read the license plate on the car (which looks very much like the one my dad drove from North Dakota in 1946), we could date this stark portrait of the Alki Natatorium. Since much of the glass along the Alki Avenue façade is busted out, we know this scene was photographed sometime when the fitful entertainment center was not serving.
But when it was jumping, there was more than swimming here. For instance, the neon sign with the diving swimmer also advertises dining and dancing at the Shore Café. And at least during the late 1930s when the Premier Amusement Co. was running it, the “Nat” was also a skating rink.
This natatorium was the last of three built along the beach. The first opened near Alki Point in 1905, but quietly closed while planning an “Oriental-styled” enlargement, complete with “real Geisha Girls.” The second opened in 1907 with Luna Park at Duwamish Head. And although the amusement park was soon closed for introducing “lewd and disorderly behavior,” the big indoor natatorium stayed open until 1931, when it was one of many targets torched by an arsonist that year.
Three years later, this Nat opened a short distance up the beach from the Municipal Bath House. The Nat managed to survive the Great Depression but not a lawsuit by an injured swimmer in 1939. In 1942 the Seattle Parks Department renovated and reopened it in time for the preoccupations of the war, and the place again closed. Especially when dark, its great expanse of roof glass was pelted by naughty children with rocks borrowed from the beach. Several moves by the Parks Department and City Council to restore it after the war languished, and in 1953 the Alki Natatorium was razed.

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