Seattle City Light Negatives, 1914-1995

Overview of the Collection

Seattle City Light
Seattle City Light Negatives
1914-1995 (inclusive)
150,000 images
Collection Number
Photographic negatives documenting the development of Seattle's public electric utility.
Seattle Municipal Archives
Seattle Municipal Archives
Office of the City Clerk
City of Seattle
PO Box 94728
Seattle, WA
Telephone: 2062337807
Fax: 2063869025
Access Restrictions

Records are open to the public.


Historical NoteReturn to Top

Seattle City Light provides electricity and electrical and conservation services to its public and private customers. It is the largest public utility in the Pacific Northwest. Public responsibility for electrical energy dates to 1890 with creation of the Department of Lighting and Water Works. In 1902, Seattle voters passed a bond issue to develop hydroelectric power on the Cedar River under the administration of the Water Department. Electricity from this development began to serve Seattle in 1905. A City Charter amendment in 1910 created the Lighting Department. Under the leadership of Superintendent James D. Ross, the department developed the Skagit River hydroelectric project, which began supplying power in 1924. Both public and private power were supplied to Seattle until 1951 when the City purchased the private electrical power supply operations, making the Lighting Department the sole supplier. The Boundary Project in northeastern Washington began operations in 1967 and supplied over half of City Light's power generation. By the early 21st century, approximately ten percent of City Light's income came from the sale of surplus energy to customers in the Northwest and Southwest with the remainder of City Light's financial support coming from customer revenue. The current name of the agency was adopted in 1978 when the Department was reorganized.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

Both color and black and white photographic negatives documenting the development of Seattle’s public electric utility, including dam construction, water main installation, and facilities. Includes photos of dam construction in the Cedar River Watershed and the Skagit, and the Boundary Project; transmission lines and substations; City Light facilities, and employees. Subseries of images relate to Boundary Dam, Gorge High Dam, and Ross Dam. Other generating facilities depicted are Cedar Falls, Diablo Dam, Lake Union and Georgetown steam plants, and the Newhalem hydroelectric plant. A wide selection of images relating to the construction of the Boundary Dam are scanned and online but additional negatives and negatives depicting construction of the Diablo, Gorge, Ross and High Ross Dams are unscanned. From the late 1940s onward, subseries “P” and “C” depict employee events, substations, facilities, employees, and uses of electricity as well as additional images of the dams. Highlights include the control room at the Power Control Center, Seafair and other parades, Seattle City Light Employee Association (CLEA) events, employee sports teams, and substations across the city. The “P” series is scanned through the early 1960s and the “C” (color) series through the early 1970s; other negatives in these series are unscanned. In addition, this series includes personnel photos. Over 26,000 images have been scanned and are available for download on the digital platform. View 1204-01 online

Support for the scanning, cataloging, and indexing of 8,000 negatives related to the construction of Boundary Dam was provided by the Seattle City Light Environmental Affairs and Real Estate Division.

Use of the CollectionReturn to Top

Preferred Citation

[Title of image, date. Item number.] Seattle City Light Negatives, Record Series 1204-01. Box [number], Folder [number]. Seattle Municipal Archives.

Administrative InformationReturn to Top

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

Subject Terms

  • Cedar Falls Power Plant (Wash.)
  • Cedar River Watershed (King County, Wash.)
  • Diablo Dam (Wash.)
  • Electric heating--Washington (State)--Seattle
  • Electric lighting--Washington (State)--Seattle
  • Electric utilities--Washington (State)--Seattle
  • Electric power--Washington (State)--Seattle
  • Gorge Dam (Wash.)
  • Ross Dam (Wash.)
  • Water-power--Washington (State)--Seattle

Corporate Names

  • Seattle (Wash.). Dept. of Lighting
  • Seattle City Light

Geographical Names

  • Newhalem (Wash.)
  • Seattle (Wash.)
  • Skagit River (B.C. and Wash.)

Form or Genre Terms

  • Photography--Negatives