Lake Union Houseboat

Watercolor of houseboat on Lake Union

Seattle is lined by water. To the west is the Puget Sound and to the east is Lake Washington. Many boat based industries have been created along these shores. The Lake Union houseboats are the most unusual.


The Lake Union Houseboats are on the eastern and western sides of Lake Union. An easy way to see them is on the Cheshiahud Lake Union Loop. This 6.2 mile trail runs around Lake Union.

Some sights on the Cheshiahud Lake Union Loop are:


The first houseboats on Lake Union were made in the 1920s. They housed workers in the industries on Lake Union. Houseboats on Lake Union became common housing for Seattle’s poor when the Great Depression took place in the 1930s.

By the 1950s, the Lake Union Houseboats were seen as a slum. The city tried take away the houseboat’s harbors, but many houseboat owners fought the city. While the number of house boats on Lake Union was cut, some where allowed to tie up at harbors on Lake Union.

Today around 480 houseboats remain on Lake Union. They are a special part of Seattle’s urban fabric. You can see them from the Cheshiahud Lake Union Loop, but you should not go into their private harbors.


Houseboats are a form of naval architecture. They must be nice places to live, and sea going boats. This leads to some special design limitations.

The first houseboats were on trees tied together. As time went on some had hulls.

Today most are built on concrete floats. These last longer and are more stable. This makes it possible to create more complex houseboats like the one in this week’s painting.

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