Houseboat hopping in Seattle

Get an up-close look at the city's most distinctive neighborhood

Houseboat neighborhood
Photo: John Granen

The sewage problem disappeared with a pumping system, and the city zoned houseboat moorages as residential, requiring new moorages to provide parking. That prompted property values to skyrocket, and the design aesthetic shot up along with them.

Yet some of that early spirit endures ― there's still plenty of character and imagination on display here. Some of the newer houseboats feature porthole windows and bowed roofs, recalling the era when houseboats actually were boats, capable of moving under their own power. Some feature totem poles, and at least one has classical Doric columns, as majestic as an old bank. Container gardens are lavish, and several residents have created substantial gardens on rafts tethered to their houses. Every house has a boat, ranging from battered canoes to 30-foot sloops.

Ask about disadvantages to houseboat living, and you'll usually get a joke in reply. "No lawn to mow," says one resident, a pouty look creasing his face. An advantage they cite surprisingly often is that living in a small space forces them to simplify their lives.


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