Lawton Gowey, a friend now long departed, is still a frequent contributor to this feature. Ordinarily it has been with historical photographs from his collection but this time it is with one of his own Kodachromes, and as was his considerate habit, it is dated. On the late morning of June 20, 1962, with his back to the landmark steel pergola (1920) at the waterfront foot of Washington Street, Lawton recorded a harbor patrol boat carefully jockeying between its float and the 27,000 tons of the Dominion Monarch.
The 682-foot-long Dominion M. was the largest of three ships parked on the Seattle waterfront during Century 21 to serve as hotel ships, aka “boatels,” during the worlds fair. With the hindsight of the “Marine History of the Pacific Northwest,” which he authored, Port Commissioner and maritime historian Gordon Newell admitted that the fair’s “predicted major housing shortage failed to develop.” The boatels were not much needed, and yet the shapely English vessel was for many a sensational attraction and during the fair Newell won the concession for leading tours aboard it. Standing on its flying bridge, ten stories high, one looked down on the Alaskan Way Viaduct.
It is possible that Gowey also toured this big boatel on the day he photographed it, for on that same June 6 Wednesday morning The Seattle Times humorist John Reddin wrote about taking the tour. Reddin imagined or mistook his guide, Commissioner Newell, in his “white, tropical uniform,” as “Noel Coward playing the lead role in ‘In Which We Serve’” Reddin concluded that Newell “easily could play Lieut. Pinkerton in ‘Madame Butterfly’.”
Almost certainly it was another waterfront regular E. A. “Eddie” Black who favored Newell with his tour leader’s role, for it was Black who intercepted the Dominion Monarch, then on its way to Japan for scrapping, to come to the fair first. Black was a seasoned and savvy operator on the waterfront who escaped official leans on vessels tied to docks by making his rented cruiser a “permanent installation.” He simply drove pilings to both the port and starboard sides of the Dominion Monarch. This made the gangway to the ship’s lodgings and/or Newel’s dapper tours somewhat longer than if the Dominion Monarch had been tied snugly to Pier 50.
One correction, Paul, to your otherwise excellent column – I was up before 6 AM to meet the SPD boat at the foot of Washington Street at 6:30 – a real sign of dedication on an early but lovely summer’s morning.
Anything to add, Paul?
A little “before 6 AM” may be about when I get to bed this morning – unless I put off some of it until tomorrow or “another day.”
Yes Jean there are some related past features from this neighborhood to put up and a few odd images that also hang around the waterfront near the foot of Washington or thereabouts.
First we have two links to touch or trigger.
The first of these leads to a very relevant former blog – one from the month of May, last. It includes a good many subjects that explore the waterfront south of Yesler Way. Here’s the link.
The second link is to that well-illustrated tome that is buttoned on the front page of this blog as the Waterfront History. If you dear reader go to the first part of that chronicle you will find more that is relevant about this part of the waterfront. Reach the Waterfront History link by mousing the image that follows here – and thanks again to Ron Edge for finding and placing it.
WASHINGTON STREET WATERFRONT GREETINGS
(First appeared in Pacific, July 27, 1997)
Since 1920 the waterfront foot of Washington Street has been distinguished by the steel pergola erected there from the plans of D.R. Huntington, the city’s official architect. The shelter and its floats were a public work described as preparing “a shore location . . . for the Pacific Fleet.”
After the 1908 visit of Teddy Roosevelt’s Great White Fleet, military flotillas on Elliott Bay became something of a summer ritual. Jack Dillon, one of Seattle’s “ardent mariners,” recalls the excitement of waiting here for the Navy’s shore boats to pick up him and hundreds of other children and their parents to visit the dreadnoughts during Fleet Week.
For many years the shelter and its adjoining moorings were the home of the city’s Harbor Patrol. After 1923 the Harbor Patrol ran its own radio station on Pier 50, far right. Dillon remembers that its studio was separated by a glass partition from the passenger waiting room at the waterfront end of the dock. There his mother and he would board Canadian Pacific steamers for their frequent visits with relatives in Victoria.
In 1927 the slip below the shelter was outfitted for the regular use of small boats. During World War IT this public boat landing was regularly swamped by the wakes of water taxis that ran between here and the shipyards on Harbor Island.
Private donations restored the pergola in 1973 and revived the slip’s service to small boats with 200 feet of new concrete floats. The city’s Harbor Patrol moved from the site, and a campaign to site a maritime museum here failed in part because of the encroachments of the waterway’s big neighbor at Pier 48, the Alaska ferries. Among other big ships that used this slip was the Admiral Line, and it was here aboard its Curacoa that Jack Dillon took his first maritime job as a steerage waiter in 1923, at the tender age of 12.
NEXT: A few photos taken by Frank Shaw of the small boat harbor at the foot of Washington Street and a few visitors will show it in its then still recently refreshed state.
NOW We lay me down to bed and will return late-morning. So please check again if you will.
And now we rise up and continue – 11:30 Sunday morning.
NOTE: The feature below was my third contribution to Pacific, published first on Jan. 31, 1982.
RAILROAD AVENUE by E.H. HEGG
(First appeared in PACIFIC, Jan 31, 1982)
In 1897, thousands of “traveling men” jumped from the piers along Seattle’s Railroad Avenue onto crowded steamers headed for the Klondike goldfields. One of them was an itinerant photographer, E.H. Hegg. However, Hegg’s rush was not caused by gold fever but the opportunity for extracting exciting subjects. When he returned in 1900, the exposed silver on his photographic plates was a mineral more inestimable than gold.
Here Hegg has returned to Railroad Avenue, the scene of his earlier departure. It was still a stage of energetic confusion with at many as eight railroad lines jockeying for right-of-way. It often took days of creative switching to move freight from one pier shed to the next. On loose fill pushed out 150 feet from the shore, this giant boardwalk of flapping planks and settling tracks was dangerous for any pedestrian wanting to reach the water. A waterfront as dilapidated as this one often was, was not consistent with the progressive pride of the “Wonder City of the West.” It would take years of litigation to undue the political and commercial tangles for which these overlapping tracks were a symbol. The ambitious city was stuck with a homely front door to both visitors and the new century.
Another civic embarrassment was the “castle” on the hill. It was very imposing but also empty. Although built in 1890 the Denny Hotel was still not receiving guests in 1900 when Hegg photographed it (see above left), nor in 1902 when he left town once again. Not until 1903 was its interior appointed and front door ready to open to the stout big stick of President Teddy Roosevelt, its first patron. Yet by 1907 both the hotel and that part of Denny Hill on which it stood would be leveled to a grade more satisfying to yet another earth-mover, City Engineer R.H. Thomson.
Today Railroad Avenue is less an urban theater and more a charming sideshow renamed Alaskan Way. And it is still set apart from the city. Since its opening in 1953, the viaduct above has provided both a panoramic tour and fast bypass of the central city. But although one can pass over and under this viaduct, one cannot see through it dearly. The effect is that the city’s separation from its waterfront has been reinforced with concrete.
THE ELEVATED COMMUTER
(First appeared in Pacific, Oct. 16, 1983)
On September 4, 1919 the Seattle Municipal Street Railway completed the building of its elevated line above Railroad Avenue. The event was remarkably subdued. There were no brass bands, no speeches amplified by public spirit, and no ceremonial first rides. Only a short bit buried on an inside page of the Times noted “Cars on Elevated.” The reporter speculated that once the somewhat wobbly operation proved safe, the streetcars would be running up to speed and that then the trip to Alki and Lake Burien would be cut by as much as 15 minutes. When the line was first proposed in 1917, it was not designed to get West Seattle residents home from work a quarter hour sooner. It was promoted to beat the Kaiser.
When the U.S. entered the First World War in April 1917, Seattle’s southern harbor was already mobilized and setting speed records in shipbuilding. But while the workers were fast on their jobs, they were slow getting to their war work. The then privately owned street railway system was dilapidated, and its service to South Seattle inadequate.
Encouraged by the federal government’s Emergency Fleet Corporation, Mayor Hiram Gill proposed that the city build its own elevated service to the shipyards. In 1918 he put the plan to a vote. The voters chose the elevated but not Hi Gill who lost his reelection bid to a gregarious politico named Ole Hanson. The ambitious Hanson took up the task of forwarding both the trestle’s elevation and his own. The new mayor boarded the civic bandwagon for municipal ownership of the entire street railway system. This was put to a vote and the enthused citizens agreed to the purchase price of 15 million, or three times the deteriorated system’s appraised worth.
Armistice Day came only one week after the November 5th election, and when the international hostilities subsided, the local ones heated up. Without war orders the once frantic south bay shipbuilding took a dive. Layoffs and wage cuts followed. The trestle, which was still under construction, began to loom as a white elephant. Like the shipbuilders it was built to transport, it was not so needed.
The waterfront strike, which followed in January of 1919, soon spread city-wide to a four-day general strike. Mayor Hanson characterized this “revolution” as a “treasonable Bolshevist uprising.” His “heroic struggle” against these “red forces” got him a lot of world press, and the mayor was briefly catapulted into the national limelight. It also deflected local criticism against him as the highest-placed early proponent of the debt-ridden and still dilapidated Seattle Municipal Street Railway.
His honor liked both the publicity and the protection from public criticism so much that he resigned, took off on a national lecture tour, and in a moment of gracious megalomania made himself available for the Republican presidential nomination. The almost equally anonymous Warren Harding beat him out of it.
The older photograph (third above) was probably taken shortly before the elevated line was completed on September 4, 1919. Both the special car and the tracks have workmen on them, and the motorman seems to be posing. On the left, some of the men lined up under the old J & M Cafe’s Washington Street entrance may be idle ship-workers seeking work through the C.M.&S.P. Employment Agency in the little Collins Building just left of street car No. 103. Now both the Milwaukee Road and its employment agency are long gone.
On October 12, 1929, or only ten years and eight days after it was completed, the Railroad Avenue Elevated was condemned and sold for salvage for $8,200. By then Ole Hanson had lone since moved to southern California and founded a new town, which would many years later put his name in touch again with the presidency. He named his seaside community San Clemente. (It occurs to me in this election year of 2012 that some readers may not by now know the link implied thirty years ago when this was first published. San Clemente was the home of Richard M. Nixon.)
ELEVATED and ABANDONED
(First appeared in Pacific, April 30, 1995, and surely repeats some of what was used thirteen years earlier and printed again above.)
The “readiness” hysteria accompanying the United States’ participation in World War I resulted in a number of local public works described at the time as “military necessities.” Among these was the elevated railroad that ran above Railroad Avenue (Alaskan Way South) from Pioneer Square to the Spokane Street bridge.
It was proposed in 1917 to speed wartime workers to the South Bay shipyards on and around Harbor Island, but electric trolleys first swayed atop its wooden trestle long after the war ended and the munitions boom had gone flat. The cars started running Sept. 4, 1919, and stopped ten years later. But it was a decade of thrills for West Seattle commuters, who still remember the amusement-ride characteristics of the elevated, especially when the exposed cars – after wobbling across the West Seattle bridge on Spokane Street – took a sharp left turn off Spokane, accelerating for a fast run into downtown above Marginal Way.
The final excitement came with the last curve – seen here – down to the line’s Pioneer Square terminus at First South and Washington Street. This may be the last view looking down the ramp through that final block. The trestle was dismantled soon after this photograph was shot on May 12, 1930, seven months after the line was condemned. It was sold for salvage, though so far here only the rails have been removed.
A scientifically studied contemporary repeat might have been taken somewhere on the Alaskan Way Viaduct by a photographer more courageous or fool-hardy then this one was in 1995. Since 1953 the Alaskan Way Viaduct or Freeway runs snug between historic district’s buildings and the surface street. The trolley elevated was not so snug to the buildings, as can be seen in the view below that looks south along its line also from Washington Street.
The CATALA – CANADIAN QUEEN As BOATEL
(First appeared in Pacific, Jan 11, 2004)
As the “Queen” of the Union Steamship Fleet the Catala was a tramp steamer dressed in a formal. For nearly 35 years her pointed bow was eagerly greeted at the logging camps, canneries and isolated villages between Vancouver and Prince Rupert, British Columbia. Here she rests on the Seattle Waterfront waving the Stars and Strips as a sign of a new service that was also a rescue.
Headed for scrap in 1959 the Catala was instead gussied-up to perform as a “boatel” on Seattle’s waterfront during 1962 Century 21. Along with the 682-foot-long Dominion Monarch and the 537-foot-long Acapulco the 253-foot Catala was the smallest of three liners outfitted to serve as hotel ships during the worlds fair. According to Gene Woodwick, the vessels sympathetic chronicler, the Catala was also the only one to make a profit and stay for the duration of the fair. The steamer was already familiar to Canadians and many of the guests that enjoyed her plush quarters during the fair were the loggers, fishers and shore-huggers who had once ridden her.
Built in 1925 in Montrose, Scotland her last stop in 1963 was at Ocean Shores where she was set up again as a “boatel” with 52 staterooms, a restaurant and lounge, but this time for fishers. During the night of New Years Eve, 1965, the Catala was driven ashore by 70 mph winds. Picked by scavengers and salvagers she remained a picturesque wreck until bulldozed over.
Gene Woodwick (She is also the director of the Ocean Shores Interpretative Center.) is pleased to note that on New Years Eve 2001 – thirty-five years after blown ashore – another storm exposed the keel and remaining ribbing of the Catala, which then resumed her very last service as a maritime relic.
The S.S. DAKOTA
(First appeared in Pacific, Oct. 15, 1989)
If the present Washington Street Public Boat Landing were plopped down into this week’s historical scene, the ornate shelter would straddle the Crawford & Harrington Wharf just beyond the pile of stacked planks – about halfway between the shore and the shed at the end of the pier. This view was copied from the best of the few surviving prints of what is one of the city’s photographic classics. On a different and inferior print, photographer Theodore Peiser has inscribed his name and this caption, “Crawford & Harrington and Yesler’s Wharves with S.S. Dakota 1881.” (The absence of Peiser’s signature and caption on this clearer print suggests that he might have later added his mark to a scene left behind by another photographer, for which he had a poorer copy – a common practice among pioneer photographers.)
One year earlier when the side-wheeler Dakota was awarded the mail contract between San Francisco and Victoria, it added Seattle, Tacoma and Olympia to a West Coast packet it’d been running since 1875. Here the side-wheeler pauses at the end of Yesler’s Wharf which, until the fire of 1889 destroyed it and every other dock south of Union Street, was the principal pier on the waterfront.
Just right of center and also tied to Yesler’s Wharf is a smaller side-wheeler, the J.B. Libby. The Libby was launched at Utsaladdy on Camano Island in 1862, and in its quarter-century of working Puget Sound, became the best-known small steamer on these waterways. In November 1889 while en route from Roche Harbor to Port Townsend carrying 500 barrels of lime, the Libby lost its rudder in a storm and caught fire. It carried seven crew and seven passengers, the latter escaping on the steamer’s lifeboat and the former on rafts. All survived.
At the outer end (far left) of the Crawford & Harrington Wharf sits the pier shed for the Talbot Coal Yard, named for a San Francisco capitalist who bankrolled early mining of the Renton coal fields. The greatest coal exporter from this waterfront was the Oregon Improvement Company’s big coal wharf and bunkers at the foot of King Street, three blocks to the south. The company’s coal exports then to San Francisco were many times greater than its imports to Puget Sound. Especially from 1878 to 1881 the OIC’s greatest import was ballast that it would dump in the bay before loading up on coal. These contributions constructed our “Ballast Island” off shore between Washington and Main Streets.
PRISON SHIP “SUCCESS”
(First appeared in Pacific, Oct. 22, 2000)
The apparently ironically named “Convict Ship Success” may be counted among the more gaudy floating acts to have visited the Seattle waterfront. Constructed in India of Burmese teak, its yellow-orange beak-shaped bow was tied to Railroad Avenue (Alaskan Way) in the late summer of 1915 while on a West Coast tour. The ship’s owner, Captain D.H. Smith, bought an advertisement in The Seattle Times Saturday edition of Sept. 11, 1915, explaining that his barkentine had been “raised from the bottom of Sydney Harbor . . . is unchanged after all these years (and is) now showing at the foot of Yesler Way, Seattle.”
And what might one expect for the 25 cents it cost to board? ”Aboard her are now shown, in their original state, all the Airless Dungeons and Condemned Cells, the Whipping Posts, the Manacles, the Branding Irons, the Punishment Balls, the leaden-tipped Cat o’ nine tails, the Coffin Bath and the other fiendish inventions of man’s brutality. This wonderful vessel has made history through three centuries . . .She is the oldest ship in the world and the only convict ship left afloat out of that dreadful fleet of ocean hell which sailed the Seven Seas in 1790A.D.”
Actually, Smith’s barkentine had more bark than bite. As Northwest maritime historian Gordon Newell explains in his classic “Marine History of the Pacific Northwest,” the Success was built around 1840 in India, not in 1790. It was used temporarily as a floating jail in 1852 but “never actually carried convicts.” In 1915 it was towed here from the East Coast in a search for suckers who would pay two-bits for a little lurid history. The next year, in 1916, Newell noted, Success returned east and apparently survived as a shoreside attraction until 1946, when it was accidentally burned near Port Cointon, Ohio.
HERE FOLLOWS a few more EXTRAS from the WATERFRONT FOOT of YESLER WAY