Many Pacific readers will remember the Polynesian Restaurant built at the water end of Pier 51 in 1961, in time for the following year’s infusion of tourists for the city’s Century 21 World’s Fair. Some minority of you will also remember the Skagit Belle, a stern-wheeler parked beside the same pier for yet another food attraction in time for the fair.
This view of the two is by Werner Lenggenhager, the helpful Boeing retiree who, beginning in the 1940s, wandered the city and the state with his camera. This photo is stamped Oct. 28, 1961. The Polynesian is up but not completed, and the stern-wheeler is waiting south of the pier before it was moved to the north slip, fitted for a restaurant and painted like a vaudevillian in pink and blue.
Through its 20 years at Pier 51, the Polynesian was Seattle’s grandest example of Tiki décor, an exotic mix of island styles, perhaps best associated here with the chain Trader Vic’s (not Joe’s). The Polynesian was lost to public domain in 1981 and the expansion of the ferry terminal, Colman Dock.
The Skagit Belle was also short-lived. Built in Everett in 1941, it was the last commercial stern-wheel steamboat on Puget Sound. Soon requisitioned for war service, it wasn’t returned to the Skagit River Navigation Co. until 1947. Three years later it joined the Skagit Chief and the steel-hulled W.T. Preston in a race of stern-wheelers for Seafair. The Preston won. After grounding on a sandbar, the Belle was repaired in Bellingham for her fateful trip to the fair.
The ship sprang a leak in 1965, its pumps failed, and it sank to the bottom, though still tied to the pier. There it languished through eight years of tides and litigation until hauled away in pieces in 1973.
Jean adds a few photos taken nearby that same afternoon in early April.
Anything to add, Paul? Yes Jean I did have, and added them too. But I also neglected to publish them. The result – all were erased. I’m off to bed now and will do it all again in the morning. “It” is several slides of both the Skagit Belle and the Polynesian during the 1960s. Tomorrow then and nighty bears* to all for now.
* “Nighty Bears” is a welcomed substitute for the commonplace “Good Night.” It was taught to many of us by Bill Burden in the late 1970s and we have – as extended family – continued to use it.
None of the ABOVE should be confused with any of the BELOW.