(click to enlarge)

The first of the several fire station #5's at the foot of Madison Street. This one was built after the Great Fire of 1889 to service the then also new fireboat, Snoqualmie. The photograph was taken by the Norwegian Anders Wilse who spent most of the 1890s in the area, and was often hired by this municipality to photograph its public works.


The fireboat Duwamish is warming up at the end of Fire Station No. 5’s short pier. Built in 1909 at Richmond Beach for the Seattle Fire Department, it was 113 feet long and weighed a relatively heavy 309 tons. This photo probably was taken a year later.

The smoke escaping the fireboat’s twin stacks partly obscures the tower of the Grand Trunk Pacific Dock, on the left. The Grand Trunk Pacific was Canada’s second transcontinental railroad. After reaching its terminus Prince Rupert in 1910, it took up the steamship business as well, running a coastal feeder service from Seattle, Victoria and Vancouver to Prince Rupert.

In its time, the Grand Trunk pier was the largest wood structure of its kind on the West Coast; but its time was brief. On July 29, 1914, it was gutted by the second-largest fire in the city’s history. (The largest was the Great Fire of 1889.) Its location next door to the fire station did not save it, although the fireboats Duwamish and Snoqualmie did help contain the fire.

To the right of the Duwamish, moored at Pier 3, is the Puget Sound steamer Inland Flyer. After 11 years of running on what was called the “Navy Yard Route” to Port Orchard, Inland Flyer was sold to a Capt. R.G. Reeve, who changed its name to Mohawk. This little 106-foot wooden steamer was only 7 feet shorter than the fireboat, but at 151 tons, it was less than half the weight. In 1916, Captain Reeve stripped it of its engine and converted it into a fish barge at Neah Bay.

With the fireboat Duwamish at ease, the steamer Reliance here takes the place of the Inland Flyer beside Pier 3. The small vessel to the right is not identified. This view like the one above it was directed to the University of Washington Libraries Special Collections with a grant from Ivar Haglund. Most of the one hundred or so prints involved were like these of the Seattle waterfront.

Pier 3 – long since renumbered Pier 54 – was constructed in 1900.  For 72 years, first as an aquarium and then as a cafe, it has been the platform for the late Ivar Haglund’s prescriptions in the “culture of clams” on how to “keep clam.” Although Ivar just missed seeing his remodeled Acres of Clams reopen, he did help choose the scores of historical waterfront photographs that now cover the restaurant’s walls. One of Ivar’s favorites was an enlargement of the historical photo discussed here. It is one of a collection of Seattle images uncovered in northern Idaho. One of Ivar’s last philanthropic acts was to help purchase the collection for the University of Washington Library’s Special Collections.


Prolific cityscape photographer O.T. Frasch recorded this trinity of venerable ship sterns for a postcard.  The view looks toward the city from either the end of Colman Dock or near to it.

The white terra-cotta skin of the Empire Building at the southeast corner of Second Avenue and Madison Street is the dominant structure in the backdrop. Just to its right, the twin towers of Saint James Cathedral peek above the black stack of the steamer Flyer.

Next to the streamlined ferry the Kalakala, the Flyer is probably the most celebrated vessel to have regularly plied the waters of Puget Sound, and not nearly as abused as the poor Kalakala.  She consumed 24 cords of wood a day in her four round trips between Seattle and Tacoma. In 1918, after more than a quarter-century on the Sound and nearly 2 million miles, she was rebuilt as the Washington for the Puget Sound Navigation Company.

The City of Seattle – blowing steam to  the right of the Flyer – was the first ferry on the Sound, beginning her service on New Year’s Eve, 1888. A tool of the West Seattle Land and Improvement Co., it moved prospective buyers between this slip and the company’s real estate above its ferry dock on West Seattle’s Harbor Avenue. The fare was five cents, and the two-mile run took about 8 minutes.

The ferry City of Seattle was a fixture on Elliott Bay through the 1890s and until 1907, the year of West Seattle’s incorporation into Seattle when the new trolley along Spokane Street as well as a bigger ferry, the West Seattle, took over. Eventually sold to a ferry company on San Francisco Bay, City of Seattle is now a houseboat for an artist living off-shore of Sausalito, California.

The Tourist, far right, was the first vessel to regularly carry cars on Puget Sound. Beginning in 1915, it carried six autos at a time between Seattle and Bremerton.

Another look at the Flyer, and on Elliott Bay as well. Note the gray hint of Duwamish Head in the upper left corner. This comes courtesy of Jim Westall. Below is another Edgle Clipping - this one with a Flyer Christmas Menu - courtesy, of course, of Ron Edge.

CIRCA 1886 LANDMARKS (above)

Several artful landmarks formed Seattle’s early skyline above. The effect presented the city’s new urban confidence of the mid-l880s to those arriving at the largest city in Washington Territory by Elliott Bay, and most did.

The most formidable structure in this view, center-left, is the mansard roof line of the Frye Opera House. When it was completed in 1885, George Frye’s opera house was the grandest stage north of San Francisco. It was modeled after the Bay City’s famed Baldwin Theater, and dominated the northeast corner of First Avenue and Marion Street.

Kitty-corner from the opera house and above a grocery store, the YMCA’s functional quarters are marked by what appears to be a banner. They moved into this spot in 1882 and out of it in October 1886. That information helps us date this scene at sometime in 1885 or ’86.

Across the street from the Y, with its own high-minded sign, is the Golden Rule Bazaar. Just above the bazaar and behind the opera house is the ornate Stetson Post Building at Second Avenue and Marion Street. When the Post building was built in 1882 it was the most fashionable address in Seattle.

The mansion with tower and cupola to the right of the Stetson Post is the Stacy Mansion at Third Avenue and Marion Street. This lavish pile of Second Empire architecture lasted much longer than anything else in this scene. In the 1920s, having escaped the fire of 1889, it was pivoted 90 degrees to face Marion Street and became Maison Blanc, one of Seattle’s legendary restaurants. Unfortunately, it was injured in a lesser fire in 1960 and razed soon after.

For all its landmarks, what really sets this scene apart are the two sailboats in profile in front of Budlong’s Boathouse. They were rentals from the popular boathouse. In 1886 the Puget Sound Yacht Club was established here.

The Great Fire in 1889, which started near the corner of First and Madison in the far left of this scene, destroyed Frye’s Opera House and practically everything else showing west of Second Avenue.  The boathouse, however, survived because it could be floated from harm’s way.


Across the bottom of the negative for this waterfront scene, the photographer has written, “Arrival of Sourdoughs on the Portland.” The allusion is to that legendary moment when the first ensemble of gold rushers returned from the Klondike not only with news of the big strike but with the dust itself – $700,000 of it.

This, however, is not that spontaneous moment, but a staged re-enactment of it, 15 years later to the day, for the Golden Potlatch of 1912, Seattle’s second running of its first summer festival. This waterfront assemblage of hacks and motorcars is awaiting what The Seattle Times described later that day as “a triumph of symbolism” – the Potlatch’s peculiar mix of Native American and gold rush motifs.  It is just after noon on July 17.

For this ritual arrival, the Portland is” carrying the Potlatch’s big chief or Hyas Tyee, dressed, the Post-Intelligencer reported, in his “barbaric headdress and gorgeous blanket,” leading his hybrid court of shamans (medicine men in togas) and “flannel-shirted high-booted sourdoughs” sweating under the weight of their obese gold pokes.

The photographer sights north from near Marion Street and is most likely perched atop a boxcar, a favorite prospect for watching waterfront events when Alaskan Way was still Railroad Avenue. This scene does not wait for the chief and his ersatz band of natives and miners but catches instead the waiting crowd – or part of it. The local pulp’s boast of 100,000 witnesses was, perhaps, not so inflated when we remember that the obstructing Alaskan Way Viaduct was not yet intruding on the view of the many thousands who leaned from the windows and crowded the roofs of the buildings in the business district.

Once on shore, the chief relaxed his “haughty mien and stony gaze” with a most happy decree. “All is as it should be. There is no thought but to find joy, to give and receive happiness and that is Potlatch.”

Most likely a bay-side view of the same celebrated Potlatch 1912 reinactment with the draped Fire Station #5 at the center.

The BLACK BOX (above)

From Elliott Bay and looking up Madison Street – as we do here – it is still possible to see the “Big Black Box” that on its own in 1968 lifted the first shaft for a new Seattle super-skyline.  From most other prospects the thicket of often-taller skyscrapers that have given Seattle its own version of the modern and generally typical cityscape has long since obscured what was originally the headquarters for Seattle First National Bank, R.I.P.

Lawton Gowey photographed the older view of it from a ferry on March 1, 1970.  The long-time accountant for the Seattle Water Department was good about recording the dates for the many thousands of pictures he took of his hometown and lifetime study.

A sense of the untoward size of the “Big Ugly” – another unkind name for it – can be easily had by comparing it to the Seattle Tower, the gracefully stepped dark scraper on the left.  In the “now” it is more than hidden behind the 770 foot Washington Mutual Tower (1988).  After its lift to 318 feet above 3rd and University in 1928 this Art Deco landmark was the second highest structure in Seattle – following the 1914 Smith Tower.  The 1961 lifting of the “splendid” 600-plus foot tall Space Needle moved both down a notch, and inspired the now old joke that we happily repeat.  Soon after the SeaFirst tower reached its routine shape in 1968 it was described to visitors as “the box the Space Needle came in.”  And at 630 feet it was just big and square enough.

Many of Seattle’s nostalgic old timers (50 years old or older) consider the SeaFirst Tower as the beginning of the end for their cherished “old Seattle.”  For the more resentful among them the Central Business District is now congested with oversized boxes that have obscured the articulated charms of smaller and older landmarks like the Smith and Seattle Towers.  Some find solace in the waterfront where a few of the railroad finger piers survive – like Ivar’s Pier 54 seen on the far left in both views.

But Ivar’s has grown too.  In 1970 Ivar Haglund employed about 260 for his then three restaurants including the “flagship” Acres of Clams here at Pier 54.  Now in its 68th year Ivar’s Inc serves in 63 locations.  (This first appears in Pacific early in 2005.)  This summer it will employ more than 1000 persons to handle the busy season’s share of an expected 7 million customers in 2006.  Every one of them – not considering tourists for the moment — will be an “Old Settler” with refined and yet unpretentious good taste – and so says Ivar’s CEO Bob Donegan.

An Acres of Clams clip.
The Duwamish in her slip beside the Acres of Clams. Photo by Werner Lenggenhager, courtesy Seattle Public Library.
Four years ago or five I snapped the Acre's Duwamish Room with its Christmas decore. In his last full year Ivar considered opening the Fireboat Duwamish as a maritime museum in the same slip where it had worked beside Pier 3 (54). His sudden death early in 1985 prevented it.
From the Lenora Street overpass on the bottom to part of Pier 2 at Yesler Way just beyond Colman Dock at the top. Surely there are enough details in this aerial to date it to the year. The Alaskan Way Viaduct opened to traffic in 1953. The International Style glass box Norton Building at the northwest corner of Second Ave. and Columbia Street appeared in 1959 - but not here. These are your limits, now may we ask that you date it?

2 thoughts on “The FIREBOAT DUWAMISH, Addendum #1”

  1. For a number of years in the early “aughts” a number of us got together to try to “save” the Duwamish. We got no discernible interest in one of this city’s iconic maritime symbols.

    I am interested in who put you onto the Duwamish and its legal status as of the moment. We (I) conducted guided tours of the vessel and at one point, my son, John, based his Sea Scout unit on the boat.

    The last we could discover, Northwest Seaport appeared to have custody, but I know of no guided tours, no volunteers, and no effor to upgrade this marvelous vessel which still has so many uses if an admittedly expensive upgrade is obtained, My group tried without any success whatever to gain support from 4 Culture and others.

    Any info you can provide would be most useful, as I still think the old girl has a future after more than 100 years (The Seattle Fire Dept thinks — or thought no long ago — differently).

    Lisle Rose

  2. Lisle
    I tried and tried to find out who was doing what with it and failed. I couldn’t ‘rouse anyone. So many of these floating landmarks have floundered recently, which means they have not managed to inspire deep-pockets to attend to their needs. Sorry. If you find out let us know please.

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