Seattle Now & Then: The New Railroad Avenue

(click to enlarge photos)

THEN: Snapped from the Fire Station #5 tower in late 1901 (or early 1902) it nicely displays the then new Northern Pacific Piers facing a widened Railroad Ave. (Alaskan Way) north of Madison Street. In two years more and the trestle for wagons and rail spurs would be completed across the watery gap in the foreground. (Courtesy Larry Hoffman)
NOW: With the latest fire station – and its tower – moved further into the Bay Jean Sherrard resorted, again, to his faithful ten foot extension pole to peek thru the sidewalk landscaping on Alaskan Way.

Lying here at low tide in the slip between waterfront Fire Station #5 and the nearly new Pier 3 (54), the little freighter T.W. Lake was built in 1896 by its namesake, Thomas Lake, a productive Ballard builder of “mosquito fleet” steamers for Puget Sound.

On Aug. 25, 1900, its holds stuffed with empty grain sacks, the T. W. Lake steamed north to the LaConner flats where fields of oats were in shock, ready for threshing and wanting sacks.  The steamer may have also later helped carry the Skagit Valley’s sacked oats here to Pier 3 (54), and its principal tenants, Galbraith and Bacon.   James Galbraith began selling hay and feed on the waterfront in 1891, and Cecil Bacon, Galbraith’s new partner, was a chemical engineer with extra cash to invest in expanding the partnership onto the new Pier 3.

Built in 1900-1901, and seen here all in a row, Piers 3, 4, and 5 were parts of the Northern Pacific Railroad’s contribution to then boom-town Seattle’s elaborate makeover of its waterfront.  The Yukon gold rush first heated Seattle with “gold fever” and surplus wealth in 1897.  That was also the year that Reginald Thomson and George Cotterill, the city’s brilliant and politically-adept engineers, convinced dock owners and the railroads to conform to the city’s state-sanctioned plans for a uniform waterfront.

At the scene's center, PIER 3, with its white walls and block-letter sign reading "Galbraith Bacon & Co." extends from Railroad Ave. west into Elliott Bay and at a slight slant. Pier 3 with the other new railroad piers join in a uniform row, built to conform with the waterfront's new plans as of 1897. The smaller and darker warehouse sheds this side of Pier 3/54 and Madison Street, crowd Railroad Ave. at the old eastern limits of it, which were chosen following the city's "Great Fire" of 1889. These little piers "address" the bay at a right angle to the railroad trestle, and they would soon be razed. Then the wagon right-of-way that extends between the Northern Pacific piers and the telephone/power poles would be extended south of Madison Street as well with new and longer piers - in time.

These abiding landmarks were part of waterfront changes that were later seriously threatened only once, and that following World War Two when the Port of Seattle considered replacing them with great longitudinal piers for the bigger ships then expected.  Instead, the waterfront moved its trans-shipments to new longitudinal piers south on the tideflats.  There they built parking lots for containers, with no pier warehouses needed.

A small but steady part of Puget Sound’s “Mosquito Fleet,” the T.W. Lake served well and long, but ended tragically on Dec. 5, 1923.  Loaded with 300 barrels of lime and en route to Anacortes from Roche Harbor she ploughed into but not thru winds of 70 miles per hour plus.  The T.W. Lake sank off Lopez Island taking with her all 18 men aboard in one of Puget Sound’s greatest maritime disasters.

With deep waters but not wide and with few shoals and the Olympics sheltering it, maritime tragedy is rare on Puget Sound. Among the early settlers and developers much of it was "man-made" - exploding steam engines, bad or foolhardy navigation. Obviously the captain of the T.W. Lake was over confident in the routine of making his deliveries. The freak storm and heavy load drowned him and his. Not far away, the Columbia Bar, the "Graveyard of the Pacific," is famous for consuming vessels of all sorts trying to make it into or out of the Columbia River. I recently found this hand-colored recording of its dangers buried with a deeply shelved collection at the University of Washington Library, Special Collections.


Anything to add, Paul?

Jean and a lesson in memory too.  I began my search for other features
from the “same neighborhood,” in this case Pier 3/54, by a key-word
this blog to see whatwe might have already advanced here.  With Ron Edge’s help, I found so many
examples that after seven features I restrained myself, and looked no further.
Here they are in a row – the same row used here first on October 30, 2010.

They are in order,

The Fireboat Duwamish, circa 1912

The sidewheeler Alida 1870 ro 71

The fireboat Snoqualmie

The Norther Pacific Piers on Railroad Avenue ca. 1902

The “Mosquito Fleet” steamer Kitsap, ca. 1910

The sternwheeler Capitol City

and the Gorst Air Taxi that began flying back and forth between Pier 3 and
Bremerton in 1929 – just in time for the Great Depression.

To see/read them all just click your mouse on the photo of the Duwamish Fireboat, directly below.

Beyond these seven features we will conclude with a few more illustrated “notes” on Pier 3/54.   (The number was changed in 1944 by the military as an “act of war.”  The army hoped to rationalize – put in order – the diverse numbers and letters then used for the piers on Elliott Bay.)

The FOUR (4) Subjects that follow relate to the features that are buried (or trapped) under the BUTTON Above – the button that is the fireboat Duwamish. (Free them – Touch it, tap it, press it)

A Wilse's portrait of the first Fire Station at the foot of Madison Street. Built after the Great Fire of 1889, to service the waterfront with the Fireboat Snoqualmie, which shows, in part, here down the ramp, far right, and also with its own story/feature that is reached by mousing the photo of the Fireboat Duwamish - above.

The Last of the seven features reached by pressing one’s mouse against the Duwamish Fireboat pix above, treats on the Gorst Air Taxi.   Here follows are some related subjects.

An early 1930s aerial of the waterfront reveals the open hanger for the Gorst Air Taxi at the water end of Pier 3/54, left-of-center. The comparison that follows takes the detail of the open hanger pulled from this aerial and prints it side-by-side with the same hanger after it was moved to the southwest corner of Lake Union. I believe that steamer in the bay is the Alexander - or something close to it.






[Disclaimer:  I am currently rushing to complete my now one dozen years in the  making biography of Ivar Haglund titled – predictably – “KEEP CLAM”!   Watch for it in Fish and Chips stands near you.]

Since he first opened his aquarium and fish-and-chips stand in 1938, Ivar Haglund has become first the talk of the pier and later after he opened his restaurant on the same Pier 3 at the foot of Madison Street in 1946, of the entire waterfront. You'll need to know your bodies by Fisher to date this set-up with Ivar strumming in front of his Acres. Or is that a Ford product?
This early Acres of Clam advertisement is well supplied with warranted confidence and Ivar's sincere folksy copy. He alternated this with screwball comedy and often brilliant hoaxes.
A broadside with music promoting his radio show "Around the Sound with Ivar Haglund"
Some will still recall the excitement attendant to visiting the nautical decor of the Acres of Clams when it first opened in 1946 with a parrot acting as the receptionist. Here "Where Clams and Culture Meet,' one of Ivar's guiding truisms, hangs above the front door.
In the late 1940s Ivar hired a trackless trolley to remind locals that the folk singer who had been entertaining them on radio was now also in the restaurant business. Ivar is in the dark outfit. He stands just to the right of his head chef, Claude Sedenquist. "Keep Clam" is signed near the rear of the trolley. (click to enlarge)
Ivar standing at his own fish bar. For a while he named his sprawling sidewalk fish bar, the "Northern" and "Southern" bars.
During Seattle's 1951-53 Centennial, Ivar promoted his own landing at Pier 54 as second only in historical importance to the settlers arrival at Alki Point in 1851.
Before 1962 Century 21, Ivar opened a south seas trader gift shop next to this Acres of Clams, and named it exotically for himself - backwards. After the fair he sold out his entire stock in a benefit for the Seattle Symphony. Some of the decorations at Trader Sravi may survive at Ivar's Salmon House.




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