Seattle Now & Then: Fire Station No. 5

(click to enlarge photos)

THEN: Frank Shaw’s late winter composition of waterfront landmarks at the foot of Madison Street in 1963.  (Photo by Frank Shaw)
THEN: Frank Shaw’s late winter composition of waterfront landmarks at the foot of Madison Street in 1963. (Photo by Frank Shaw)
NOW: Jean Sherrard’s repeat shares a modern concrete Fire Station No 5, which although less charmed than was Shaw’s station made of brick veneer and plaster panels, is surely more functional.
NOW: Jean Sherrard’s repeat shares a modern concrete Fire Station No 5, which although less charmed than was Shaw’s station made of brick veneer and plaster panels, is surely more functional.

This Sunday Jean and I return with another vibrant Kodachrome from Frank Shaw’s imagination – and camera.  We know from Shaw’s notes that he recorded this “foot of Madison Street” at 2 on the afternoon of March 4. 1961.

The gentle backlight of a mother of pearl sky comforts both the scene’s centerpiece, the closed Fire Station No. 5, and beside it to the left, the Grand Trunk Pacific Pier.  Between them, and half hidden behind an Alaska Way Viaduct Pier, is a line of red Northern Pacific boxcars parked on the railroad spur that snuggled to the apron along the north side of the wharf.  Transshipment was once the primary business of this waterfront, moving materials between Railroad Avenue (Alaska Way) and the line-up of finger wharfs controlled for the most by railroads.  Now it is entertainment that moves the central waterfront.

When the Grand Trunk opened in 1911 it was by several descriptions the largest wooden pier in world – North America and the West Coast.  Three years later in 1914 it burned to its pilings and was then rebuilt but without its former grand tower for the Harbor Master.

Frank Shaw's look north at Fire Station No. 5 from the west end of the Marion Street viaduct, on March 4, 1961.
Frank Shaw’s look north at Fire Station No. 5, also on March 4, 1961.
Shaw's station has got its reacoat after Ivar's Century 21 activism, or preparations for it.  This view from the viaduct too, in 1962.  Ivar has also added a gaudy rooftop sign to his Acres of Clams on the far side of the station.
Shaw’s station got this Redcoat after Ivar’s Century 21 activism, or preparations for it. This view from the Marion St. viaduct, in 1962. Ivar has also added a gaudy rooftop sign to his Acres of Clams on the far side of the station.
The second plant for Station No. 5, and below it 1916 new of its condemnation.
The second plant for Station No. 5, and below it the 1916 news of its condemnation.
A Seattle Times clip from March 17, 1916.
A Seattle Times clip from March 17, 1916.
Seattle Times, March 7, 1917.
Seattle Times, March 7, 1917, only a year later than the condemnation news above.

Shaw’s No.5 was the third of now four fire stations at the “foot of Madison.”  Dedicated in 1917 it was described in this newspaper then as “Seattle’s New Building Novelty.”  City Architect D.R. Huntington designed it to roll temporarily to one side when – if ever – it was time to replace the station’s supporting piles. The station was closed in 1959, although the attached dock continued to service the force’s fireboats.

The slip with Fire Station No. 5 between Pier 3/54, right-of-center, and the Grand Trunk dock that replaced the one destroyed by fire in 1914 (see soon below.)
The slip with Fire Station No. 5 between Pier 3/54, right-of-center, and the Grand Trunk dock that replaced the one destroyed by fire in 1914 (see soon below.)  Dated June 24, 1935, three years before Ivar opened his Pier 3 Aquarium on the sidewalk at it the pier’s northeast corner.
Ivar's Pier 3 Aquarium was open from 1938 to 1956.  The Acres of Clams opened in 1946.
Ivar’s Pier 3 Aquarium was open in 1938 with Ivar’s first fish ‘n chips stand on Pier 3/54.   The aquarium closed in 1956. The Acres of Clams opened in 1946.

In 1961 the fire department shared its surely dull drawings for the “modern concrete structure” it planned as a replacement.  Unlike this No. 5 it featured neither brick veneer nor ornamental masses. With a sustained howl from the city’s then brand new cadres of historic preservation, a new design by local architect Robert Durham was chosen.  While still concrete, it was less boxish.  Its chilly 15min dedication on Dec. 27, 1963 was serenaded by Ivar Haglund, No. 5’s popular neighbor to the north since 1938.  The “king of clams” wrote a special song for the ceremony; however, the lyrics seemed to have gone missing.

WEB EXTRAS

Anything to add, Paul?  Sure Jean and we will begin again with some links to other and more recent features that cover the neighborhood, ones that Ron Edge will link through their subjects.   I’ll follow that with a few features from long ago – or longer ago.

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The Snoqualmie fire boat with Pier 3/54
The Snoqualmie fire boat with Pier 3/54

FIRST FIRE BOAT: The SNOQUALMIE

(First appeared in Pacific, Nov. 7, 1982)

 

         Seattle’s Great Fire of 1889 burned 130 acres of the central business district and left the city’s fire department red-faced. There wasn’t enough pressure to conjure a flood against the flames, and there wasn’t a hose strong or long enough to reach the fire with salt water pumped from the· pay.  When the ‘ smoke cleared the message was obvious. The then mayor, Robert Moran, told the inflamed citizens assembled at the armory at Union Street and Fourth Avenue that rebuilding a city should also include a professional and well-equipped fire department.

         Within a year the city had five new firehouses, an electric alarm system with 31 boxes, and the first fire boat on the West Coast: the Snoqualmie. Designed by William Cowles, a New York naval architect as a 91-foot, coal burning, tug-shaped, the Snoqualmie would did 11 knots and shot 6,000 gallons of saltwater per minute.  When the sealed bids were accepted the low one entered was from Mayor Moran.

         The first fire boat’s trial run was a celebrated affair. On the dock for a look was T.J. Conway, assistant manager of the Pacific Insurance Association. He later announced to the press, “She did very well – splendidly! In fact. l· shall feel justified in recommending a liberal reduction in insurance rates here.” It was happy news for the businessmen on the waterfront. More than 60 wharves and warehouses with frontage of more than two miles had·been put up since the fire flattened everything south of Union Street. With the presence of the Snoqualmie, insurance rates dropped by 20 percent.

         The Snoqualmie made its home in a slip next to Fire Station No.5 at the foot of Madison Street. For 37 years she partroled the waterfront looking for small fires to put out and big ones to contain. It. was also used to rescue ships in the sound and even salvage them, using its strong pumps to raise sunken vessels. ‘

         The Snoqualmie fought its last fire on Elliott Bay in 1927, the year it gave up its slip to the new fireboat in tow, the Alki. For the next 47 years’ the Snoqualmie continued to helped lower insurance rates – on Lake Union.  Its last service was as a small , freighter between here and Alaska. The last fire the Snoqualmie attended was its own in 1974. She burned for 36 hours off shore of the fuel dock at Kodiak, Alaska.

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1-Capitol-City-fm-Bay-THEN-web

ABOVE:  The stern-wheeler Capital City maneuvers at the end of Pier 3 circa 1902, her Seattle port of call.   Courtesy Museum of History and Industry.  BELOW:  In the intervening century Pier Three has been extended considerably to the south (right) and also some to the north (left).  The primary builder of this expansion was Ivar Haglund who first moved onto the Pier in 1938 with an aquarium.  He later purchased the pier. 

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CAPITAL CITY at PIER 3

[Renumbered Pier 54 in 1944]

 

            As the name suggests (on the stern-wheel) the “Capital City” is here either arriving from or returning to Olympia.  She is at the end of Pier 3 (renumber Pier 54 during WW2) early in the 20th Century. 

            The Seattle-Olympia packet, with a half-way stop in Tacoma, was not the one originally envisioned for her.  When the stern-wheeler was built in 1898 during the Klondike gold rush she was christened the Delton and prepared to head north for work on the Stikine River out of Wrangell, Alaska.   Instead she was sold to a Puget Sound company that changed her named and kept her on these inland waters that are ordinarily hazard free – unless a vessel is carelessly steered into something that is also moving. 

            For the Capital City that was the Trader.  In late October, 1902, the two vessels collided off of Dash Point.  With a large hole torn in her hull, the stern-wheeler began to sink.   Quoting from Gordon Newell’s “McCurdy Marine History of the Pacific Northwest,” the stern-wheeler’s “Capt. Mike Edward rang for full speed ahead” and aimed for the beach. The steamer’s engineer Scott “in the best tradition of the steamboat engineer, remained at the throttle, waist-deep in water, and the Capital City managed to beach herself on the last of her expiring steam.”   Saved, she was repaired and returned to the Olympia run.   

The Capitol City negotiating with the water end of Pier 3/54.
Lewis Wittlesey’s record of the Capitol City negotiating at the water end of Pier 3/54.

         What makes the second photograph of the Capital City rare is its depiction of the passengers’ random arrangement at the stern-wheeler’s bow.  Many of these sightseers are probably out for a weekend excursion to the Capital City’s regular ports of call, Tacoma and Olympia.  The “Mosquito Fleet” of small steamers was still  the preferred and sometimes the only way to get around Puget Sound in the early 20th Century.  Most of the smaller ports had no rail connections. Although the Northern Pacific could get one to Olympia quicker than the Capital City, the ride was neither as smooth nor as exhilarating.  

         A carpenter remodeling a Capitol Hill home discovered the glass negative for this rare second view. The photographer, Lewis Whittelsey, was a bookkeeper for the Seattle Water Department. His identification was traced through the coincidental discovery of two more sources of Whittelsey’s work.  Harold Smith belonged to the same church, Plymouth Congregational, as Whittelsey and had been given two albus of his photographs.  Lawton Gowey – my greatest help through nearly 40 years of studying and publishing – also worked as an accountant for the Seattle Water Department.  Lawton uncovered three more albums of Whittelsey’s work at City Hall years after his death in 1941.

            A larger sign is above the steamer, fixed to the water end of Pier 3. It promotes the hay, grain and feed business of James E. Galbraith and Cecil H. Bacon.  Bacon was a chemical engineer and capitalist who in 1899 partnered with Galbraith. a hay and feed merchant on the Seattle waterfront since 1891.  In 1900 as principal renters, the new partners moved into this then new Northern Pacific Railroad pier at the foot of Madison Street and began selling building materials like lime, cement and plaster, as well.   The partnership held until 1918 when Bacon left it.  His name was then subtracted from the sign. 

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2.-Snow-Snow-Snow-THEN-web

Above: The Big Snow of early February 1916 may have been the city’s greatest photographic subject – of relatively short duration.   Here Herbert R Harter who described himself as a photographer in the 1915 city directory pointed his camera north on Railroad Avenue from the Marion Street overpass.   (Photo courtesy, Dan Kerlee)  Below: In 1935 when motor vehicles already dominated the waterfront Railroad Avenue got its name changed to Alaskan Way.

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 2.-SNOW-SNOW-SNOW-NOW-web

SNOW on SNOW on SNOW

            One of the marks for the community’s passage of time is our Big Snow of 1916.  While still celebrated it is, of course, increasingly not remembered.   A very small circle of Seattle “natives” now recalls events of 90 years ago vividly.  

            Not so long ago the 1916 blizzard was still remembered.  Ten years ago during our latter day big snow of 1996, any born and bred local of, say, 90 would have remembered the snowfall that began in earnest on the late afternoon of Feb. 1, 1916.   By 5 pm on Feb. 2 the Weather Bureau at the Hoge Building at Second Ave. and Cherry Street measured 26 inches.  This is still our 24-hour record.   Five hours later the depth reached 29 inches. 

            This view of the historic pile-up looks north up the waterfront from the Marion Street overpass.  Here are the several “railroad piers” built early in the 20th Century with boom-time profits increased by the Yukon/Alaska gold rush of the late 1890s.  Most survive.  The smaller structure right of center is an earlier version of Fire Station No. 5.

            Canada’s Grand Trunk Pacific Railroad built the ornate pier filling the left foreground in 1914.  Here passengers could board the railroad’s own “mosquito fleet’ of sleek steamers for a scenic ride north to the railroads west coast terminus at Prince Rupert and there make connections for “all points east.”   The railroads first pier here was built in 1911 but destroyed by fire only three years later.  This replacement was built in the style of the original designed by Seattle architect James Eustace Blackwell, and survived until 1964, when it was razed for the staging of vehicles waiting to board Washington State Ferries.  

The Grand Trunk Pier in 1911 during the celebration of Seattle's first staging of the Golden Potlatch Days, the city's first multi-day summer festival.   A highlight were the aeroplane antics overhead. (Courtesy Michael Maslan)
The Grand Trunk Pier in 1911 during the celebration of Seattle’s staging of the Golden Potlatch Days, the city’s first multi-day summer festival. A highlight were the aeroplane antics overhead. Revived Vikings also made it to the celebration. (Courtesy Michael Maslan)

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3.-G-Trunk-fire-f-wat-THEN-WEB

Then and Now Captions Together – Perilously stuck between the Alaska Steamship pier on the right and the blazing Grand Trunk dock on the left, the smoldering tower of Colman Dock is the centerpiece of this 1914 scene shot from off shore.  The contemporary repeat was recorded with the help of an Argosy waterfront tour boat.  (Historical view courtesy Dan Kerlee)

3. Grand Trunk Fire NOW BW

FIREMAN SPARE THAT TOWER! 

The destruction of the Grand Trunk Dock at the foot of Madison Street on July 30, 1914 was the most spectacular single fire in the history of the Seattle waterfront.  The “single” condition is important, for the city’s “Great Fire” of June 6, 1889 consumed the entire waterfront south of University Street – about 15 blocks worth.  That inferno did not discriminate.  (Lest someone complain, I have not included the 1910 fire on Wall Street in this ranking because a stiff wind off Elliott Bay kept its impressive incineration to the east side of Railroad Avenue.)   

On the far left – nearly out of the picture – is the 108-foot blazing skeleton of the Grand Trunk tower.  This view of its destruction is unique, for the unnamed photographer has turned to shoot what then may have seemed to be the imminent destruction of Colman Dock. And the fireboats Snoqualmie and Duwamish have joined the photographer to also shoot the dock that is not yet doomed. It seems two of their three visible streams are aimed at Colman Dock, one of them reaching the clock tower that is as yet merely smoldering. 

When its namesake Canadian railroad completed the Grand Trunk Pacific Dock in 1910 it was the largest wooden finger pier on the West Coast.  Four years later its charred piles were recapped and topped with another long and ornate terminal of the same footprint but without the tower. (This somewhat less distinguished replacement survived until 1964 when it was cleared away for an expanded loading lot north of Colman Dock.)

With the fireboats help Colman Dock escaped its neighbor’s fate.  Badly scorched, the top of the tower was rebuilt and survived until this Spanish-style home of the Black Ball fleet was replaced in the mid-1930s with an art-deco terminal in the style of the fleet’s then new flagship, the Kalakala.  

The above look at the three towers in 1913 (or very late 1912) with the Smith Tower under construction and the recently rebuilt Colman Dock with its new tower on the far right.  Below it the Grand Trunk fire of 1914.
The above look at the three towers in 1913 (or very late 1912) with the Smith Tower under construction and the recently rebuilt Colman Dock with its new tower on the far right. Below it the Grand Trunk fire of 1914.

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Looking across Railroad Avenue from the open second floor portico of the then brand new Grand Trunk pier, Phillip Hughett’s snapshot form late 1910 or early 1911 reaches from the Maritime building on the left to nearly new Marion Street overpass on the right.    His intended subject at the scene’s center skyline is the just topped-off steel skeleton of the Hoge Building still at Second Avenue and Cherry Street. (Picture courtesy of Jim Westall)
Looking across Railroad Avenue from the open second floor portico of the then brand new Grand Trunk pier, Phillip Hughett’s snapshot form late 1910 or early 1911 reaches from the Maritime building on the left to nearly new Marion Street overpass on the right. His intended subject at the scene’s center skyline is the just topped-off steel skeleton of the Hoge Building still at Second Avenue and Cherry Street. (Picture courtesy of Jim Westall)
Jean used his 10-foot camera extension pole to reach the elevated but long since lost platform used by Hughett.  The Marion Street viaduct seems further away because it is.  The passenger bridge was pivoted south some during the 1951-52 construction of the Alaskan Way viaduct.
Jean used his 10-foot camera extension pole to reach the elevated but long since lost platform used by Hughett. The Marion Street viaduct seems further away because it is. The passenger bridge was pivoted south some during the 1951-52 construction of the Alaskan Way viaduct.

SNAPSHOT TO MARION STREET

(First appeared in Pacific during the Spring of 2008)

            One of about 300 prints in a family photo album most likely glued to its black pages by Phillip Hughett, the amateur snap-shooter.  Mixed with the family pictures are many Seattle scenes and some of them quite unique like this view across Railroad Avenue (Alaskan Way) to Marion Street.

           The 1909 Alaska Yukon Pacific Expo, the Denny Regrade, and the startling build-up of the city skyline are Hughett’s favorite subjects, and all are given terse captions, but without dates.  But judging from the internal evidence of the pictures themselves Hughett was snapping Seattle from 1909 to 1911.  In 1911 he is listed as a salesman working for the Standard Furniture Company, and his grandson Jim Westall has him also living in Bellingham and California and performing as a pastor or preacher.  And given Hughett’s inclination to take photographs from the rooftops I can imagine him as comfortable in a pulpit.

           This view the photographer-preacher captions simply “Hoge Building, Seattle Wn.” Like many others, Hughett watched the Hoge’s steel frame ascend in a record time 30 days to its 18 stories, the tallest in town until the Smith Tower outreached it by more that 20 stories in 1913.  Hughett’s album includes a half dozen snapshots of the Hoge ascension from different perspectives.

            It is, however, the intimate early view of the Marion Street Trestle that makes this scene unique.  With a helpful hand from city archivist Scott Cline, we learn that the viaduct to Colman Dock was agreed to in late 1908 by the city and the Great Northern Railroad, and built in time to handle the crush of tourists here in 1909 for the AYP and the many Puget Sound excursions that steamed to and fro from the dock that summer.

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The KITSAP at the Fire Station side (south) of Pier 3/54 ca. 1912.
The KITSAP at the Fire Station side (south) of Pier 3/54 ca. 1912.

The KITSAP

(First appear in Pacific, 9-10-1989)

         The Kitsap was both trim and dauntless. In 20 years of rate wars, races, collisions, and switching routes, the steamer energetically participated in the wildlife of Puget Sound waterways. At 127&1/2 feet and 195 tons, the Kitsap was an average-sized steamer – about 12 feet longer than the Virginia V, the last survivor of Puget Sound’s “Mosquito fleet.”   The steamer was built in Portland for the Kitsap Transportation Co., one of the two strong arms of Puget Sound navigation. For a quarter century, the KTC competed with the Puget Sound Navigation Co. Oddly, at the Kitsap’s 1906 launching, the presidents for both companies, KTC’s W.L. Gazzam and PSNC’s Joshua Green, were on board.

5. Jw-SS-Chippewa-WEB

         Four years later Gazzam and Green traded abusive language when the Kitsap was sent to compete with Green’s much plusher and larger but slower Chippewa on the Bellingham run. Green complained to Gazzam that the fleet Kitsap represented a general threat to business because it taught patrons to expect speed. Green also responded by scheduling a steamer on Gazzam’s Bainbridge Island route. This route-and-rate-war featured at least two bumps between vessels, safety hearings, suspended captains and ruinous effects on Green’s Seattle to Vancouver route. In the rate war that ensued, both companies lowered the fare to Bellingham to a quarter. Smart customers would take either of the competing cheap trips to Bellingham and catch the train from there to Canada. In above view of the Kitsap, the banner strapped to her starboard side reads, “Bellingham-Anacortes-Seattle 25 Cents.”

The steamer Indianapolis underway.  (Courtesy Lawton Gowey)
The steamer Indianapolis underway. (Courtesy Lawton Gowey)

         On Dec 14, 1910, Green inadvertently got even when three days after the Kitsap punched and sank the launch Columbia, the PSNC’s Great Lakes steamer Indianapolis rammed the Kitsap about 400 yards off Pier 3, and sent it to the bottom of Elliott Bay. The Kitsap was raised and then towed to West Seattle where it was patched up and ready to compete by the following May.

The Kitsap in line for repairs in West Seattle.
The Kitsap in line for repairs in West Seattle.

         In its remaining 15 years of service, the Kitsap steamed a variety of courses – her owners acting like coaches looking for winning match-ups with the opposition. Its packets included Poulsbo and Port Blakely, and a longer round trip from Seattle through Harper, Colby, Port Madison and back to the company’s depot at Pier 3 -now Ivar’s Acres of Clams.

The Kitsap, right-of-center, joins the 1911 flotilla celebrating the year's Golden Potlatch celebration.
The Kitsap, right-of-center, joins the 1911 flotilla celebrating the year’s Golden Potlatch celebration.

         In the 1920s, cars became a factor. In 1925, 40 minutes were cut from the car ferry Washington’s run between downtown Seattle and Vashon Island when the then-new Fauntleroy ferry dock allowed it to make the crossing in 17 minutes. The Washington’s old route from the foot of Marion Street was picked up by the Kitsap, by then renamed the Bremerton. A year later, in November 1926, the Kitsap-Bellingham caught fire while laid up at the Houghton shipyards on Lake Washington, and was destroyed along with two other vessels.

A busy afternoon at Pier 3/54 ("At the Foot of Madison") for the Kitsap Transportation Company.
A busy afternoon at Pier 3/54 (“At the Foot of Madison”) for the Kitsap Transportation Company.

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The Gorst Air Ferry at its dock in a slip shared with the fire department's fire boats.
The Gorst Air Ferry at its dock in a slip shared with the fire department’s fire boats.

GORST AIR FERRY

         On June 15, 1929, within a quarter tank of the Great Depression, Gorst Flying Service began its round trip service to Bremerton from Pier 54 “at the foot of Madison Street.” In the beginning its eight-seaters took off from the dock shown here tied to the southwest corner of Pier 3. Remarkably, the service kept on for nearly five years. In his company’s first year Verne Gorst claimed to have carried more than 25,000 passengers on 2,700 round trips across Puget Sound. The time of transit for what Gorst claimed was the “world’s first air ferry” was whimsically calculated as 51 minutes less than was needed by the best of the Black Ball’s ferries to plough the same distance. The reason for this popularity was, of course, both the thrill of the fight and the Navy Yard at Bremerton, then a popular tourist magnet. The early success of Gorst’s service allowed him to build a sizeable covered hangar that he anchored at the water end of Pier 4. It can be seen in the accompanying detail lifted from an early 1930s aerial photograph (below) of the Seattle waterfront.The sheltered floating hanger for Gorst's planes was tied to the water end of Pier 3/54.

A detail from the above aerial showing the Gorst hanger at the outer end of Pier 3/54, next door to the Grand Truck wharf.

A detail from the above aerial showing the Gorst hanger at the outer end of Pier 3/54, next door to the Grand Trunk wharf.    When the Gorst operation moved to Lake Union it towed its hanger through the ship canal.  Here, on the right, the hanger floats near the southwest corner of the lake.  It seems to have been somewhat enlarged.

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A scene from one of the Acres of Clams Clam Eating Contests stage on a barge while sharing the slip on the south side of Pier 54 with the fire boats.
A scene from one of the Acres of Clams Clam Eating Contests stage on a barge temporarily sharing the slip on the south side of Pier 54 with the fire boats.

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