Seattle Now & Then: Fire Station No. 5 (or ‘You’ll Like Tacoma’)

(click to enlarge photos)

THEN: This post-1889 waterfront block of sheds and ships was replaced in 1911 by the Grand Trunk Pacific Dock, described at the time as “the largest wooden finger pier in North America.” The exception was Fire Station No. 5 on the left at the foot of Madison Street. A brick station replaced it in 1913. (Museum of History & Industry)
THEN: This post-1889 waterfront block of sheds and ships was replaced in 1911 by the Grand Trunk Pacific Dock, described at the time as “the largest wooden finger pier in North America.” The exception was Fire Station No. 5 on the left at the foot of Madison Street. A brick station replaced it in 1913. (Museum of History & Industry)
NOW: The fourth Fire Station No. 5 was dedicated on a cold December 27, 1963. The chill was endured through a short ceremony that featured Ivar Haglund, the station’s neighbor to the north at Pier 54. Haglund sang a song of his own composition accompanied by the Firehouse Five Plus Two, led by Pep Perry a retired fireman.
NOW: The fourth Fire Station No. 5 was dedicated on a cold December 27, 1963. The chill was endured through a short ceremony that featured Ivar Haglund, the station’s neighbor to the north at Pier 54. Haglund sang a song of his own composition accompanied by the Firehouse Five Plus Two, led by Pep Perry a retired fireman.

Here is the last busy remnant of Railroad Avenue that was piece-by-piece constructed on the central waterfront following the city’s Great Fire of 1889.  This Webster and Stevens portrait of it dates, most likely, from 1909. By then most of the waterfront’s new railroad docks were in place, from King Street on the south to the Pike Street Wharf.  But not here.  This vigorous confusion of ships and sheds is the interrupting exception.

The Grand Trunk Pacific pier, far-left, seen from the Marionj Street Overpass, ca. 1911, the year it was constructed. South of Fire Station No. 3, which is still standing here, the Grand Trunk Dock replaced the irregular assembly of sheds and docks that mark the featured photo north of Colman Dock.
The Grand Trunk Pacific pier, far-left, seen from the Marion Street Overpass, ca. 1911, the year it was constructed. to the south of Fire Station No. 3, which is still standing here.   The Grand Trunk Dock replaced the irregular assembly of sheds and docks north of Colman Dock that mark the featured photo at the top.

The cluttered seaboard block, here at the front, begins on the left in the feature photograph with Fire Station No. 5 at Madison Street.  The purpose of its tower was for more than hanging wet hoses to dry — it also served as an observatory for the Harbormaster.  The station was one of four speedily built after the 1889 fire. The Snoqualmie, the city’s first fireboat, seen right-of-center in the featured photo with its dark double stacks, is parked here beside the station. Far right, reaching Railroad Avenue between Columbia and Marion Streets, is the east end of the new Colman Dock.  It was built in 1908-09 for the

Ca. 1900 front facade of Colman Dock before the waterside pier was extended in 1908/9.
Ca. 1900 front facade of Colman Dock facing a rough Railroad Avenue  before the bay-side  of the pier was extended in 1908/09.
The Snoqualmie posing beside a pier farther south of it's Station No. 5.
The Snoqualmie posing beside a pier farther south of it’s Station No. 5.

prudently expected crush of tourists visiting Seattle for the 1909 Alaska Yukon Pacific Exhibition.  The dock was replaced in the mid-1930s to welcome the Black Ball Line’s then new art deco ferry, the streamlined and yet generally trembling Kalakala.

The new ferry Kalakala imagined passing in front of the towered Colman Dock that was replace with the Art Deco dock, below, to compliment the "world's first streamlined ferry."
The new ferry Kalakala imagined passing in front of the towered Colman Dock that was replaced  with the Art Deco dock, below, to compliment the “world’s first streamlined ferry.”
The deco Colman Dock post-WW2 with a Welcome Home sign on the roof and Black Ball's flagship the Kalakala on the right.
The Deco Colman Dock post-WW2 with a Welcome Home sign on the roof and Black Ball’s flagship, the Kalakala, on the left.
Wade Stevenson's looks to the waterfront from the Smith Tower observatory circa 1959. Here the Kalakala is docked in t he slip between Pier 2 and 2, the "Alaska Piers." The Grand Trunk Pier, far right, is still in place. One of the ferries purchased from San Francisco Bay following the construction their of the suspension bridges, appreoached Colman Dock.
Wade Stevenson’s look to the waterfront from the Smith Tower observatory circa 1959. Here the Kalakala is docked in the slip between Piers 50 and 51, the “Alaska Piers.” The Grand Trunk Pier, far right, is still in place. One of the ferries purchased out of  San Francisco Bay following the construction  of the suspension bridges, approaches Colman Dock.

Not trembling was the most famous resident of this block, the Flyer, the sleek mosquito fleet steamer.  While its name is posted at the scene’s center, edging the horizon along the crown of a shed, the steamer is away, surely at work.  Its routine itinerary was back-and-forth to Tacoma, covering between sixty- and seventy-

The Flyer steaming north on Elliott Bay passing Belltown.
The Flyer steaming north on Elliott Bay passing Belltown. (Courtesy, Michael Maslan)
The Flyer Dock/shed at the foot of Marion Street. (Courtesy, Waterfront Awareness)
The Flyer Dock/shed at the foot of Marion Street. (Courtesy, Waterfront Awareness)

thousand miles a year.  It consumed about twenty-four cords of wood a day.  In the featured photograph at the top, note the firewood below and on the dock to the right of the  “…’ll Like Tacoma” sign.  The physically large but rhetorically modest sign was adopted by Tacoma boosters to lure fair-goers also to visit Commencement Bay and its “City of Destiny.”

The grandest of the "You'll Like Tacoma" signs was set along the north shore of Portage Bay for ready inspection from the AYPE grounds on the UW campus. Illuminated, its greatest effect was at night.
The grandest of the “You’ll Like Tacoma” signs was set along the north shore of Portage Bay for ready inspection from the AYPE grounds on the UW campus. Illuminated, its greatest effect was at night.  Capitol Hill is on the horizon.

Also below the sign is the Burton, the passenger steamer nestled between the Snoqualmie fireboat and the stacks of firewood.  The ninety-three-foot Burton’s raucous history gets sensational coverage in the “McCurdy Marine History of the Pacific Northwest,” edited by Gordon Newell.  With the also island-tending steamer, the Vashon, the Burton ran “one of the most bitter and spirited rivalries in the history of Sound steam-boating.”  Rate wars, races, pitched battles between the crews, and collisions “were the order of the day.”  You may doubt with me the most soiled of these dirty tricks: “the custom of a steamboat man of helpfully picking up a baby and carrying it aboard his craft on the theory that the mother would follow it and become a paying customer.”   

We have not as yet found the name for the nifty little port-holed steamer, front-and-center in the featured photo at the top.  We suspect that it was a patrol boat servicing the Harbormaster, and so also handy for chasing any sea-bound kidnappers that might first be spied from the tower. 

Another way to like if not reach Tacoma in 1909.
Another way to like if not reach Tacoma in 1909.

WEB EXTRAS

Anything to add, guys?  Yes, Jean.  The sometimes shy  R. Edge has boldly brought forward some very relevant extras including more treatments or approaches to the featured spot, the  waterfront slip for Fire Station No. 5 at the foot of Madison Street.

THEN: Frank Shaw’s late winter composition of waterfront landmarks at the foot of Madison Street in 1963. (Photo by Frank Shaw)

THEN:In late 1855 the citizens of Seattle with help from the crew of the Navy sloop-of-war Decatur built a blockhouse on the knoll that was then still at the waterfront foot of Cherry Street. The sloop’s physician John Y. Taylor drew this earliest rendering of the log construction. (Courtesy, Yale University, Beinecke Library)

THEN: In this 1887 look up Columbia Street from the waterfront is the bell tower of the fire station, tucked into the hill on the right. It would soon fail to halt the city’s Great Fire of June 6, 1889. The station and everything between it and Elliott Bay were reduced to ashes, smoldering bricks and offshore pilings shortened like cigars. (courtesy, Kurt Jackson)

THEN: The driver, lower left, leads his team towards First Avenue up a planked incline on Madison Street. (Courtesy MOHAI)

THEN: From boxcars and rooftops to the planks of Railroad Avenue, excitement builds for the ceremonial re-enactment of the S.S.Portland’s 1897 landing with its “ton of gold” on the Seattle waterfront, the city’s first Golden Potlatch Celebration. [Courtesy, Michael Maslan]

THEN:Ruins from the fire of July 26, 1879, looking west on Yesler’s dock from the waterfront. (Courtesy Museum of History and Industry)

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One thought on “Seattle Now & Then: Fire Station No. 5 (or ‘You’ll Like Tacoma’)”

  1. Wade Stevenson’s look over Colman Dock circa 1959, that is not a SF boat coming in, that is one of the new locally built ferries, mostly likely the Evergreen State, on approach from Winslow.

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