Seattle Now & Then: Pier 56

(click to enlarge photos)

THEN: The Japanese barque, Nippon Maru, visited Seattle during the summer of 1965. Here it shares the slip on the south side of Pier 56 with vessels of the Seattle Harbor Tours. (Photo by Lawton Gowey)
NOW: The waterway between Piers 55 and 56 has been elaborately arranged to accommodate the growing fleet of Argosy Cruises (meaning “fleets of ships”), Harbor Tours’ name since 1994.

Intermittently, Kodachrome slides by Lawton Gowey may be expected with this weekly feature.  Lawton was a good friend with whom I often compared and shared photographs.  He began his clicking with his father before the second World War and continued exploring Seattle with his camera until his death in the mid-1980s.  Lawton was both a creator and a collector, and Jean’s and my illustrated lectures – what we used to call “slide shows” – are elaborately enriched due to Lawton’s many interests, including this one of Seattle’s waterfront and its diverse navy.

ABOVE AND BELOW: Lawton Gowey’s enterprising records of an earlier visit of the Nippon Maru to Elliott Bay.  In the top photo the sky seems to have sorted itself, a cloud for every sail. This and the front-lit exposure of the Nippon Maru that follows, Lawton dates June 20, 1962. Note the colors of the infant Space Needle to the right in the expansive portrait of the bark above.

Lawton Gowey has captioned this “bark Nippon Maru forward deck, June 28, 1965.” So the bark is about to leave the port.
A clipping from The Times for June 22, 1965.
The Times clipping showing directly above of this Alaskan Way subject makes note of four Nippon-Maru visits to Seattle, but dates only the Worlds Fair visit of 1962 in addition to the featured portrait from 1965. Here, it seems at least, is one more of the four.  The top of the barque’s masts are seen reaching high above Pike Street Pier No.59 (now home for the Waterfront Aquarium), in 1957.

Lawton worked as an auditor for Seattle City Light, at the northwest corner of Third Avenue and Madison Street, about five blocks east up First Hill from this Elliott Bay slip between Piers 55 and 56 at the foot of Seneca Street. His office was an excellent prospect from which to keep an eye on the waterfront. It was Lawton’s helpful practice to consistently and clearly name and date his subjects on the borders of his slides; for the featured photo at the top the caption reads “The Nippon Maru, Pier 56, June 29, 1965.”  It was the last full day of the Japanese training barque’s visit to Puget Sound before it returned to Tokyo by way of Honolulu.  Capt. Isao Kieda, the ship’s master, thanked the 29,849 persons (by his count) who had boarded his ship during its stay.  “My young cadets have been deeply impressed by your good will and kindness.”

The welcome-spouting fireboat Duwamish, can be seen out in the Bay here above the bow of the Harbor Tourist, Lynn Campbell’s waterfront tour boat.  To of left the fireboat the Nippon Maru heads straight for Pier 56, the likely prospect for Lawton Gowey.   Lawton dates this Kodachrome, June 22, 1965.
A clip from The Times for June 30, 1965.
The Harbor Tourist navy has here added The first (I think) of the Lynn Cambell’s Goodtime boats. Note the Seattle Aquarium sign (with the neon whale) at the end of Pier 56, and at the side of the warehouse the then very popular import shop, Trident. Take some time to read here below Trident’s curious promotion of its exotic service to the kitsch consumer.
An intimate Greeting from Trident and October 9, 1962,

Parked to the reader’s side of the Nippon Maru in the featured photo at the top are two vessels belonging to Lynn Campbell’s Harbor Tours, long since renamed Argosy.  Campbell was stocked with zest, and long-lived.  Self-taught, he lectured his passengers on waterfront history or anything else that came up.  Following WWII, he started a tugboat business hauling logs across Puget Sound that soon developed into the popular showman’s affordable and interpreted floating tours, most of them around Elliott Bay and/or between it and Lake Washington. Campbell’s daughter Charlotte, a wharf rat, was often aboard.  She recalled that in the early 1950s, “This was a working waterfront.  Train cars backed into docks.  The bows of great ships loomed over our heads.” That soon changed.

The Seattle Times introduction of Campbell’s Harbor Tourist, from a 1953 clip, June the fourteenth.  [CLICK CLICK ot ENLARGE]
The bay-side end of Pier 56 showing the Marine Aquarium’s optimistic identification with the whale – any whale – before the 1965 capture of Namu.
An early look to Pier 56 access to the Marine Aquarium and the waterfront’s helicopter pad.

By 1965, the year of the Nippon Maru’s visit, Seattle’s waterfront was well into its metamorphosis from traditional maritime work into a midway of cafes like the Cove and import curio shops like Trident – both seen here on the south side of Pier 56. Ted Griffin’s Waterfront Aquarium had opened on the bay-end of Pier 56 for the 1962 Century 21 World’s Fair. The general scramble hereabouts to fill the entertainment holes left by the Fair when it closed in the fall of 1962, included the ambitious Griffin’s aquarium followed in 1965 by his Namu.  Griffin’s well-reported convoy pulled Namu, a net-caged killer whale captured in Alaska, down the inside passage to a new pen at the water end of Pier 56.  Griffin paid for the prized critter out of a gunnysack filled with $8,000 in loose change he had gathered from friends and businesses on the Seattle waterfront. Along the way, news of Namu spread rapidly (and professionally), and an excited flotilla of naturalists, reporters, and happy hour celebrities formed, with nothing more pressing on their schedules than to follow a killer whale to Seattle.

Namu tanked at the water end of Pier 56.
With Namu (and others) caged at the water end of Pier 56, the sidewalk beside Alaskan way became a promenade for protests, here against both the exploiting of whales and the indictment of the Seattle 7. (If you have forgotten the Seattle 7 you may wish to take it with you for keyword visit to Historylink, our state’s on-line encyclopedia of its history. Also the Washington State Press is on the verge of publishing a history of the Seattle 7. I read and loved a prep-copy of the book and learn much.  


Anything to add, guys?  Dearest Jean Randal Sherrard, and hoping I have got the spelling for you middle name correct.  Ron Edge, I, and our readers – I’m confident – wish  you a happy 60th Birthday – so Young!   And so fit.  Here we will insert a late photo of Elvis Presley that dates surely from before his death at the age of 42 in 1977.   We will also hang from (or below) Elvis a photo of you about seven  years ago (so around age 54) we’ve pulled from a promotional card for one of the many Rogue’s Christmases you have produced at Town Hall.  And let the reader know that you look even better now, having lost many pounds at the hands of no one or nothing but your own diet that includes some nearly magic low-cal jello. And now you exersize as well – exploring the city for …

The late Elvis
Jean ca. 2010

… pictures at an exuberant and often enough joyful pace as you repeat – and re-repeat – 100 locations for the “Seattle Now and Then, Best Of” book that we hope to have completed and delivered to its readers sometime this coming October.   And yet Dear Jean feel confident that should some other concern press upon you at school or somewhere else off the Cougar Mountain Campus of Hillside (dear reader, the school is described in a bug near the top)  we can always postpone for a season or even a year.  For now, though, we pause at the waterfront.  Stay happy , healthy and salty – enough.

Here’s the topper – another happy mass of Edge Clippings of apt and old features.

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: The S. S. Suveric makes a rare visit to Seattle in 1911. (Historical photo courtesy of Jim Westall)

THEN: About a year after he recorded this fashionable throng on Second Avenue celebrating the visit of President Theodore Roosevelt’s Great White Fleet in the spring of 1908, Frank Nowell became the official photographer for Seattle’s six-month-long Alaska Yukon and Pacific Exhibition in 1909.

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)




One thought on “Seattle Now & Then: Pier 56”

  1. Loved the article (Then and Now) about the Nippon Maru.The Mayor of Seattle at the time (1973) Formed the Mayors Hostitality Committee.I belonged to that committee. We hosted many of the Officers and Cadets from the Nippon Maru . I have many great memories of that ship and crew.Thanks! Valerie Brice

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