Seattle Now & Then: The Kalakala at Low Tide

(click to enlarge photos)

THEN: Frank Shaw’s 1960’s stern-end exposure of the Kalakala, “the world’s first streamlined ferry.”
NOW: In spite of the heroic efforts of the Kalakala Foundation, the banged-up and bandaged beauty could not be saved, or Jean would have surely posed it in his “now.” The scrapping of the banged-up “Silver Slug” was completed in Tacoma during the cold first week of February 2015.

For occupying the attention of his two youngest sons, David and me, during long family road trips Dad devised and repeatedly replenished what we called “Pop’s Pop quizzes.”  On one such trip from Spokane to Seattle, I was able to easily answer Pop’s query, “What is the name of the world’s first streamlined ferry.”  That this then ten or eleven-year-old’s answer was correct is testimony to the widespread popularity of the feted Kalakala.

The Black Ball Line’s flagship ferry was the most popular man-made creation on Puget Sound until the raising of the Space Needle in 1962.  We have, perhaps inevitably, featured this ferry for “Now and Then” more than once.  For instance, on the Sunday of November 3, 1991, we showed her passing through the Chittenden Locks in 1947 for one of the ferry’s few visits into our fresh waterways.  Ordinarily, busy carrying both tourists and Naval shipyard workers back and forth to Bremerton, the Kalakala did not need our lakes.

We repeat this portrait of the “Flying Bird” in the clip with that title included below in the stream of features pulled from past Pacifics.

Of the many photographs or illustrations of this ferry that I have collected and/or copied, the over-the-shoulder portrait by Frank Shaw that we have chosen for our feature this week is one of my favorites for several reasons. We put it at the top.  By contrast, the clouded sky brightens the ferry’s silver shine.  The colored slide’s stern end view improves the ferry’s streamlined claim.  Still, the Kalakala’s less kind nickname, “The Silver Slug,” may have been inspired as much by this tapered stern as by the ferry’s bowl-shaped bow where two doors opened wide enough to admit the big trucks of its years, 1935 to 1967.

Perhaps the photographer’s most effective assistant for embellishing the streamlined qualities of the ferry was the low tide.  It drops some of the ferry’s vertical chunkiness, hiding it below Shaw’s prospect, the exposed deck of one of the two Northern Pacific piers are the foot of Yesler Way.  The N.P. was Colman Dock’s neighbor to the south. (In the PacificNW’s printing I mistakenly – and foolishly – named this pier, which served as stand for the photographer, the Grand Trunk Pier.  That, of course, was on the north side of Colman Dock.  My dyslexia seems to be increasingly settling into an early dementia.  Stay tuned.  I’m trying to remember my cane. It has no name that I can share.)

In Wade Stevenso’s ca. 1959 recording from the Smith Tower, the Kalakala is resting in the slip between the two N.P. docks. Yesler Way reaches Alaskan Way (or leaves it) at the bottom left-center.    The Art Deco styled Colman Dock is right-center and to the left (north) of it is the Grand Trunk Pacific pier. The nothern end of Duwamish Head pushed into the frame upper-left.

With the sensational introduction of its modern service in the mid-1930s, the streamlined ferry was promoted with a modern makeover of its Colman Dock terminal with Art Deco touches. You will know, perhaps, that the Kalakala had been transformed from the burned shell of the Peralta, a fire-gutted San Francisco Bay ferry that was sold cheap to the Puget Sound Navigation Company.  Rebuilt here as the PSNC’s flagship it is also a moving monument to Deco design.

The Exchange Building on the left photographed by either Horace Sykes or Robert Bradley while walking the Alaskan Way viaduct in 1953 before it was opened to cars. Note that the 1959 glass-curtain Norton Building is as yet not behind it.  Typical of both Gowey’s and Bradley’s cityscapes the human who appear are not named.    These most likely are like both Breadley and Sykes members of the Seattle Camera Club.

At its center, Frank Shaw’s (or Robert Bradley’s ) waterfront glimpse also includes a second Art Deco landmark, the Securities Building. (sicAnd here falls a second mistake of fact put forth in this trending-pitiful feature.  Thanks to my friend Gavin MacDougall for catching that the Art Deco landmark on Marion St. is the Exchange Building and not the Securities, which is on the northwest corner of Fourth Avenue and Pike Street.   I have confused the names for these before – and may again.)  The Exchange Building still faces Marion Street from the full block between First and Second Avenues. In his contribution to the University Press’s book “Shaping Seattle Architecture,” Seattle architect-historian Grant Hilderbrand considers this 1929-31 landmark as “perhaps architect John Graham, Sr.’s finest work.”  The reader will surely enjoy a visit to the building’s lobby.  The Exchange Building still stands back-to-back and in contrast with the seventeen stories of International Style aluminum and glass curtain-wall construction of the Norton Building.  Built in 1959 it is considered by some to be Seattle’s first modern skyscraper.  The tops of both the Securities and Norton Buildings can be found in Jean’s repeat — just barely.

At the bay end of the slip between Ivar’s Pier 54 and the Grand Trunk Pier, on the right, the San Mateo ferry’s stack obscures the Smith Tower. Both the Exchange and Norton Buildings rise back-to-back on the left. Ye Olde Fire Station at the foot of Madison Street is behind the ferries. The year is 1962. Ivar successfully lobbied to have the brick station painted for the world’s fair – although he wanted fire engine red, which the design commission considered to bold. They chose a sort-of-red with a Spanish – or perhaps Italian – name. 
Another Fair-Year photo – from 1962 and a high deck of the passenger steamer Dominion Republic, which served as a “Botel” during the Century 21 Worlds Fair. From this prospect the Norton and Exchange buildings are on the far right.   The freshly painted, although still wearing Colman Dock, is across the slip from what is left of the northerly N.P. Dock: a parking lot,
Friend Lawton Gowey snapped this while either coming or going from Colman Dock on an unnamed ferry. The Elwha Ferry fills the center of his subject with the nearly new and still lonely SeaFirst tower holding the center. Here, again on on the right  are the Norton and Exchange Buildings
The Nortron Building late in its 1958-59 construction shot by Lawton Gowey from the southeast corner of Yesler Way and First Avenue South.
The Seattle Times September 28, 1958 clip on the awarding of the glass curtain-wall contract for the Norton Building’s construction. 

LAYING THE CORNERSTONE – SEPTEMBER 30, 1959

Much thanks to Dan Eskenazi for the use of these Roger Dudley photographs of the Norton Building’s cornerstone laying.
Fitting the cornerstone with blue collars at hand just in case.

ONE MONTH LATER THE NORTON GARAGE OPENS

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Later, LAWTON GOWEY LOOKS NORTH OVER THE SHOULDERS OF BOTH THE NORTON & EXCHANGE Buildings from the SMITH TOWER.

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WEB EXTRAS

Our good friend Clay Eals contributes the following:

“I understand that the focus of tomorrow’s “Now and Then” is on the “Then” of the Kalakala, not its “Now,” because, of course, the Kalakala no longer exists with integrity. But its large wheelhouse and drive train exist in the south parking lot of Salty’s on Alki, courtesy of the restaurant’s owner, Gerry Kingen, who salvaged them in Tacoma on the day in February 2015 that they were to be wholly scrapped. I’m attaching a fun photo I took on Feb. 23, 2015, of the downtown skyline as seen through the portholes of the wheelhouse as it sits at Salty’s on Alki. On one hand, it’s quite sad that the Kalakala is no longer intact, but on the other hand, it’s nice to have a couple of (large) remnants.
P.S. You can see many more photos of Kingen and the salvage operation on this page of the West Seattle Herald from Feb. 9, 2015: https://www.westsideseattle.com/west-seattle-herald/2015/02/09/slideshow-mv-kalakala-comes-saltys-alki. Scroll to the bottom for the slide show of photos by Kingen and the Herald’s Patrick Robinson and David Rosen to get the full view of the remnants.”
A shot of Seattle’s skyline through the extant Kalakala wheelhouse…

Anything to add, lads?  For sure slim Jean, more old features and most of them from the Seattle waterfront.  The first example will be the other Kalakala feature noted above.  It is scanned out of the paper.  After that the first seventeen of these are recent features pulled forth by Ron Edge from the blog, which has been around now for a decade or more.  They need to be clicked to open.  The rest are older features that were scanned as clippings.   They also need to be clicked for enlargements – to read them.

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Kalakala on an excursion through the Chittenden locks on April 24, 1947. The war is over and it is now possible to move about freely.   CLICK to ENLARGE

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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: Looking south on First Avenue from its northwest corner with Madison Street, circa 1905. (Courtesy Museum of History and Industry)

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

THEN: F. Jay Haynes recorded this ca. 1891 look up the Seattle waterfront and it’s railroad trestles most likely for a report to his employer, the Northern Pacific Railroad. (Courtesy, Murray Morgan)

THEN: The Sprague Hotel at 706 Yesler Way was one of many large structures –hotels, apartments and duplexes, built on First Hill to accommodate the housing needs of the city’s manic years of grown between its Great Fire in 1889 and the First World War. Photo courtesy Lawton Gowey

THEN: A winter of 1918 inspection of some captured scales on Terrace Street. The view looks east from near 4th Avenue. (Courtesy City Municipal Archives)

THEN: Arthur Denny named both Marion and James Streets for his invalid brother, James Marion Denny, who was too ill to accompany the “Denny Party” from Oregon to Puget Sound in 1851. (Courtesy, Gary Gaffner)

THEN: In Lawton Gowey’s 1961 pairing, the Smith Tower (1914) was the tallest building in Seattle, and the Pioneer Square landmark Seattle Hotel (1890) had lost most of its top floor. (by Lawton Gowey)

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

THEN: The original for this scene of a temporary upheaval on Mill Street (Yesler Way) was one of many historical prints given to the Museum of History and Industry many years ago by the Charles Thorndike estate. Thorndike was one of Seattle’s history buffs extraordinaire. (Courtesy, Museum of History and Industry.)

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MORE MOORINGS

ANOTHER look at Colman Dock and the Kalakala early in 1955 from the upper deck of the Alaska Way Viaduct. Here the ferry is nestled at the southwest corner of the ferry terminal.

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This aerial, taken before the building of the viaduct, whose the Kalakala moored at the northwest corner of Colman Dock and the slip between the ferry terminal and the Alaska Pier, on the right, well-packed.
Ivar Haglund posing with his “gullfriend” in his Acres of Clams office at the southwest corner of Pier 54 with the Kalakala behind him in the slip beside the Grand Trunk Wharf.
The Kalakala in for service at the Lake Union Dry Dock.  CLICK TO ENLARGE
THE KALAKALA during its sad return to Lake Union for the few years it waited on its fate. Close to home and friends I attended three good parties on its decks here.   CLICK TO ENLARGE

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