by Paul Dorpat BY THE CALCULATION of Carolyn Marr, the Museum of History & Industry librarian, the number 26908 written on this scene...
By the calculation of Carolyn Marr, the Museum of History & Industry librarian, the number 26908 written on this scene dates it at 1913. It’s the work of Webster and Stevens, the photographic studio long associated with The Seattle Times.
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The view looks north from the Pike Street viaduct. It is only a slight exaggeration to describe Railroad Avenue (Alaskan Way) here as a timber trestle, for most of it is still built over tides that continued to soak its pilings until the mid-1930s, when a sea wall built between Madison and Bay streets held back the bay.
When the railroad tunnel beneath the city opened in 1905, much of the train traffic on the central waterfront was diverted to the new tideflat yards south of Jackson Street. Still, rails here dominate with six parallel tracks bordered by warehouses on the right and a plank road on the left that is barely two lanes wide.
The stubby fish docks on the left — piers 60 and 61 — are home for the cigar-box-shaped Diamond Restaurant (with the chimney) and behind it the Reliable Oyster and Fish Co. The two larger docks, snuggling top-center, are the Gaffney Dock (1902) and just beyond it the Virginia Street Dock (1906). The latter used its own trestle across Railroad Avenue (seen here with the sign) to move freely from dock to warehouse.
In its time, the Virginia Street pier was famous for handling most of the newsprint used by local publications. In 1950 it passed on to the “king of the waterfront,” Ivar Haglund. In the 1970s the twin piers were stripped of their worn sheds and the docks used by producer One Reel as a stage for summer concerts.
“Washington Then and Now,” the new book by Paul Dorpat and Jean Sherrard, can be purchased through www.washingtonthenandnow.com ($45) or through Tartu Publications at P.O. Box 85208, Seattle, WA 98145.