Many roads converge near the site of the former Olympic Brewery Bottling Works.
THE AMBIGUITY OF this waterfront corner is revealed by its signage. In Jean Sherrard’s “Now” photo, the city’s green Pine Street sign seems to merely rest on the wire fence in the foreground above the cyclist pedaling the red bicycle. Rather, it stands at the northeast corner of Alaskan Way and — what?
This is the point where Pine Street and the linked Stewart Street, Olive Way and East Olive Street begin their 40-plus-block course, or 2-plus-miles east from the central waterfront (soon interrupted by Pike Place Public Market) through Seattle’s slim waistline to Lake Washington.
Although hard to read, there is also a sign for Stewart Street fixed to the southwest corner facades of the Olympia Brewery Bottling Works in the “Then” photograph. The sign is just above the last wagon on the right, which puts it at the northeast corner of Stewart Street and Railroad Avenue. Perhaps for excitement or distraction during the Great Depression, the last street name was changed from Railroad Avenue to Alaskan Way. Some contending choices were Cosmos Quay; Sea Portal Avenue; Commerce Way; and one that came close to winning the contest, Seatlaska Way.
Hidden behind the Bottling Works was the north portal to the Great Northern Railroad’s tunnel beneath the city. The carving of the hole and blasting of about a dozen squatters’ shacks that were in the way began on April Fools’ Day 1903. The about-a-mile-long tunnel was completed on Jan. 2, 1905.
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The building of the Holden Warehouse on the left at Virginia Street soon followed, and in the spring of 1906, the Virginia Street Dock across Railroad Avenue was built as a near twin to the Gaffney Dock, its neighbor to the south. (They are out of frame to the left.) As piers 62 and 63, both were ultimately cleared of their warehouses for creation of the concert pier that is now being improved for the new Waterfront Park.
Brewer Leopold Schmidt’s bottling plant for his Olympia Beer was also built soon after the clearing of the tunnel’s north portal site, removing buildings for mixing concrete and the narrow-gauged railroad used for moving the glacial till and other diggings extracted during the construction of the tunnel.
Throughout the month of August 1908, Olympia Beer inserted display ads in the local papers, offering added meaning to its slogan, “It’s the Water.” This water, however, was not from the brewery’s vaunted artesian wells but from Seattle’s Green River watershed. The ads are headed, “About Bottles” and continue, “First we soak the bottle in a cleaning solution, then it is rinsed, next it is washed three times inside, twice outside and again rinsed. Then it is examined before being filled and if not absolutely clean it is rejected.”
The work of cleaning bottles for beer was short-lived here. Prohibition began in Washington in 1918, before the federal law took effect in 1920. The delivery horse teams were sold and their Teamsters laid off. By the time Olympia Beer was again filling its bottles in 1934 with more spirited waters, the brewery’s building at the mouth of the tunnel had been home to other businesses, most notably Belknap Glass, one of the city’s larger manufacturers of plate glass.