Ferries

Eastside Stories: Ferry Landings of Lake Washington--Part II

No. 8 | May 15, 2019

Eastside Stories

Ferry Landings of Lake Washington--Part II

Eastside Stories   is our way of sharing Eastside history through the many events, people places and interesting bits of information that we collect at the Eastside Heritage Center. We hope you enjoy these stories and share them with friends and family.

Eastside Stories is our way of sharing Eastside history through the many events, people places and interesting bits of information that we collect at the Eastside Heritage Center. We hope you enjoy these stories and share them with friends and family.

In the first part of our tour of ferry landings on the east side of Lake Washington we covered the north part of the lake, from Juanita to Hunts Point. Now we will pick up the story continuing around the Points.

For the most part, the public ferry docks and wharves were built and maintained by King County. Except for Kirkland, which became a city in 1905, the eastern shore of the lake was all unincorporated and county government was the default provider of local government services and infrastructure.

When a group of settlers decided they needed a road or ferry dock they would petition the County Commission and make their case for the investment. If the county agreed to build the facility, property owners would be required to donate the necessary land. Roads were usually unpaved at first, and residents would have to undertake the entire process again to get a road widened and paved.

Periodically the county would send out an intrepid engineer to inspect the ferry docks. The logbooks for these inspections are in the King County Archives and provide insight into the challenges of maintaining these critical links. At a time when treated lumber was a rarity, there were perennial problems with rot and dangerous conditions.

And as ferry service declined and then ended, the county was left with a collection of mostly decrepit piers that had been gradually adapted to public uses.

Fairweather Wharf. We'll begin just south of where we left off in Fairweather Bay, between Hunts and Evergreen points, with the strange case of the Fairweather Wharf. Where today there is an engineered yacht basin between the two points, there was originally a wetland. In 1918, after Lake Washington was lowered and the wetland more fully exposed, King County decided that a wharf was needed at this location. This required construction of an elaborate structure--the Boddy-Hindle Trestle--across the wetland, with a spur to the wharf.

While the Boddy-Hindle Trestle became an important route through the Points, linking Evergreen Point to the base of Hunts Point, where there was a school and market, the wharf was never much used. No one lived in the immediate area and more convenient wharves were available on the points.

The image shows Fairweather Wharf when it was relatively new, with the section to the left leading to the Boddy-Hindle Trestle. A wharf inspector's report from 1930 indicates that the wharf is badly rotted and that everything above the water needed replacing. An inspector's report from 1946 indicates that the wharf had completely disappeared and no sign of it remained. The inspector was not bothered, though, noting that the wharf "was in a location not suitable for any reasonable construction supported by piling or otherwise."

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Evergreen Point-Lake Lane . This pier served Evergreen Point and was a regular stop for the steamer Ariel. Its origin seems somewhat uncertain, as the Wharf Inspector of 1946 cannot find records of it having been built by King County. By 1946 ferry service had ended and the inspector noted that the pier was used for public access to the lake for swimming and boating--activities of which he approved! This location remains a public dock maintained by the City of Medina. (Photo courtesy of Washington State Archives)

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Original Medina dock . Medina enjoyed regular ferry service from Seattle as early as the 1890s, with this robust pier at the foot of what is today N.E. 8th Street, near the "Green Store" and post office. The lakefront land for the wharf was donated to the county by Thomas Dabney, one of the first residents of the area. When a new car ferry landing was built to the south, the new owner of the Dabney property, Captain Elias Johnston, went to great lengths to reclaim the land from the county.

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First Medina car ferry landing . The Port of Seattle introduced car ferry service to Medina and Bellevue in 1913, and this was the original wharf at the foot of Evergreen Point Road. This pier was left high and dry just a few years later when Lake Washington was lowered by nine feet with the opening of the new Ship Canal. The identity of the child on the beach is not known.

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Medina Ferry Terminal . Following the lowering of Lake Washington and the exposure of new shoreline, King County built a new car ferry dock and terminal building. The original dock was built immediately adjacent to the terminal building and later moved to the south as shown in this image. When ferry service ended, the terminal building became a community clubhouse and, later, Medina City Hall. A much-remodeled city hall and beach park remain on the site today.

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Clyde landing, Meydenbauer Bay, Bellevue. This pier stood at the foot of Clyde Road (now 92nd Avenue NE), which was named by an early resident with Scottish roots. It is not clear how much ferry service was provided to this location, as it is close to the main Bellevue dock. But the property did remain in public ownership and was converted into Clyde Beach Park, which is maintained by the City of Bellevue.


Learn more about the Eastside. Books available from Eastside Heritage Center include:

Lake Washington: The Eastside

Bellevue: the Post World War II Years

Our Town, Redmond

Medina

Hunts Point

Bellevue: Its First 100 Years


Our Mission To steward Eastside history by actively collecting, preserving, and interpreting documents and artifacts, and by promoting public involvement in and appreciation of this heritage through educational programming and community outreach.

Our Vision To be the leading organization that enhances community identity through the preservation and stewardship of the Eastside’s history.


Eastside Heritage Center is supported by 4 Culture

Eastside Heritage Center is supported by 4 Culture

Eastside Stories: Ferry Landings of Lake Washington

No. 5 | April 3, 2019

Eastside Stories

Eastside Stories   is our way of sharing Eastside history through the many events, people places and interesting bits of information that we collect at the Eastside Heritage Center. We hope you enjoy these stories and share them with friends and family.

Eastside Stories is our way of sharing Eastside history through the many events, people places and interesting bits of information that we collect at the Eastside Heritage Center. We hope you enjoy these stories and share them with friends and family.

Ferry Landings of Lake Washington, Part I

The first edition of Eastside Stories described the ferries that connected the Eastside to Seattle before the floating bridges. These vessels had to land somewhere, and we'll begin the story of the ferry landings on the east side of Lake Washington.

Captain Robert Matson, who began working on Lake Washington ferries as a boy, drew up a map that shows over 30 formal wharves from Juanita to Kennydale in service in 1909. Many other known docks are not shown on his map, so it would be safe to say that well over three dozen formal stops existed on the Eastside at one time or another. This large number of stops makes sense for a couple of reasons.

First, there were few roads around the Eastside at the time, so once off the ferry, it would be tough to travel far. Life around the lake was really oriented toward the water. Front doors were on the water side and in some areas property owners were required to grant easements on their shoreline so local residents could walk along the beach to the ferry.

Second, most of the ferry service was via passenger steamer, with vehicle service offered only to Kirkland, Medina and Bellevue. So ferries needed to drop their passengers off close to home.

Many of these landings exist only in distant memories or on sketches like Captain Matson’s. But others have remained in public ownership and are now enjoyed as parks and fishing piers, sometimes known mostly to the neighbors.

Following are five of the wharves on the north end of the lake. In future editions, we’ll look at wharves on the southern half of the lake as well as on Mercer Island and in Seattle.

Juanita Bay . Juanita, originally known as Hubbard, was settled in the 1870s as a farming and timber community. It later became a popular beach that attracted people from around the area. Juanita Bay itself is quite shallow, so the wharf had to be built some distance from the shore. A stack of cordwood to fuel the steamers is visible at the end of the pier.

Kirkland . As the major city of the Eastside, Kirkland was the first to get vehicle ferry service in 1905. (In that year, most of the vehicles would have been horse-drawn wagons). And Kirkland was the last Eastside community to enjoy car ferry service , which ended in 1950, ten years after the Mercer Island bridge had opened. The Kirkland ferry dock was located where the current public pier sits in downtown Kirkland.

Northup . This pier, among the earliest on the Eastside, was situated on the east side of Yarrow Bay in the community of Houghton. (Yarrow Point and Hunts Point are in the background.) The Northups and several other families settled the area in the 1870s. These children would have attended the Houghton School which was just to the north of the ferry landing or the Northup School further to the south.

Penrose Landing, Hunts Point . Hunts Point had more than its share of ferry landings because it had a relatively large number of daily commuters, at least in the summer months. This landing was on the east side of Hunts Point, in Cozy Cove. A passenger who missed the ferry here could run across the point to the Club House dock and likely make it there before the ferry rounded the point. (Photo courtesy of Washington State Archives)

Club House dock, Hunts Point . This image shows the Club House dock on Fairweather Bay, during an Independence Day celebration in 1915. (Photo courtesy of Town of Hunts Point)


Learn more about the Eastside. Books available from Eastside Heritage Center include:

Lake Washington: The Eastside

Bellevue: the Post World War II Years

Our Town, Redmond

Medina

Hunts Point

Bellevue: Its First 100 Years


Our Mission To steward Eastside history by actively collecting, preserving, and interpreting documents and artifacts, and by promoting public involvement in and appreciation of this heritage through educational programming and community outreach.

Our Vision To be the leading organization that enhances community identity through the preservation and stewardship of the Eastside’s history.


Eastside Heritage Center is supported by 4 Culture

Eastside Heritage Center is supported by 4 Culture

Eastside Stories: The Ferries of Lake Washington

No. 1 | February 6, 2019

Eastside Stories

Subscribe to Eastside Stories by emailing us at: info@eastsideheritagecenter.org

Eastside Stories   is our way of sharing Eastside history through the many events, people places and interesting bits of information that we collect at the Eastside Heritage Center. We hope you enjoy these stories and share them with friends and family.

Eastside Stories is our way of sharing Eastside history through the many events, people places and interesting bits of information that we collect at the Eastside Heritage Center. We hope you enjoy these stories and share them with friends and family.

Welcome to Eastside Stories, a new series from the Eastside Heritage Center. Through these periodic postings we will bring Eastside History to life and highlight the people, places and events that have shaped its remarkable evolution.

The Ferries of Lake Washington

We’ll begin our series of Eastside Stories with one of the things that made settlement of the Eastside possible: ferries on Lake Washington.

The earliest settlers got around by rowboat and canoe, but for the Eastside to grow as an agricultural area and as a commuter suburb, it would need reliable transportation to the burgeoning city of Seattle.

 
The Leschi, in her early steam sidewheel configuration. She was later converted to diesel engines with propellers. (Photo courtesy of Puget Sound Maritime)

The Leschi, in her early steam sidewheel configuration. She was later converted to diesel engines with propellers. (Photo courtesy of Puget Sound Maritime)

By the 1880s, entrepreneurs had seen enough people settling around Lake Washington to justify ferry service. The first problem was to get boats onto the lake, since the Lake Washington Ship Canal was still just a pipe dream. Some early ferries were built in yards in Seattle and Houghton. Others were dragged up the Black River, which drained the lake through Renton.

Early passenger steamers, like Acme , Dawn and Elfin needed a place to land. King County built a series of wharves around the lake, and most residents lived within easy distance of a ferry landing. And there was always the option of flagging a ferry for an unscheduled stop at a private dock.

By the early 20 th Century, Seattle was growing like crazy—from 50,000 people in 1890 to 250,000 in 1910—and all those new people needed to eat. Eastside farmers could supply produce, but loading it on and off small steamers would not do the trick. So, ferries for wagons and the growing fleet of cars and trucks began to ply the lake. The vehicle ferries Kent , Washington and Lincoln served on the Madison Park-Kirkland route beginning around 1900.

 
The Ariel operated on a route from Madison Park to Houghton, serving wharfs on Evergreen, Hunts and Yarrow Points. She was owned by the Johnson brothers and was the only steamer on the lake that stayed out of the hands of Captain Anderson. She ended her days serving as student housing on Portage Bay. (Photo courtesy of Puget Sound Maritime)

The Ariel operated on a route from Madison Park to Houghton, serving wharfs on Evergreen, Hunts and Yarrow Points. She was owned by the Johnson brothers and was the only steamer on the lake that stayed out of the hands of Captain Anderson. She ended her days serving as student housing on Portage Bay. (Photo courtesy of Puget Sound Maritime)

The most ambitious ferry project was the Leschi, a steel-hulled ferry commissioned by the new Port of Seattle in 1912. The ship canal had still not opened, and there were no yards on the lake that could build a steel hull. So the hull was fabricated on the Duwamish, disassembled and re-assembled at Rainier Beach. The Leschi originally served Meydenbauer Bay and Medina (that's the Leschi in Meydenbauer Bay in the background of the the EHC logo) but the Meydenbauer stop was dropped in 1920. The Seattle-Medina route ran until the day before the new floating bridge opened in 1940.

Car ferry service kept going to Kirkland through World War II, mostly to get shipyard workers to Houghton. The last of the lake’s passenger steamers, the Ariel, which served the Points Communities and Houghton, retired in 1945.

The early steamers were lovely to look at, but like wooden steamboats everywhere, they often had short lifespans. Fires, exploding boilers, rot and sinking were the fate of nearly all of the lake’s small ferries. When Captain John Anderson began to buy up the ferries on the lake he brought some order to the chaos, but also took some of the fun and romance out of it. 

About once a decade we get another study of returning ferry service to Lake Washington. The economics have always been a challenge, and the slow speed limit in the ship canal makes for a long trip to Lake Union. A new service from Renton is now in the offing.

But Lake Washington is still full of passenger boats doing what those early steamers all did for extra money: sightseeing excursions on the most beautiful urban lake in America.

 

Our Mission To steward Eastside history by actively collecting, preserving, and interpreting documents and artifacts, and by promoting public involvement in and appreciation of this heritage through educational programming and community outreach.

Our Vision To be the leading organization that enhances community identity through the preservation and stewardship of the Eastside’s history.


Eastside Heritage Center is supported by 4 Culture

Eastside Heritage Center is supported by 4 Culture