Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Making the Cut: Rainier Valley's Wetmore Slough

This is one of an occasional series of essays commemorating the centennial of the Ballard Locks and the Ship Canal. Guest blogger Nancy Dulaney of the Rainier Valley Historical Society gives us an overview of the South Canal, an alternative vision of the Ship Canal, and of the Wetmore Slough in Southeast Seattle, what it was, what it could have been, and what it is today. An earlier version of this essay appeared in the Rainier Valley Heritage News (Spring 2016).

Detail from Guide of Seattle, Seattle and Lake Washington Waterway Company, 1895. Image courtesy of University of Washington Special Collections.

In the summer of 1916 Lake Washington was lowered by about nine feet as the sluice gates on the east end of the newly completed Montlake Cut were opened and the lake waters flowed westward.

Southeast Seattle has its own special part in the ship canal story. Long before Seattle’s pioneers first arrived, the Duwamish people were canoeing on Lake Washington, Lake Union, and Lake Sammamish, as well as the inland river systems. By the 1860s larger European-American shallow boats and barges passed from Lake Washington to Elliott Bay via the Black River at the south end of the lake, with some portage required as water levels demanded. A man-made connected waterway between Lake Washington, Lake Union, and Puget Sound was attempted in various fits and starts, agreements and disagreements, commencements and abandonments. By the 1870s, the U.S. Navy proposed a shipyard be built on Lake Washington, and Seattle city planners and the surrounding coal and logging industries quickly joined in the call to action.

Not everybody agreed on what exactly that action should be, however.

"Mud will Fly!"

On July 29, 1895, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer printed “mud will fly, whistles will blow, the people will shout and the South canal will be fairly commenced.” The next day former Washington Territorial Governor Eugene Semple started dredging the proposed two-mile waterway and canal project with the financial backing of St. Louis investors and local subscribers. The planned route was from the mouth of the Duwamish River through Beacon Hill just north of Spokane Street and eastward towards Wetmore Slough at the western shore of Lake Washington. Earthen material removed was used as fill in Elliott Bay tideflats to create new real estate – think SODO and Harbor Island. Beset with legal battles and financial problems the Seattle and Lake Washington Waterway Company project was halted and by 1904 the northern route for the locks and ship canal, eight miles long from Salmon Bay to Lake Washington, became favored and funded.

Perhaps the single most noteworthy legacy of Semple’s drive for tidelands reclamation and harbor improvements left to Southeast Seattle was the future site of the Interstate-5 exit 163A, Columbian Way, as the dirt washed away by the water cannons had left a sizable cut in the slope of the west side of Beacon Hill.

Frank Wetmore (1856-1931), second son of Seattle pioneers Seymour and Anna Wetmore. Image courtesy of Rainier Valley Historical Society, Accession #1996.0026.0011.

"The Unsightly Slough"

In its own backyard, Wetmore Slough as a place-name has mostly gone by the wayside, supplanted by Genesee (Park and Playfield) over the years. As for the slough’s namesake, Seymour Wetmore, he and his wife Anna and family homesteaded 160 acres just north of Columbia City along what later became Rainier Avenue and east to Lake Washington in about 1870. He and his sons Birdsey and Frank farmed the land and claimed to have produced 6‑1/2 tons of well cured hay on one acre in 1876. Much of the land was at least seasonally inundated with water, particularly before the lowering of the lake.

For a first-hand account of the lay of the land before Lake Washington was lowered, we can look to Columbia City native John Parker in his oral history collected by RVHS in the 1990s:
Wetmore Slough, from Genesee Street, was a swamp. It was full of big water willows and it always had water in there, summer and winter, because the crick that came down through where the Columbia Library is, went across the Columbia Playfield and joined another crick that came down from Franklin High School and then went out across Wetmore Slough and to Lake Washington. Everybody had outdoor toilets, of course, but later on, as the population grew, this crick became an open sewer and it dumped right in to where the Stan Sayres pits are for the Gold Cup races. When I was a boy, when you left Genesee Street that was a lake. And Nick Nelson had a lumber yard right across the road from Frogner’s Store, which was on Genesee…and it was right on 43rd South. And that, believe it or not, was water! Tugs used to bring in lumber from Taylor’s Mill and they’d land at a dock, just like they would in Seattle Harbor, and it was deep enough water that a tug could get in there. (RVHS oral history)

Lakewood Grocery, 1937. Original proprietors Iona and Charles Frogner in about 1911. Rear of grocery built on stilts. In the late 1930s, neighborhood kids stopped in what was then Art and Grace Thompson's store for malted milk balls and bubble gum in between running along the Wetmore Slough sewer line pipes. One wrong step and into the swamp you go! Image courtesy of Puget Sound Regional Archives.

In 1912, a 2,100-foot wooden trestle bridge was built across the mouth of Wetmore Slough and continued around Callahan's Point to 48th Ave S. and Bradford Street, allowing automobile travel along Lake Washington between the Mt. Baker neighborhood and Seward Park. The visible hump in the middle of the span allowed passage of boats from the lake into the slough. Rainier Valley old‑timer Judd Hines recalled trapping muskrat amongst the ducks and cattails as a young boy in his little boat in the slough near the trestle bridge just after the lake was lowered. After drying the skins in the attic of his father’s plumbing shop, Judd would take them to Sears and Roebuck where he could get $2.75 for a big prime one, good money in those days. (RVHS oral history)

Lake Washington Boulevard trestle over Wetmore Slough, 1913. Image courtesy of Seattle Municipal Archives, #29548.

This bridge fell into disrepair in the 1920s and in 1928 Rainier District businessmen proposed to dredge a 200‑foot wide, 2,000‑foot long canal south from Lake Washington to Genesee Street to permit Columbia City to become a seaport town, welcoming ocean-going vessels to its (new) shores. The Genesee Improvement Club reasoned that dredging would be cheaper than obtaining fill dirt and the time was ripe for the sanitary improvement of the stagnant swamp which acted as a mosquito incubator. (Seattle Daily Times, 3/29/1928). In 1915, the Rainier Valley Citizen had written of a similar proposal -- to dredge the slough to accommodate the large ocean-going steamers the ship canal would bring. Think back to yesteryear’s visionaries and just imagine, if Columbia City was a port of call to the cruise ships of today!

Wetmore Slough looking northerly toward Lake Washington after a heavy rain storm, 1920. Image courtesy of Seattle Municipal Archives, #12846.

For some reason or another, the seaport project failed to get sufficient traction; instead, the wetlands (a.k.a. “the unsightly slough”) continued to be filled with dirt. By 1937 the trestle bridge no longer spanned water and was demolished by WPA workers. Additional fill material was provided by municipal garbage between about 1945 and 1963, much to the chagrin of neighboring residents. What had once been waterfront property became a sensory overload of rats and seagulls, steamy fumes, rotting vegetable matter, flies, and garbage fires. To add insult to injury, the Rainier Valley Dump drainage polluted the lake, curtailing summer swimming and forming a cause for later community activists. 

Park and Playfield Developments

The Rainier Field House recreation center was begun in 1928 and with the passage of the 1948 Park Bond came funds to complete it. In 1957, at the mouth of the former Wetmore Slough, Stan Sayres Memorial Park was crafted out of land which had surfaced back when the lake was lowered, where the H1 Unlimited hydroplanes race for the Seafair Gold Cup each summer. The passage of Seattle’s Forward Thrust bond measure brought recreational improvements to the former slough area, now the 57‑acre Genesee Park and Playfield, in the late 1960s. Two of four planned tennis courts were built ;the fill had yet to settle. Volunteers began work on the Arnold Sadler fitness course in 1979. In the early 1980s over $800,000 was planned for improvements. An off-leash dog park and a new community center were created in the 1990s. 21st century park improvements totaling over $2.1 million thus far include synthetic turf for soccer and lacrosse fields and stadium style lights over the previous garbage landfill.

A 1984 Seattle-King County Department of Health report on abandoned landfills, in which Genesee (Rainier valley) was one of the sites studied, notes: “The fill has areas where the ground surface over the past 65 years has been raised approximately 50 feet.” We venture to guess Seymour Wetmore wouldn’t recognize the place!

Aerial of Genesee Park area, courtesy Seattle Parks and Recreation. The Stan Sayres Pits are at the top on the north end of the park. The intersection at the lower left hand corner is where Rainier Avenue meets Alaska Street and, just to the east, is where where Genesee Park meets Rainier Playfield.

Nancy Dulaney, Rainier Valley Historical Society

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Making the Cut: The Yesler Mill on Union Bay

On New Year’s Day, 1890, The Seattle Post-Intelligencer published an article touting the benefits of purchasing property at Ravenna Park, north of the city limits. To bolster the argument, the article pointed to the settlement of Yesler as a neighboring thriving community:

“Yesler Mill, a settlement of some sixty houses, with ice factory, church and stores -- just a little east from the Park -- is doing a flourishing business and affords us lumber at $1 per thousand [board feet] cheaper than other mills.”

Since the town of Yesler had only been platted two years earlier, it seems doubtful that all “sixty houses,” church, and stores were in evidence.

The community which would be variously known as the Town of Yesler, Yesler Mill, Yesler Junction, or simply Yesler -- was laid out in 1888 as something like a company town to support Henry Yesler’s second mill on the north shore of Union Bay. The town father himself passed away in 1892 and had little to do with the mill operations.

[For an expanded version of this essay, including details on the town and its institutions, see the blogpost Mill Village.]

The Yesler Mill was built on the north shore of Union Bay on Lake Washington on the property that is now the University of Washington’s Urban Horticulture Center and the adjacent Yesler Swamp, west of Laurelhurst. Equipment was probably transferred to the location from the original Yesler Mill in Seattle which had burned down in 1887.

Men, women, and a child atop logs at the Yesler Mill on Union Bay. Photo dated 1892?, Courtesy of Seattle Public Library. 

Soon after the mill was established a spur railroad line was put in to connect the mill to the Seattle, Lake Shore and Eastern Railway line, now the Burke Gilman Trail. Maps of the day are not always reliable; however, we see the railway spur on maps from 1890 (O.P. Anderson and Co., Seattle and Environs) and 1895 (Seattle and Lake Washington Waterway Company, Guide Map to Seattle), but the Baist Maps, beginning in 1905, show no spur. The apparent loss of direct rail transportation for lumber up to the main line is one indication that things did not always run smoothly at Yesler Mill.

Baist Map, 1908, UW Special Collections. This map demonstrates how, prior to the cutting of the ship canal, the waters of Union Bay lapped up to and across a portion of E. 41st at high tide.


This photo from the collection of the Seattle Public Library is undated, but was probably taken prior to the 1895 fire. The railroad is apparent in the background. What appears to be a small church appears at the far right hand. This may have been the Yesler Junction Church.

Fire was the enemy of all sawmills. A catastrophic fire of unknown cause devastated the mill in 1895, only seven years after it was established. A lengthy article in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer on September 17 of that year described the chaos:

“YESLER MILL BURNED. Devouring Flames consume the Plant and Lumber Yard. The Town Narrowly Escapes. Employes (sic] Can Do Nothing but Watch Mill and Lumber Burn.

The entire plant of the Yesler mill at the town of Yesler, on a spur of the Lake Shore road, was destroyed by fire last night, together with nearly the whole stock of lumber, the wharf and eight cars of the lake Shore road. The fire burned so fiercely that the flames were visible throughout the city and for miles around and it was thought that the whole town of Yesler had been destroyed….Fire was discovered at 11 o’clock by the night watchman in the dry kiln. The watchman blew the whistle and in a few minutes a large crowd had gathered, but the fire spread with wonderful rapidity, and in a few minutes the entire mill was in flames."

The reporters on the scene were able to give a rip-roaring first person account of the conflagration:

“About this time a wind from the south sprang up, driving the men away from the lumber back among the houses on the hill. The timbers began to fall and broke the water pipe, leaving the men helpless. The flames at this point were leaping into the air full seventy-five feet and the heat was terrific. Standing on the tracks were six logging cars and two box cars belonging to the Lake Shore road, two of which were loaded ready to ship East: one had logs aboard and the others were empty. As the flooring timbers were burned away these eight cars crashed down into the lake. About the same time the boilers and engine were heard to fall.
In about thirty minutes there was nothing left of the mill but a few smoking timbers. The fire confined itself then to the immense piles of lumber, and gradually ate it way toward the office.
So rapid was the progress of the fire that one of the men, H. Butler, at work on the wharf was cut off from escape and had to jump into the water. He seized a boom chain and hung on until he was rescued.” (p. 2)
The report goes on to relate how the fire eventually burned itself out “chiefly for lack of further food,” and how water from the neighboring ice plant saved some lumber piles and the mill post office building.

Reporting in the days following the fire focused on the untangling of insurance claims and the burning question: would the mill be rebuilt?

It is clear from the newspaper accounts that there was more than one going concern on the mill property at the time of the fire. This was not a company town in the traditional sense. Portions of the mill property were leased to the Great Western Lumber and Supply Company while the ice company also appeared to be an independent entity. Other claims were less clear: “There appears to be some doubt as to the proprietorship of the wharf and dock burned, and it will probably be some days before a full adjustment of the losses can be reached.” (Seattle P-I, September 18, 1895, p.8) 

A bulletin in the same paper three weeks later reports that “A.H Ruelle, of Ruelle Bros, lessees of the Yesler mill, at Yesler, recently destroyed by fire, is now in the East closing accounts of the firm. He expects to make arrangements before his return to erect a new mill, probably on the site of the old.” (Seattle P-I, October 6, 1895, p. 8.)

The receivers of the Lake Shore and Eastern Railway also suffered losses, as described in the P-I article of September 18, 1895. In addition to the train cars lost it is likely that a good portion of the spur line was damaged or destroyed. Since the spur line disappears from maps soon after this date, one might conclude that the line was never rebuilt.


Various sources refer to the Seattle Ice Company, Union Ice Company, or Lake Union Ice Company sharing quarters with the Yesler Mill. In the days before home refrigeration, companies that delivered blocks of ice to your door were an indispensable part of the community.

A section of the Sanborn Fire Insurance map for 1893, two years before the fire, shows several structures of the Union Ice Company, including freezing tanks, ice storage, and oil storage.

The Sanborn map provides intimate details of the workings of the ice company. It had the capacity to produce 20 tons of ice per day, pumping water directly from Lake Washington into 7500 gallon tanks, 16 feet tall. The plant was in operation day and night in summer; closed in the winter. Being a fire map, Sanborn goes on to tell us, somewhat prophetically, “The station pump [will] supply sawmill with pressure in case of fire.” The Sanborn notes conclude that the building is “substantial, premises tidy.” (Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps, Seattle, 1893, Vol. 2, Sheet 55a)

This small snippet of map may be the best depiction we have of the mill property in the few years it was active before the 1895 conflagration. The diagram also shows the route of the railroad spur, a “Yessler [sic] W. C. & L. Co. boarding hotel,” lumber runs, planked roadbeds, and a combination office and post office.

The lengthy article describing the fire in the P-I also gives a snapshot look at operations at the mill:

“[The mill] had a capacity of 75,000 feet in 12 hours and employs 36 men. It was a two-story structure with the sawmill on the upper floor and planing mill and engine room on the lower floor. It contained two double circular saws, an Allis edger, two large wood planers, a sticker, a shingle machine and a lath machine, a Corliss engine and a Noyle engine, two large boilers, an Allis steam setwork with twin engine…Of the 1,000,000 feet of lumber in the yard, only 15,000 to 20,000 was saved.


The years between 1895 and 1912 are somewhat hazy. All sources agree that at some point a shingle mill was constructed on the property that was the Yesler Mill. In her history of Laurelhurst, Christine Barrett reports that folks used to set their watches by the mill's noon and four o'clock whistles. 

One encounters the term “Yesler Mill” in newspaper articles and on maps as late as 1918. Whether the mill was operated by the Yesler Logging Company or an affiliate during this period is not clear. It is possible that the term “Yesler Mill” was just a comfortable moniker.

Beginning in 1912 the researcher finds references to a Two Lakes Mill which manufactured shingles at Yesler Station and maintained an office in the downtown Henry Building. Articles of Incorporation for the Two Lakes Mill were filed August 24, 1912. Newspaper ads include the following:

“Wanted: shingle bolts and stumpage near Lake Washington at once. Two Lakes Mill Co.” (1912)

“Wanted: to let contract for hauling several hundred cords shingle bolts, Two Lakes Mill Co.” (1913)

“Shingle your house all over with shingles made in Seattle. Inquire about our four grades and prices. Two Lakes Mill Co.” (1916)

The 1918 Polk City Directory contains a bolded listing for Two Lakes Mill: “Mnfrs of High Grade Premium Red Cedar Shingles.” However, the very next year the listing had been reduced to two words -- “wholesale shingles” -- perhaps indicating a downturn in the business.

Any doubt that we are talking about the same property where the Yesler Mill stood is laid to rest by an annotated diagram in the Sanborn Fire Insurance Map for 1919 showing the workings of “Union Bay Shingle Co./Two Lakes Mill Co’s Shingle Mill.” Notes on the diagram indicate that the mill had a capacity of 105,000 shingles in eight hours, that there was a night watchman, and that water was taken from Union Bay.

The question of corporate names does not die easily. In 1917, The University District Herald, under the headline “Yesler Mill Running,” reported “This mill has been idle for some time and it is indeed good to see the wheels turning again. It furnishes work for a bunch of men who are causing their earning to benefit Yesler in general.” (July 27, 1917) On April 25, 1918, The Seattle Daily Times reported that a shed had been destroyed by fire at the Yesler Mill Company plant, but that the mill itself was saved by the fire department.

The mill may have dodged this bullet in 1918, but most sources agree that the mill buildings succumbed to fire sometime in the 1920s. (Thompson, Barrett) There would be no rebuilding this time. It is likely that the cutting of the Lake Washington Ship Canal in 1916, and the subsequent lowering of Lake Washington, made it just that much harder to run a lumber mill of any kind.

As the lake waters receded, they left the mill wharf high and somewhat dry and the mill pond only slightly damp. At some point an attempt was made to dredge a channel into the bay in order to make the mill run viable again. This last ditch effort must have had only limited success because by the mid-1920s the mill was gone. Long-time resident Jim Thompson recalls watching the mill burn in 1928 or 1929.

While some lake mills may have benefited from access to the big steamers that the cut afforded, the Yesler Mill, on a shallow bay, was already too low in the water to make that leap. The mill's loss was the U Dub's gain. All the mill acreage, as well as most of the newly exposed wetlands at Union Bay, was acquired by the university with new uses in mind.


In 1971 not-yet-famous author Ivan Doig wrote a piece for The Seattle Daily Times based on the recollections of his neighbor in the area known as Exposition Heights overlooking University Village shopping center. Bill Lozott, Doig’s informant, recalls going down to the dredged mill channel to swim after a hard day’s work in the mid-1920s. 

In 2010, Jim Thompson, shared memories with the Friends of the Yesler Swamp and in 2016 spoke with this author. Both Lozott and Thompson recalled sawdust piles on the old mill site that would smoke and occasionally combust on hot days. Thompson remembers that the mill run “was dug deep enough to accommodate a tug;” he and his pals kept a very small sailboat, “the tar baby,” in the mill run.

My friend John found this old boat in the swamp. At that time they were building 43rd NE. Part of what they were doing to build it -- they had tar. So John and I went up and secured the tar, brought it down, melted it, and used it to caulk the boat somewhat. It was just a little throwaway. About a 10 or 14 foot little sailboat. So we went sailing. I was in my very best clothes -- and we tipped over! So I’m swimming in a brand new suit of woolen clothes.I had to throw them away, of course.

The dredged mill run can be clearly seen about center in this aerial from 1937. Even after the mill closed, neighbors attempted to keep the run open for boat launches. The channel eventually was abandoned to the encroaching wetland now known as Yesler Swamp. Image Courtesy University of Washington Special Collections.


Sources include:

  • Guy Reed Ramsey, Postmarked Washington: King County, 1966.
  • Christine Barrett, A History Of Laurelhurst, 1981.
  • Lucile McDonald, The Lake Washington Story, 1979.
  • The website of the Friends of Yesler Swamp. http://yeslerswamp.org/history/
  • Valerie Bunn's blogspot: https://wedgwoodinseattlehistory.com/author/valariebunn/.
  • Various articles from The Seattle Times, The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, and The University District Herald, including: Ivan Doig, “The home-town boy,” Seattle [Daily]Times, April 18, 1971.
  • Special Collections, University of Washington, including historic maps collection
  • Puget Sound Regional Branch, Washington State Archives, property and corporate records. 
  • Memories of Jim Thompson, courtesy of Friends of the Yesler Swamp, 2010, and as told to Eleanor Boba, 2016

-- Eleanor Boba, 2016

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Ship Shapes: The Ed Monk Sr. Ships Plans Collection

Grant funding from King County 4Culture has allowed us to plunge into the daunting task of preserving and cataloging the remarkable Ed Monk Sr. collection of ships plans. In this essay we'll revisit the man with the plans.

Ed Monk Sr., circa 1967.

In 2014 Puget Sound Maritime Historical Society accepted a large collection of drawings, documents, photos, and artifacts related to the work of renowned naval architect Edwin Monk (1894-1973) from his family. Monk was a designer and builder of boats large and small, pleasure and commercial. His vessels are familiar to mariners all along the Pacific Coast. The collection is an invaluable resource to those fortunate enough to own a Monk-designed boat, as well as to all interested in the history of boat design. We would like to thank Ed Monk, Jr., son of the shipbuilder, for arranging the donation of this collection to PSMHS.

Ed Monk at his National Building Office, circa 1967

Edwin Monk began his career as a shipbuilding apprentice in 1914, working with his father who was a shipwright in the Puget Sound area. He built the first boat of his own design in the backyard of his Seattle home. While working at the Blanchard Boatyard on Lake Union, Monk had the opportunity to meet the legendary naval architect Ted Geary. In 1926 Geary hired Monk as a draftsman. When Geary decided to move closer to lucrative prospects in California, Monk joined him there, taking his young family to Long Beach for two years.

Around 1934 Monk returned to the Pacific Northwest and designed and built the 50-foot live-aboard cruiser Nan. Moored at the Seattle Yacht Club, the boat became both his office and home for his family for six years. A few years later he moved his work space into a small corner of the Grandy Boat Company and later to an office at on Westlake Avenue.

In 1947 Monk, joined by fellow naval architect Lorne Garden, moved to the National Building near Colman Dock. From here he commuted to his home at Hidden Cove on Bainbridge Island. After an illustrious career, Monk died in 1973 at the age of 79.

The Monk Collection includes over 2,000 individual vessel designs on over 7,000 pages. In addition we have been given several of Ed Monk’s half-hull ship models, his drafting curves, and his shop sign. His photograph collection, which chronicles the construction of his ships, is currently being cataloged for accession. 

Remembering the Man and his Boats

The acquisition of the Monk Collection inspired us to learn more about the man and his world. We conducted oral history interviews with his daughter, Isabel Van Valey, and with his niece-by-marriage and one-time secretary, Doris Colbert. These personal accounts supplement the great information in the book Ed Monk and the Tradition of Classic Boats by Bet Oliver (1998). Transcripts of the interviews may be viewed by arrangement at the PSMHS office.

Isabel Val Valey in her home overlooking Rich Passage.

Isabel Van Valey, Monk's daughter, recalls excursions on the Ann Saunders, the first boat Ed Monk built for himself.

The boat was a typical…I think what they call a dreamboat design…and it was kind of like a shoe, with a hull and a cabin that came up….It reminded you of a shoe. And the cockpit had a nice, big long seat on it, so we could sit on it. He was very, very cautious about us not falling overboard, and so when we went through the locks or there was any bad weather we were tied. It didn’t bother me at all, but it bothered my sister terribly. She was older and she would sit on the ropes, because she didn’t want anyone to see her. [laughs] The life jackets those days were just great big bulky pieces of cork, and this was much simpler for us.
Going through the locks was the most interesting. Mother would take the bow line and Dad would take the stern line because he was near the wheel, and we would have to sit in the back on our ropes. This lady once said, “Oh, look at those poor children tied up like dogs!” And my mother was very indignant and said “I’d rather have them tied like dogs than drowned!”
That was my earliest memory [of the boat], and I remember a big electric storm with thunder and lightning bolts while we were crossing in the boat. And I think that’s why I don’t like thunder and lightning now.

Monk's plan for a troller
Another memorable Monk boat was the Nan, the family's home for several years.

Well, it was a live-aboard. It was designed especially for us. My sister and I had a stateroom and my parents had the back stateroom and our living room was the pilot house, which eventually [had] an office in one corner. And the galley was down below on the bow. Mother didn’t like it down there because she couldn’t see where we were going or what we were doing, and I think that was one reason why Dad was inspired to move the galleys up to the pilot house.

Doris Colbert recalled working with Monk during World War II:

When I started to work for him he was called up by the army to make a trip up to Alaska to design flat-bottomed boats for the rivers up there because the United States government was putting in the Alcan [Alaskan-Canadian] Highway. And so they needed these flat bottomed boats to cross the rivers. This is what he designed. At that particular time it was mostly work for the government, but there were times when he did fishing boats, too, because we had to feed the troops and Seattle was a port of embarkation. 

Embarking on a Voyage of Preservation

The Monk plans, photos, and objects, while well organized, require proper archival storage and cataloging. It is a big job! UW Information School students Jodi Myers and Suzanne LeDoux have laid the groundwork for us by formally assessing the collection and estimating the resources (time, money, personnel) required to complete conservation. They also drafted a user guide for staff and volunteers working on the conservation project.

PSMHS volunteer John Kelly has helped curate the Puget Sound Maritime ships plans collections for years. 

Cultural resource specialist Katherine Kidwell has been working with PSMHS staff and volunteers since January of this year to place the ships plans into archivally safe storage and entering detailed information about each hand-drawn page into our PastPerfect database. A great deal of work remains to be done, but we are pleased to have set sail on this exciting voyage!

Katherine Kidwell shows us how the Monk ship plans are stored.

--John Kelly and Eleanor Boba contributed to this post. Special thanks to King County 4Culture for funding this important preservation project.