The shift from wartime to peace and prosperity meant necessary expansion and infrastructure updates for both the Airport and Seaport. The wrappings were barely off Sea-Tac’s new terminal when it became clear that the region’s airport couldn’t rest on its laurels. Air travel was here to stay and grow, and Sea-Tac had to keep up with the boom.
The Seaport was feeling its age. To keep pace with growing trade and the increasing mechanization of operations, the Port needed to purchase more land and modernize facilities.
Port of Seattle girls pose on tractor for Seafair.
Piers 43 (Coal bunkers), 44, 46 and 47 undergo a massive facelift. Land is filled, piers are razed, and all the piers will eventually become on massive container terminal, Terminal 46.
Growing by the Foot: The main airport runway is extended by 1,400 feet to 7,500 feet.
Tractor-driving Gals: Port of Seattle “Sea gals” promote trade during Seattle’s first Seafair.
People Boom: The population of King and Pierce counties tops one million.
A Young Terminal 46: Port buys Piers 43 and 46, and will soon purchase the former Piers 44 and 45. Piers 37-47 will become the today’s state-of-the-art Terminal 46.
Another Pier Purchase. Port buys Pier 48 (includes the former Piers 47 and 49) from Pacific Coast Co. Pier 48 is the future home of the Alaska Marine Highway System, an auto and passenger ferry service to Alaska.
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Alaska Airlines air cargo and airmail plane, 1950s. Courtesy Washington State Archives, Puget Sound Branch.
A Couple of Flying Firsts: Trans-Canada becomes the Airport’s first foreign flag carrier and Alaska Airlines begins operations.
Trade Fair: The Port is a major sponsor of the first Japanese Trade Fair in Seattle.
City Centennial: The City of Seattle celebrates its 100th anniversary.
J. Boyd Ellis Post Card of Sea-Tac Airport, with 3 cent postage, 1950s.
A Starring Role: A NBC broadcast from Sea-Tac Airport calls our Administration Building the most functional in the U.S.The caption on the back of the post card to the left reads: “Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. –
Recognized as the most modern and beautiful air terminal in the world.
Flights to every corner of the globe originate from its well-designed
Bulldozing for Boats: The historic Pier 58 is demolished, making way for a small boat basin and moorage area.
Busier and Busier: Seven airlines – Alaska, Northwest, Pacific Northern, Pan Am, Trans-Canada (Sea-Tac's first foreign-flag carrier), United and Western - now serve the Airport's 800,000 passengers annually.
Not Just Passengers Anymore: Flying Tiger Airlines becomes Sea-Tac's first permanent air freight operator.
A New Name and a New Face: The Port completes a million-dollar expansion and modernization of the newly-named Fishermen’s Terminal in May – establishing it as the finest commercial fishing moorage facility in the country. Once known as Salmon Bay Terminal, the new Fisherman’s Terminal now has new buildings, a cafe, and additional, improved berths for the North Pacific Fishing Fleet.
Passengers move through the original South Concourse Gates at Sea-Tac in the 1950s. Courtesy Washington State Archives, Puget Sound Branch.
Air Cargo crew load a Flying Tiger DC8.
Viaduct: The first phase of the Alaskan Way Viaduct opens, changing the face of access to the waterfront.
Cease Fire: The Korean War ends, but military activity continues on Seattle’s waterfront, through Terminal 91 and the Port of Embarkation at Piers 36, 37, and 39. Read more
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A different time for Baggage Claim at Sea-Tac. Crowds wait for their bags as the number of passengers going through Sea-Tac continues to rise.
Sea-Tac’s first building dedicated to Air Cargo operations opens in 1954.
Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie visits Seattle and receives a warm welcome at Sea-Tac Airport.
The Speed of Flights to Come: The jet age arrives with Boeing’s rollout of the prototype of the 707 jetliner. Another growth spurt is coming. Sea-Tac’s main runway is too short to accommodate jets.
Up to a Million: Sea-Tac’s Terminal is feeling a little tight as the Airport hits the one million yearly passenger mark.
Seafair Lane: The Battery Street tunnel opens, and is dubbed “Seafair Lane” on July 25.
Supporting Role: Construction begins on the seawall between Madison and Bay Streets.
Acquisition: Port acquires more land on the waterfront; this time just north of the old Pier 25, the Hanford St. Grain Terminal and the old Ames Terminal – famous for banana imports.
An Emperor's Visit: Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie visits Seattle and receives a warm welcome at Sea-Tac.
Au Revoir! Alaska Steamship Company discontinues passenger service to Alaska, the last service of its kind on Puget Sound
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Fire Crew at Sea-Tac, 1950s.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers builds the breakwater at Shilshole Bay, while a surveyor plans out the construction along the beach.
Fire Protections: The Airport District 23 Fire Department is created with a staff of 13.
Safety First: Port receives award from the Accident Prevention Bureau of Pacific Maritime Association for having the best accident prevention record of any major West Coast port.
Building for Boating: Development begins on the breakwater at Shilshole Bay.
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While Sea-Land is launching its standard container boxes, truck trailers are loaded onto a ship in Seattle, using ship’s gear. Container ships are still a few years off.
A unique loading operation at the Hanford Street Grain Terminal in the 1950s, tips a trailer back and loads the grain.
Hanford Street Grain Terminal workers, 1951.
Big Boxes: In April, Malcom McLean, an ex-trucker shakes up the shipping world with the advent of containerization, loading trailers on the deck of the IDEAL X. His company, Sea-Land, starts container service from New Jersey to Houston.
Room to Grow.
The Port purchases 80 acres so Sea-Tac’s main runway can be extended by another 1000 feet to accommodate the coming jet age.
Marina in the Works: City of Seattle deeds land from deals in 1929 and 1951 to Port. The Port now has all the land required to build Shilshole Bay Marina. Completion of the much--needed facility is just around the corner.
Fire Truck: The new Airport Fire Department gets a $41,000 crash fire truck to respond to emergencies.
No Longer a Sight to See: Spokane Street Frozen Fish Museum closes after thirty years of operation. Located at the Port’s historic Spokane Street Terminal, where the current Terminal 30 is, school children and visitors delighted in the frozen fish on display.
Grain: Hanford Street Grain Terminal shipments hit an all time high of 642,894 tons, more than doubling the previous record.
In May, the Port takes home top division honors and a trophy for its float in the 37th Annual Washington State Apple Blossom Festival.
Taking Over: The Port now owns 18 piers on the waterfront, along with Fishermen’s Terminal and land at Shilshole Bay, and operates Seattle’s Port of Embarkation at Piers 36, 37, 38 and 39; a big jump from the mere six properties it owned in 1915.
A Bigger River: The Port commits to development of the Duwamish River Valley Project. Plans are written to work with the Navy and Army Corps of Engineers to dredge and construct a canal that would allow ships to travel up the river, thereby increasing industrial development.
Shaping Up: Despite land purchases and plans for development, the Port is in a slump and has been for several years. Handling less than half the percentage of foreign commerce handled in 1929, the community and business leaders call for change. A Citizens Port Committee is formed, based on the findings of the 1956 Booz, Allen and Hamilton report titled "Ocean-borne Commerce of the State of Washington." Changes in policy, management, administration and financial operations are in the works.
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Lost Cargo: KING-5 TV airs a documentary on the Port of Seattle, showing the decline of trade through Seattle and urging for upgrades and investments on the waterfront.
Leaving on a Jet Plane: Pan Am inaugurates the first scheduled jet service out of Sea-Tac to sunny Honolulu.
Land Deed: City of Seattle vacates 36th Ave NW and 38th Ave. NW and deeds them to the Port, resulting in a total of more than 90 acres of land at Shilshole Bay Marina.
Pier 28: Port buys Pier 28, and begins development of a large modern terminal. This is just one of the many piers that will make up the future site of Terminal 30.
The Route to Asia: Japan Airlines is Sea-Tac’s first Asian flag carrier with service to Tokyo.
Growing Wings: Passenger numbers leap to 1.6 million in 1959 and the Airport expands to the north with addition of Concourse D.
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