As the Port began its Comprehensive Scheme of Development soon after municipal ownership was approved by the voters of King County in 1911, Fishermen’s Terminal, its first property, became a priority. Fishermen in the area needed a homeport and in 1912, land on Salmon Bay was acquired for this purpose. The original building was dedicated in 1914 in front of a huge fanfare and parade of 200 boats, and what was known then as Salmon Bay Terminal, or Fishermen’s Headquarters, became home to the North Pacific Fishing Fleet. This development occurred at the same time the Hiram Chittenden Locks were being completed on the Lake Washington Ship Canal.
Fishermen's Headquarters, 1914. Courtesy Museum of History and Industry. top of page
By 1917, there was a wharf used for lumber shipments and storing vegetable oil, a transit shed, a net warehouse, and Meacham & Babcock Shipbuilding Company began building vessels for the Emergency Fleet Corporation. The Port built tracks and installed a 75-ton Shear-Leg Derrick to facilitate the shipbuilding operations.
Crane hoists a crop of lumber. Courtesy Washington State Archives, Puget Sound Branch.
A familiar scene on the docks: mending nets, 1930stop of page. Courtesy Washington State Archives, Puget Sound Branch.
The original dry docks at Fishermen's Terminal. Courtesy Washington State Archives, Puget Sound Branch.
The need for ship building decreased after World War 1, and the Port sought to keep pace with the growing fishing industry. Salmon was among the top exports in Seattle throughout the 1920s. Other Port properties, such as Spokane Street Terminal and Bell Street Terminal, served as cold storage, salting and barreling facilities, and exportation points.
Fishermen's Terminal, 1939top of page. Courtesy Washington State Archives, Puget Sound Branch.
Demand for fish slowed in the 1930s, but after recovery from the depression, plans for an expansion started taking shape and in 1939, the Port constructed sawtooth mooring piers, a unique design originated by George T. Treadwell, Chief Engineer. More improvements were on their way.
Salmon Bay Terminal at Fishermen's Terminal. Courtesy Washington State Archives, Puget Sound Branch.
The Port sought to continue the precedent it set in 1914 of providing the finest commercial fishing facility in the nation, and a bond issue was approved in 1948 for expansion and remodel to keep up with the needs of the industry. Bulkheads, fill, dredging, construction of net sheds and improved vehicle access all led to the resulting $1 million expansion which was completed in 1952 and the Port renamed the property Fishermen’s Terminal. The North Pacific Fishing Fleet had itself a shiny new homeport, and Seattle had a new restaurant, called The Wharf, with The Moby Dick Taproom and a quirky lounge called the Valhalla Room. Jakk C. Corsaw was commissioned to create murals for the Valhalla Room and Captain Ahab and Moby Dick paintings. Seattle residents may best remember Corsaw as the artist who developed the concept for the globe atop the Seattle Post-Intelligencer building that remains today. The legend of Valhalla served as inspiration for the artwork at Fishermen’s Terminal.
Fishermen's Terminal in 2009top of page. Port of Seattle photo by Don Wilson.
A unique aspect of the terminal is the diversity in the fishermen and women that make it their home. Norwegian, Swedish, Croatian and other immigrants started fishing in the region before the terminal was built and made the communities of Ballard and Magnolia their home. Many descendents of those same fishermen carry on the tradition today, and the connection between the neighboring communities and the ship canal on its shore is still strong.
Aerial view of Fishermen's Terminal, 2009. Port of Seattle photo by David Johanson Vasquez.
Renovation and modernization again began in 1987, with a $13 million plan to provide new net sheds, upgraded commercial facilities, increased support services, parking, and bigger docks. The most recent upgrades bring a $60 million investment in the future of the fishing fleet and the terminal with moorage for 700 boats, side-tie dock space, restaurants, and additional services. It also houses The Fishermen’s Memorial, a bronze and stone sculpture bearing the names of more than 500 local commercial fishermen and women lost at sea. Today, residents and visitors can access the docks to buy fish directly from the fishermen and can enjoy the annual Fishermen’s Fall Festival in September.