From Hooverville to Harbor Hero | The Early Years | Through the War | Moving Toward Containerization | Bigger and Better
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From Hooverville to Harbor Hero
Today’s Terminal 46, a central feature of Seattle’s waterfront, serves some of the world’s largest container ships. Its huge orange cranes can be seen for miles, and it is frequently abuzz with trucks hauling millions of dollars worth of containerized cargo, which translates into jobs and money for the local community. But today’s terminal started out as something very different, and it emerged as a whole when pieces of the puzzle were finally joined.
Skinner & Eddy Shipyard, 1918. Courtesy Naval History and Heritage Command.
The first bones of this massive Terminal – Piers 39 and 42 – were the site of World War I shipbuilding. The Skinner and Eddy Corporation operated their Shipyard No. 2 here. The shipyard was abandoned after the war and eventually fell into the hands of the U.S. Shipping Board.
The Port bought the piers and 20 acres of land in 1924 from the U.S Shipping Board and called the property “Unit 15.” The Port planned to develop it into a marine terminal, but put those plans on hold as the Great Depression gripped the nation. With an eye to the future, the Port bought more property next to it in 1931.
Hooverville, 1930s. Courtesy Washington State Archives, Puget Sound Branch.
High unemployment left many Seattle residents homeless. In 1931, hundreds of those homeless built makeshift shelters and houses on the undeveloped land, and thus began Seattle’s most famous “Hooverville.” The city’s attempts to move them out proved futile. Hooverville’s residents organized, elected a mayor and complied with the city’s requests, which included instituting health standards. Upwards of 1,000 men lived there over the next 10 years.
Loading shingles at Pier B, 1939. Courtesy Washington State Archives, Puget Sound Branch.
In 1939, Connecticut Street Pier, with twin transit sheds, was built. With the Depression in the rearview mirror, the Port was ready to develop more of the land and in 1941 had the last remaining Hooverville shacks bulldozed. By 1944 a second pier, Atlantic Street Pier (and later Pier 39), was built and a portion of the land between the two piers was filled with dirt.
Progress was halted again when World War II broke out and Seattle became a wartime seaport for the second time in three decades. The government was taking up property quickly in the interest of national defense, but the Connecticut Street Pier dodged the takeover and continued with cargo operations. Connecticut Street Pier became known as Pier 42, and Alaska Steamship Company began operations there in the 1940s. Pier 39 became part of the Army’s Port of Embarkation.
Pier 43 worker
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In 1950, the Port acquired Piers 43, 45, 46, 47, 48 and 49 from the Pacific Coast Co. Pier 43 had been primarily used for coal shipments from pre-Port days until 1966, when those operations ended and the train tracks were removed. The other piers, including Piers 37, 39 and 42, served various shipping services through the 1950s and 1960s.
Containerization was on the horizon and the Port needed to consolidate piers to accommodate it. In 1964, Piers 44, 45 and 46 were incorporated into one terminal, Terminal 46. Three gantry cranes were installed, and Matson Navigation began shipping operations there.
In 1972, upgrades at Terminal 46 and Pier 42 marked the beginning of the complete incorporation of Pier 42 into Terminal 46.
Cargo operations at Terminal 46
Pier 43, a skinny-finger pier with parking, which served Washington Tug & Barge, was left largely undeveloped until the Port incorporated all of the piers from Pier 37 to Terminal 46 (once Piers 44, 45 and 46) into one massive container terminal, Terminal 46.
In 1975, the shed on Pier 39 was demolished.
1977, Piers 37 -47
Record container volumes throughout the 1960s and 1970s called for bigger and better terminals and equipment. By 1976, a $60 million project, with 3.5 million cubic yards of fill, incorporated Piers 37 through 43 into one massive container terminal, Terminal 37. But the Terminal 46 still only consisted of the adjoined Piers 44, 45, and 46. The new Terminal 37 remained a separate terminal. Today’s massive terminal was yet to come.
And in 1979, the south berth at Terminal 37 opened for business with Japan Six Lines serving it. In the 1980s Hanjin Shipping relocated from Terminal 18 to Terminal 37. APL moved operations from Terminal 25 to Terminal 46.
In 1982, improvements and equipment upgrades resulted in a new $29 million container facility serving Asia America Line, FESCO, Phoenix Container Lines and others.
By the early 1980s, Terminals 37, 42 and 46 were technically one big stretch of concrete over the water, at 88 acres, but still called by separate names. At this time also, APL and the Port worked together on expansion at Terminal 5 and they made the move once complete.
In 2001, China joined the World Trade organization, and international trade forecasters projected huge growth in trade volumes from China and other Asian countries. In 2002, the Port invested in a $70 million upgrade and modernization project that merged the terminals, and Total Terminals International (TTI) and Hanjin signed new leases with the Port.
The newest improvements, completed in 2004, added a 17-lane truck gate with state-of-the-art optical character recognition technology, new terminal buildings, and additional container yard acreage. The terminal’s strategic proximity to BNSF’s Seattle Intermodal Gateway links it to prompt and cost-efficient shipping via railroad.
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