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Terminal 86 Grain Facility

Grains to Go | Make Room for Autos | A Park for the People | Here Comes China |  

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Grains to Go

The importance of grain exports to the Northwest reaches all the way back to the late 19th century. In 1890, the U.S. produced 490 million bushels of wheat, much of it from Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana. So it’s no wonder the Port sought to capture some of that export market. In the early 20th century flour, wheat and other grain ranked right at top of Port exports along with canned salmon, lumber and cotton.

Rental car facility, 2010.

Hanford Street Terminal, 1915. Courtesy Washington State Archives, Puget Sound Branch.

The first grain facility, Hanford Street Grain terminal, was one of the first six properties the Port developed.

Loading sacked wheat into ship’s hold, 1938.

Loading sacked wheat into ship’s hold, 1938top of page. Courtesy Washington State Archives, Puget Sound Branch.

Longshoremen started slinging sacks of grain and operating the one-million-bushel grain elevator in 1915. The facility was strategically located at Terminal 30’s current location, close to the Fisher Flouring Mill on Harbor Island.

Hanford Street Terminal, 1916.

Hanford Street Terminal, 1916. Courtesy Washington State Archives, Puget Sound Branch.

Grain exports grew and so did the need for bigger, updated facilities. In 1968, the Port acquired land at the bottom of Queen Anne Hill, and in 1970 the Terminal 86 Grain Facility was built. Cargill, the company that operated the Hanford Street terminal, signed on for the job at Terminal 86 as well.


Terminal 86 in 1970. In the background are Piers 90 and 91, then owned by the Navy but operated by the Por.t

Hanford Street implosion, 1971.

Hanford Street implosion, 1971top of page

Once Terminal 86 was up and running, Hanford Street was imploded in 1971 after several less than successful attempts. Now clear of the old silos, this area could now be developed into a container terminal. Read more about Hanford Street Terminal’s history here.

The first ship to load at Terminal 86, Anthemios, 1970.

The first ship to load at Terminal 86, Anthemios, 1970

The new grain facility at Terminal 86, with a 4.2 million-bushel-capacity elevator, quadrupled the capacity of Hanford Street.

Import cars next to Terminal 86, 1975.

Import cars next to Terminal 86, 1975

Make Room for Autostop of page

In the 1970s, importing cars was big business for the Port so the land adjacent to Terminal 86 was put into service as a staging area for the Auto Processing Company. Nissans, Datsuns and Volkswagens arrived at the Port by the tens of thousands every year. Even many Chevrolets got their final pieces of assembly here.

A Park for the Peopletop of page

In 1975, the Port built the Public Pathways Park (today’s Elliott Bay Park), giving the public a place for biking, strolling, and just kicking back on the waterfront. The lush lawn and pathways were a beautiful change from the rocky shoreline, and balanced the community needs with the commerce that provided income to the region. Park visitors can get a close-up view of the huge tankers and grain loading operations.

“Shipmates Light,” a memorial to men and women lost at sea, was dedicated at the park on May 21, 1977.

“Shipmates Light,” a memorial to men and women lost at sea, was dedicated at the park on May 21, 1977.

With its 11 sprawling acres, Elliott Bay is the largest public shoreline area built and maintained by the Port and is linked to Smith Cove Park via the Terminal 91 Bike Path. In 1981, the Port added a 400-foot fishing pier.

Liu Lin Hai, 1979.

Liu Lin Hai, 1979

Here Comes Chinatop of page

On April 18, 1979, a cargo ship flying the flag of the People’s Republic of China entered the Port of Seattle Harbor. This was the first time a Chinese cargo ship called on a U.S. port in 30 years. The 637-foot, Norwegian-built M.V. Liu Lin Hai arrived empty, but left Seattle with 37,000 metric tons of corn from the Midwest.

Liu Lin Hai taking on grain, 1979.

Liu Lin Hai taking on grain, 1979

Senator Henry Jackson, Port Commissioners Jack Block and Henry Kotkins celebrate with the captain of Liu Lin Hai and Chinese officials.

Senator Henry Jackson, Port Commissioners Jack Block and Henry Kotkins celebrate with the captain of Liu Lin Hai and Chinese officials.

Chinese and American dignitaries were on hand to greet her along with the 13th Naval District Band and a Seattle Fire Department fireboat that provided a welcoming water salute. The symbolic voyage heralded a new era of trade between two countries.top of page


The Port produced a special edition of the Port of Seattle’s “Reporter”, 1979. 

"The Pacific, instead of being a barrier, should henceforth serve as a link," Deng Xiaoping, then-Vice Premier of China, said in a visit to Seattle earlier that year. His visit to the U.S. kicked off a renewed trading relationship between the two nations and the Port of Seattle. Six months after the Liu Lin Hai’s visit, the Ports of Seattle and Shanghai signed a historic Friendship Port Relationship agreement. A much-publicized symbol of friendly ties linking the two ports, it also allowed for a substantial exchange of technical knowledge and management experience. 

Grain facility, 2008

Pier 86 Grain Facility, 2008. Port of Seattle photo by Don Wilson.top of page


Through the 1980s and 1990s, some two million metric tons of grain were exported from Terminal 86 every year. This was a big jump from the tonnage handled at Hanford Street, but the number just kept climbing. Louis Dreyfus took over grain operations in 2000.

Loading a grain ship at Terminal 86, 1989.

Loading a grain ship at Terminal 86, 1989. Port of Seattle photo by Don Wilson.

The back-breaking task of loading sacks of grain is now done by modern machines that can load a grain ship in three days, and handle five million metric tons of grain a year. Terminal 86 is the most automated, pollution-free tidewater grain facility in the world. The rail yard next to it expedites the movement of grain from its Midwest and northern Rocky Mountain origins to destinations overseas.

Read about the Mechanization and Modernization Act of 1960.

 

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