A “must-do” activity for Puget Sound visitors (and residents, too) is riding one of the ferries that cross its waters. Besides serving an important transportation purpose, the state’s ferry fleet offers riders a great way to enjoy the scenic views of the sound and the Cascades and Olympics.
Ever wonder what the state’s ferry fleet looked like many years ago? The State Digital Archives has photo collections that provide an answer.
The photo above shows the ferry boat Olympic as began her service in the state ferry fleet in 1954. The state put the vessel in surplus in 1997 and eventually sold it at auction.
The photo below features the ferry vessel “Enetai” as it approaches the Bremerton dock.
Today, Washington has the largest ferry system in the United States and its historyas a state-run operation dates to 1951. Twenty-two ferries serve Puget Sound and its inland waterways, carrying more than 22 million passengers to 20 different ports of call.
Docs, photos of first WA territorial prison top Archives poll ?>
Seatco Prison, near present-day Bucoda. (Photo courtesy Washington State Archives)
Nowadays, it seems like anything about prison is hot. First, there’s the TV series “Orange Is the New Black.” And, OK, now you have documents about Washington’s first territorial prison capturing the June edition of the Archives Treasures poll. Is that a trend or what?
The docs and photos related to the Seatco Prison near present-day Bucoda took first place with 57 percent, easily defeating State Ferries schedule pamphlets (30 percent) and photos of the Spafford murals being removed from the House Gallery (13 percent).
We’ll begin the June Library Jewels series later this week, so be watching.
Now that we’ve finished showcasing the June edition of the Archives Jewels, we’re ready for you to vote on your favorite. Your three contestants are a collection of Washington State Ferries schedule pamphlets going back decades, documents on Washington’s first territorial prison and photos of the Spafford murals being removed from the House Gallery in 1993.
You can pick your favorite by going to our online poll (below), which will be open until this Friday at 5 p.m.
A ferry approaches one of the San Juans. (Photo courtesy of Benjamin Helle)
Ferry boats are as much a part Washington’s Puget Sound region as rain, salmon and the Seahawks. In fact, Washington State Ferries operates the largest ferry system in the U.S., carrying more than 22 million passengers to 20 different terminals.
The State Archives has a collection of State Ferries schedule pamphlets going back decades. This collection is the first Archives Treasure for June. The schedule featured below is from 1956.
You can read a history of Washington State Ferries here.
A 1956 fall ferry schedule. (Image courtesy of Washington State Archives)
The Kalakala during its glory days. (Photo courtesy Washington State Digital Archives)
Fans of the historic Kalakala are sad over the news that the sleek silver ferry boat has been taken this week to the Tacoma dry dock where it will be scrapped.
The Kalakala was a Seattle icon before the Space Needle was built. It launched in 1935 and plied Puget Sound’s waters until it was taken out of service in the 1960s. It later was used as a cannery in Alaska.
The Kalakala last spring, docked in Tacoma. (Photo courtesy Benjamin Helle)
The State Archives staff has found several photos and documents related to the famed vessel, including the ’50s era photo above. That photo is found in the State Digital Archives’ State Library Photograph Collection, 1851-1990. Below you’ll see a 1951 ferries schedule/fare brochure, which includes a photo of the Kalakala. Note that it cost only $1.55 to take a car on a ferry from Seattle to Bremerton back then!
A 1951 Washington State Ferries schedule/fare brochure. (Image courtesy State Archives)
Kids wave at the Leschi as it passes. Circa 1960. (Photos courtesy of Washington State Archives)
One of the unique characteristics of Puget Sound is the fleet of ferry boats used to carry passengers and vehicles across the water. In fact, these popular boats have been used to get people over the sound in one form or another since the 1850s.
The second Archives treasure for July is the collection of photos and documents about the state’s ferries.
This report, published by Archives in 2004, provides a guide to the records of Washington State Ferries, covering the history of the ferry system, as well as a list of the files for individual ferry boats.
The Kalakala crosses between Seattle and Bremerton.
WSF has spent the past year celebrating its 60th anniversary. To commemorate the occasion, it has a special edition magazine called Compass that is available on all State Ferries vessels and terminals.
Our third and final Archives treasure post will be later this week, so make sure to watch for it. Later on, we’ll start our online poll so you can choose your favorite for July.
Ferry commuters (check out the orange VW Beetle!) in 1978.
April Archives treasure #1: Cross-sound bridge plans ?>
Whether you’re a commuter or tourist, taking a ferry across Puget Sound is one of those fun experiences unique to our state. It’s hard to beat the view of Downtown Seattle at sunset or dusk as you arrive on a ferry sailing from Bremerton or Bainbridge Island.
Believe it not, there were once plans afoot to replace the ferries with a series of bridges that would cross Puget Sound. Here is a 1965 analysis on cross-sound bridge crossings prepared for the Washington State Highway Commission. And here is the Guide to the Records of the Washington Toll Bridge Authority covering 1937 to ‘77. The guide includes this info on the grand idea:
“In 1951, Washington State bought the Puget Sound Transportation Company’s fleet of “Black Ball Line” ferries, and the Toll Bridge Authority took on the responsibility of running and funding the ferry system. Many considered ferries to be only a stopgap measure to transport people until bridges were built across Puget Sound, which would replace all ferries. Much work went into planning as many as five cross-sound bridges, as well as bridges between the various San Juan Islands, before the idea was finally dropped. The only one of the cross-Sound bridges to be built was the Hood Canal Bridge.”
Above is a color map from the 1965 cross-sound bridges proposal.
The cross-sound bridge plans and the map represent the first example in the April edition of State Archives treasures contest. Two more “contenders” will be featured later this week before we ask you and others to choose your favorite in an online poll.