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Tacoma's Salmon Beach

Tacoma's Salmon Beach

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Tacoma's Salmon Beach

209 pagine
54 minuti
Sep 18, 2012


Perched on the shores of the Tacoma Narrows, the community of Salmon Beach overlooks the spectacular Tacoma Narrows Bridge. Built as a series of fishing shacks on the beach, Salmon Beach took on a more permanent
flavor after Henry O. Foss towed his two-story boathouse from the city to the tidelands south of Point Defiance. After electricity was introduced in 1934, more comfortable cottages were built in this fishing community. From summer beach camping to an isolated refuge in the middle of a city, a haven for rumrunners during Prohibition to the counterculture enclave of the 1960s, the community of Salmon Beach has weathered fires, evictions, landslides,
and government caprice to become the unique neighborhood of Tacoma it is today.
Sep 18, 2012

Informazioni sull'autore

Author Roger Cushman Edwards is the greatgreatgrandson of Joseph �Old Cush� Cushman, who arrived in Olympia, Washington Territory, in 1852. Edwards bought his first cabin at Salmon Beach in 1962, is the chairman of the Salmon Beach Historical Society, and spearheaded the movement to have Salmon Beach declared a state historic district. The wonderful collection of vintage images presented in this book has been culled from his own collection and the collection of nationally known photographer Virna Haffer.

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Tacoma's Salmon Beach - Roger Cushman Edwards



By 1900, Tacoma’s Commencement Bay was lined with lumber mills and wharves. The only place for summer camping was along Tacoma’s western edge, known simply as the Narrows. In 1906, Andrew and Thea Foss purchased the tidelands between the Government Meander Line and the Inner Harbor Line south of Point Defiance Park. Henry O. Foss, youngest son of Andrew and Thea Foss, towed the family’s two-story boathouse, built in 1891, from the city (renamed Thea Foss) Waterway to their newly purchased tidelands. Charlie Ziegler, who operated the general store built in 1909, later changed the name to Salmon Beach. After 1914, Andrew and Thea’s three sons, C. O., Wedell, and Henry, formed the Foss Launch and Tug Company, now Foss Maritime. Their father, Andrew Foss, was put in charge of the Salmon Beach Boathouse and Store. Little fishing shacks or tent platforms, built on wood posts and stuck in the gravel beach, soon dotted the shoreline. When the Northern Pacific Railway destroyed the beachfront south of the Nelson Bennett tunnel in 1910, beach campers filled the remaining campsites.

In 1917, upland landowner John S. Baker hired the Olmsted Brothers of Brookline, Massachusetts, to subdivide his acreage into choice residential sites (Olmsted Brothers, Job No. 6454). When the landscape architect asked about the little camps and summer cottages, Baker explained that these campsites were only leased for the summer season at $10 each. If the Foss tidelands had been sold to the wealthy Mr. Baker after the death of Andrew Foss in March 1937, Salmon Beach would not exist today. Henry Foss refused to sell the tidelands and actually leased them to the community for several years after Baker tried to evict everybody. Only after abandoned buildings became a liability, did he reluctantly hired a local resident to tear down the old Foss Boathouse in 1963. Then the vacant store, used as a community clubhouse, was torn down in 1969. Finally, Henry Foss provided funds to the Metropolitan Park District of Tacoma to purchase the tidelands in 1971.

During Prohibition, the springs near the bottom of the steep hillside made these shacks ideal for moonshine stills. The Great Depression changed these shacks into year-round homes, especially after power lines brought electric lights to the beach in 1934. Some energetic residents built comfortable cottages over Puget Sound with lumber used to form the new bridge towers of Galloping Gertie, the bridge that collapsed on November 7, 1940. Fishermen could sell their fresh salmon for 4¢ per pound. Shipyard workers during both world wars rented every available cabin, because land still remained very cheap. Then in 1949, the worst earthquake of the 20th century caused a major landslide just north of the cabins, and Baker decided to evict all persons and property from Salmon Beach by December 31, 1949.

The community organized an improvement club to fight eviction in court. Baker died in 1955, but the Baker Investment Company, disguised as the Narrows Realty Company, finally received clear legal title to the tidelands under the cabins in 1958. Short-term leases helped pay the substantial property taxes of Baker’s heirs until the 1970s. Since Salmon Beach had no sewers, Tacoma’s Community Improvement Program rated each cabin not fit for habitation. The entire community was again faced with eviction. The turning point was a public hearing on Tacoma’s Master Plan for Shoreline Development on December 12, 1973. The Tacoma Planning Commission decided that instead of forcing removal, Salmon Beach should be allowed to remain as one of Tacoma’s three historic shorelines, along with Old Tacoma and City (later Thea Foss) Waterway. This major policy change coincided with the first of seven historical newsletters printed between 1973 and 1977 for current and former residents, leading to the first reunion in 1975. The entire community was designated a Washington State historic district in 1976, and one original cabin (No. 97) was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1977.

Nearly all cabins have been remodeled or rebuilt beyond recognition. Only photographs remain of the fishing shacks and the old-timers that lived here. Fortunately, a nationally known photographer and author, Virna Haffer, took many photographs with her Hasselblad camera 50 years ago, just before the closing of the Foss Boathouse and General Store. All the Foss commercial buildings are now gone, and even the salmon are nearly gone.



In 1905, Laura Mojean watches a live octopus wrap its tentacles around an oar while her mother watches nervously. A person could camp anywhere on the Tacoma Narrows before the Northern Pacific Railway built its new shoreline route over the tidelands. After 1910, only a 4,000-foot strip of tideland was left between Point Defiance Park and the Nelson Bennett Tunnel. (Courtesy of Laura Mojean Dobson.)

Henry Foss remembered towing his parent’s boathouse with the five-horsepower naphtha launch, at right, on Easter Sunday 1906. By 1908, the rowboat-rental business was so popular that a floating shed was moored offshore during the summer. The following year, Foss built a larger two-story building for boat storage, which later became a general store. (Courtesy of Henry O. Foss.)

By 1909, a few cabins began to sprout on driftwood posts south of the Foss Store and Boathouse. The one-room cabin in the foreground is now the front

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