The small steamer Elfin was built at Pontiac, on the north side of Sand Point on Lake Washington in 1891 by Edward F. Lee. Lee acquired the land in 1886 and quickly established a shipyard and a farm. The Lee Shipyard, one of the first businesses on the west side of the lake, is said to have built also the, Squak, Laura Maud, Hattie Hansen (Sechelt), Mist and of course the Elfin.  She was 54.5 feet long (scheduled for 60 feet), with a beam of 13.5 feet. The vessel was powered by a two cylinder compound steam engine.

    The first owner of the Elfin was Captain Frank Curtis, whose past vessel, the Squak, had been sunk in a storm during Christmas in 1890.

    She was eagerly launched in April 1891 amidst a throng of spectators brought in from all over the area from the steamers Kirkland, and Mary Kraft. She could steam at 12 miles per hour, carry 35 passengers, and transport two and a half tons of freight. The Elfin carried its first load of passengers on July 4, 1891.

Al Curtis and Walter Curtis, Frank’s sons, acted as Mate and Deckhand, and a man named Irving Leake was the engineer.

Left to right: Frank Curtis, Walter Curtis, Alvin Curtis

    The Elfin, starting at 7:10 am, made six round trips per day starting from Northups Landing (now Yarrow Bay) to Houghton, Kirkland, and then west across the lake to the base of Seattle’s Madison Street.  The Price for a trip on the Elfin was ten cents each way. She peaked at 180 passengers ferried in a single day, and she averaged 1070 passengers a month back in 1892.

    In 1896 the Elfin underwent some major construction. Her overall capacity was expanded, and the pilot house was raised to the boat deck.  The top photo is the steamer before, and the bottom is after the remodel.

    Early in the morning on December 2, 1900, while moored at her dock, a fire broke out and reduced her to a charred hull. The machinery on board was salvaged and installed in a new vessel, the Peerless.


An abandoned structure of what is believed to be the Elfin was discovered some years ago off of Houghton in 125 feet of water. Although probable, it is not confirmed.

Photo courtesy MOHAI, UW archives, and Kirkland Heritage.

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