Lake Washington


Lake Washington Shipyard

    In 1901, two men, Captain George Bartch and Captain Harry Tompkins purchased a parcel of land owned before them by the settler Frank Curtiss. The Curtiss Family procured this site and built on it the second framed house and boat landing to this area. They built the dock, not only for personal use but also for travelers sailing on the lake. During the 1800’s, boat building was prevalent on and around the lake, and the Curtiss’s were no strangers to this industry.

    When Bartch and Tompkins bought the site, they named it Anderson Shipyard after Captain John L. Anderson. Anderson who owned the Anderson Steamboat Company

home based at Leschi Park, built his steamboats across the way at the shipyard. Some well known steamers that were constructed there were: 1. The Dawn, 2. Elsinore, 3. L.T.Hass, 4. Mercer, 5. Fortuna, 6. Triton, 7. (rebuilt) Cyrene, 8. Atlanta, 9. Aquilo, 10. Ramona, 11. May Blossom and 12. Xanthus.

    In 1923 Anderson Shipyard was purchased by a man named Charles Burckardt and he renamed the site the Lake Washington Shipyard (Company) and used it as a freshwater tie-up for his salmon fleet.

    During the 1920’s the yard made the transition from wooden boat making to steel shipbuilding. Among those with steel hulls were ferries constructed too for the Lake Washington runs. A few of those were the: Steel-hulled propeller ferry Lincoln,
the double-ender Issaquah,
which included the exciting feature of an upper level for vehicles, and an adjustable loading ramp.

    And any Seattleite will recall the historic yet problematic ferry Kalakala which was built from a burnt hull of the ship Peralta in 1935 at the Houghton yard.


    In 1936 lake Washington Shipyard Co. received a small government contract to build for the Army Corps of Engineers, the Robert Grey. A year later in 1937 the US Coast and Geodetic Survey awarded the contract for the Explorer an oceanographic survey ship. For info on the Explorer and its service during Pearl Harbor click here.

    From 1940 to 1943 the US spending for defense increased, which meant more money for the shipyards. By Christmas, the standing orders at the yard included four anti-submarine net tenders, 1000 floatation tanks for anti-sub nets, seven artillery lighters and six seaplane tenders.

    In 1939 about 300 men worked at the bustling shipyard; in 1943 however, nearly 9000 men and women worked there. The site itself tripled in size between 1939 and 1942. The Lake Washington Shipyard built 29 ships for the Navy and repaired close to 500 vessels during the war.

    The ones built were:







Coos Bay

Half Moon


Oyster Bay


Bering Strait

Castle Rock

Cook Inlet


Duxbury Bay

Gardiners Bay

Floyds Bay

Greenwich Bay




San Carlos







    In 1945 Charles Burckardt put the shipyard up for sale. It was purchased by Alaska Terminal and Stevedoring, a subsidiary of the Skinner Corporation. The high flow of ships exiting the yard had slowed and the shipyard was primarily used as a fresh water tie-up for passenger liners and freighters of the Alaska Steamship Company.

    The rapid growth associated with the war effort came at a cost. By the end of the war, many residents felt the loss of a sense of small town community and stability. In addition, serious environmental concerns surrounded the growth of the shipyards and the population. An inadequate septic system threatened water supplies and lake beaches, while an oil spill at the

shipyards in 1946 fouled the beaches and killed wildlife along the eastern shore of Lake Washington. The shipyards closed at the end of 1946 and, to avoid future industrialization of their waterfront, Houghton moved to incorporate in 1947 and zoned the waterfront for residential uses.

    By 1950, the Lake Washington Shipyards were completely idle,

    As the eastern shore of the lake evolved into a residential area, shipyards and other industrial facilities closed, including Lake Washington Shipyards. Today, the shipyard site is home to a major development called Carillon Point. But visitors enjoy shore access and numerous information signs and markers that recall the heyday of shipbuilding on Lake Washington.


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Block photo courtesy Rita Belter

Vintage photos courtesy UW Archives