Lake Washington was a broad highway of water, crossed by Indian canoe or pioneer rowboat. Prior to the 1917 opening of the Lake Washington ship canal to Puget Sound, the lake was nine feet higher than it is today, and its clear deep waters teemed with salmon, trout, bass, and catfish.
A map maker surveyed this part of the lake shore, marking off parcels for grant under the Homestead Act. Throughout the 1870’s, more families ventured across the lake from Seattle to build homes in Pleasant Bay. Frank Curtiss settled on the lake shore at this site and built the community’s second frame house and boat landing. The Curtiss family built the dock not only for their personal use, but also for travelers passing across the lake. To meet the demand not only of passenger traffic but also of the growing lumber industry, a number of local settlers pioneered a long tradition of boat building in this area during the late 1800’s. The Curtiss brothers launched their last boat, the Peerless, in 1901. These little boats were as versatile as the pioneers who built them, towing log booms, hauling farm produce, or ferrying passengers.
Captain George Bartch and Captain Harry Tompkins purchased this site from the Curtiss family to serve as the Anderson Shipyard. Bartch and Tompkins built a number of tugs and ferries at this shipyard.
Anderson Shipyard was purchased by Charles Burckardt. Burckardt renamed the site the Lake Washington Shipyards and used it as a freshwater winter tie-up for his salmon fleet. During the 1920’s, the yard made the transition from wooden boat building to steel shipbuilding and constructed a number of steel auto ferries.
Through a small government contract Lake Washington Shipyards built the Robert Grey for the Army Corps of Engineers. A year later, the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey awarded Lake Washington Shipyards the contract for the Explorer, an oceanographic survey ship. Success of Lake Washington Shipyards brought growth and prosperity to the Eastside.
1940-1943 The Shipyard at War
In 1939 about three hundred men had worked in the shipyard; in 1943 nearly nine thousand men and women worked there. The shipyard tripled in size between 1939 and 1942. Lake Washington Shipyards built 29 ships for the Navy and repaired nearly 500 vessels over the course of the war.
Charles Burckardt put the shipyard up for sale. It was purchased by Alaska Terminal and Stevedoring, a subsidiary of the Skinner Corporation, and was used as a fresh water winter tie-up for the passenger liners and freighters of the Alaska Steamship Company.