Feriton, as this location on the Northern Pacific was known, is immediately north of NE 68th Street and west of 6th Street S.
By Matt McCauley and Kent Sullivan
The name Feriton is used by the NP in its earliest references to that area. Its origin is unknown and has been the subject of speculation by historians. One theory focuses on the 1888-93 Kirkland land rush created by the efforts of Kirkland namesake Peter Kirk and his associates to erect a substantial steel mill adjacent to the townsite they platted. The land may have been owned by someone who used the periodic table of the elements symbol for iron “Fe”, similar to how we get the word “ferrous”, referring to metal with iron in it. Perhaps an homage to the industry many thought would make Kirkland the “Pittsburgh of the Pacific”.
The second Feriton name theory looks to the 1904 plat to the east of the CKC, across 6th Street S. It is called W.B Fehr’s Kirkland Home Tracts, so this theory posits that the landowner’s name, Fehr, inspired Feriton.
Take a trip through time in Feriton
Picturing all of the changes in industries and railroad spurs over the 75+ years of development in Feriton is a tall order. We put together an animation to help you visualize the evolution.
Simply click on the image at right to begin. You can click the animation at any time to pause it. You can also skip forward and back by using the progress bar at the bottom.
The aerial images from 1937, 1954, and 1970 are courtesy King County Road Services Map Vault. The 1981 aerial image is courtesy University of Washington Libraries Maps & Cartographic Information.
This is new technology for us, so if you have any difficulty, please contact us and let us know.
Note: There is no audio accompanying the animation.
Note: The full-sized video is also available.
King County Ferry Oil Spur
To facilitate more, and less expensive, transportation between Seattle and the small communities on Lake Washington’s eastern shore, King County began ferry service on the lake starting in 1900. Private commercial steamboats carried passengers and freight on the lake since the James Mortie was brought into the lake (via the now-extinct Black River) in 1872 by the Seattle Coal & Transportation Company to haul passengers and freight and tow coal barges between Newcastle Landing (aka Bensonville and Murphy’s Landing) and the portage at Union Bay, just south of today’s Montlake Cut. In 1900, the county initiated its ferry service with its double-ended side-wheeler the “King County of Kent”, running between county slips at the foot of East Madison Street in Seattle and the foot of Kirkland Avenue in Kirkland.
The King County took on fuel on the Kirkland side from large storage tanks located near the end of the dock. In the spring of 1908, the county requested a 200-foot spur (or 240-foot; documents vary) to accommodate one or two tank cars containing fuel oil, on the west side of the main track. The NP approved and constructed it in May.
To move the oil from Feriton to the ferry slip, an underground pipeline was built, westward from the spur to State St., and then to Central, and then to the slip.
An extension to the spur of about 425 feet was proposed in February, 1910, to build a rock bunker for King County. The plan was approved in April but it was not constructed, and was canceled in August. (The Guernsey & Kincaid spur in Houghton served this purpose instead.) Oil deliveries ceased in February, 1916, and there was a lengthy series of communications from 1917 through 1919 between the county and the NP regarding removing the spur. For unknown reasons, the county claimed to still have a need to receive oil there so the spur stated in place.
In March, 1922 Joseph Millar from the firm Millar & Neighbor inquired about leasing the spur for its use, to receive home heating fuel materials (presumably coal and wood). The NP asked King County for permission to use the spur on behalf of Millar & Neighbor and they received it later that month. In April, the NP and Mr. Millar negotiated a price of $10 to rehabilitate the track for use but the work apparently never proceeded. In July, the NP finally decided, perhaps unilaterally, to take the spur out of service by “spiking” the switch to prevent it being used.
Midlakes Feed and Milling Co. – Quality Feed Mills – Globe Feed Co. Spur
Perhaps due to Murphy’s Law, just after taking the spur out of service, in August, 1922, Jack Lawson, manager of Midlakes Feed and Milling Co., inquired with the NP about extending the spur to serve a new facility it planned to build slightly north, so it could receive feed shipments via rail. This request was related to its move into the Feriton area from Midlakes (today a neighborhood within the City of Bellevue) because its facility located on the LWBL there had burned. Engineering studies indicated a new spur was a better approach, so the old oil spur was removed and replaced by a new, longer spur. The new 494’ spur was completed on December 18, 1922 and the Eastside Journal reported construction of the mill building was completed in January, 1923.
The feed company proved to be one of the most-thoroughly-documented Kirkland businesses in the ESJ over the years. In November, 1925, the mill burned to the ground in a terrible fire. By this time, the company had changed names to Quality Feed Mills. It took the business over a year to gather itself and to start rebuilding, in February, 1927.
Quality expanded its offerings beyond feed, to coal and wood fuel, in September, 1930. Business continued to grow, even during the early days of the Depression, leading the firm to construct a new warehouse in May, 1931.
In June, 1937, the firm was recognized for its “scientific” approach to creating chicken feed and its investment in modern machinery.
The mill completed an “extensive remodeling program” of its structures and machinery in the summer and fall of 1937, while, fortunately, narrowly avoiding another disastrous fire due to quick and sure response by the Kirkland Fire Department. As part of the remodeling and expansion, the company requested a 60-foot extension to its spur in June, which was approved in July and completed in September. (They apparently started by asking for a 180’ extension in December, 1936, which was not built.)
The firm added a one-of-a-kind poultry lab, with an on-site pathologist, in July, 1939. The company also asked for a temporary 105-foot extension to its spur in August, which was completed in September.
Business apparently declined significantly during World War II, because Quality Feed Mills closed in 1943.
However, the temporary spur extension was made permanent in October, 1944, likely at the request of the US Navy, which had significant warehouse facilities at Feriton during WWII for use at the Lake Washington Shipyard.
After the war, the firm re-opened as Globe Feed Company, sometime between 1947-50. The new manager, Bernie Lawson, sponsored a feed eating contest between two pigs in the winter of 1951 (Purina feed caused more weight gain) and raised a calf in their store in 1952. The company installed 12 large bulk storage tanks, the first of their kind on the West coast outside California, in the fall of 1956.
Stretching all the way back to its first incarnation as Midlakes Feed and Milling Co., Globe Feed and Garden Store celebrated 40 years in business in May 1960. (The article includes some controversy over inadvertent pet poisonings, and it also includes a photo of the bulk storage tanks installed in 1956.)
A large NP train derailment almost wiped out some of Globe’s buildings in February, 1966, and the firm also narrowly avoided a disastrous fire in September, 1966.
A Globe employee inadvertently caused a one-car derailment on the company spur in December, 1967, while using a car-moving device. Fortunately, it appears no one was injured and there was no serious property damage.
After a five-decade existence serving Kirkland and the surrounding community, Globe ceased operation in November, 1972. Mr. Lawson explained that the company had been having to find customers further and further away from Kirkland, due to decreased agriculture in the immediate area, as well as they had been paying higher wages as compared to competitors in other nearby counties; but that, ultimately, tightening emission standards did them in, because they did not have the money to retrofit or rebuild.
The facility partially burned in April 1973 then burned more seriously in February 1974. Apparently, demolition began soon after, but not soon enough to avoid two more fires in March, 1974. These blazes marked an unfortunate end to, surely, the longest-lived business in Feriton.
Note: You can read more information on the Lawson family and businesses in the blog post Manya Lawson: Early Kirkland Businesswoman.
J. G. Robinson warehouse and coal bunker spurs
Kirkland feed dealer Louis “Louie” Todd bought four acres land adjacent to the CKC in Feriton in 1915. Todd owned a large brick feed store in downtown Kirkland and was very well-known and active in the community. Todd leased the Feriton plot in late 1923 to James G. Robinson who, with a business partner named A. J. Oram, opened the Kirkland Coal and Wood Co. in December. Robinson was known for his ownership of the local Ford dealership, and had previously owned a livery and home fuel business in downtown Kirkland as well, which he had sold in May, 1915, so he was back in familiar territory.
Robinson worked with the NP to install two spurs, one branching from the other, that went in service that same month. The longer spur was parallel to the main track but outside the NP-owned right-of-way. Robinson / Todd granted an easement to the NP so the NP built and owned this track. The second, shorter spur, off the first spur, was for a coal bunker. Both spurs were immediately south of the oil / feed company spur, on the same side of the main track. Robinson told the NP to expect business on these spurs from “a hay, grain, and building materials yard and warehouse; a coal and wood yard and bunkers; a storage warehouse; and other industries”.
Robinson bought out Oram in January, 1924. Robinson sub-leased the property to Columbia Lumber Co. and East Side Ice and Fuel Co., both of whom used the spurs, as well as a set of Nordeen truck scales that Robinson installed.
Todd bought out Robinson’s lease during the last week of November 1927—Robinson was by then focused on developing Robinson Lettuce Farms in Snohomish County—and the sublease tenants continued operations.
The Todd estate sold the property to F.M. Roberts sometime between 1935 and 1939 but it is not currently known when the tenants ceased operations. A King County tax assessor took photos of the structures present in June, 1939. (in the right column)
Aerial photos of these structures are below, in the Lake Washington Shipyard section.
The short coal bunker spur was removed in September, 1955 but the longer spur continued in active use as a team track (any business could use for truck loading / unloading).
For example, from January through May, 1959, the T Steel Corporation received 20 carloads of steel on that track, and requested the NP install a 5-ton electric traveling crane and overhead craneway to facilitate unloading. The proposal was approved in July but was canceled in August for unknown reasons.
In 1970, Pace National Chemical Company began re-developing the site and had rail service re-established.
Lake Washington Shipyard – Seattle Door Co. – Western Pneumatic Tube Co. – Dally Construction and Engineering Co. Siding
To support vessel construction at the Lake Washington Shipyard (the successor to Anderson Shipbuilding Co.) during World War II, the US Navy created a facility at Feriton in 1942, to receive large quantities of supplies and material. This facility was obviously located quite a distance from the shipyard and they used trucks to transport material down the hillside. The Navy leased at least one building on the Quality Feed Mills property, and aerial photos show much material stored outside as well. A 50,400 sf warehouse was constructed in October, served by a 1240-foot rail siding that the NP had completed in July. This was the first side track in Feriton on the east side of the main track.
The property was declared surplus and offered for sale after the war in 1946, finally selling in March, 1947 to Preco Corporation, for $75,001, with the only other bidder offering a third of that. Preco (derived from the word “preconfigured”) was one of many postwar companies created to help meet the huge housing demand created by returning servicemen and their families. It sold preconfigured homes under license from Ford Factory Built Homes of McDonough, NY (not affiliated with the Ford Motor Company). Buyers could choose among standard designs and they were delivered partially prefabricated, with final assembly on the customer’s lot. Preco only occupied the facility until July, 1948. when it subleased to Acme Millwork. (Both Preco and Acme were owned by H.W. Hansen.)
Also, note the Robinson coal bunker track just below the K-1 Warehouse caption and the ice house to its right, along the railroad, with the small office building behind.
Acme Millwork moved its base of operations to Kirkland in April, 1955 after constructing a 30′ x 50′ space for the front office personnel, attached to the east side of the main building. The firm employed about 75 people at that time.
Acme Millwork was purchased by Seattle Door Company (aka SeDorCo) in 1957. SeDorCo, originally known as North End Millwork, incorporated in February, 1947 and was owned by Clyde MacDonald. SeDorCo’s specialty was manufacturing “flush” doors using smooth plywood panels, of which there was high demand during the post-World-War II building boom.
In April, 1958, the firm razed an iconic water tower originally built by the Navy and lobbied against proposed legislation prohibiting imported hardwood plywood in May.
That summer, the company received much attention as the subject of a half-hour episode of the TV series “Success Story”, sponsored by Richfield Oil and broadcast on July 7 on King TV. The script from this show provided many interesting details about the company’s business and manufacturing process.
By late 1958, the firm was producing nearly 4000 doors per week and created an innovative shipping method that was noted in a Northern Pacific magazine aimed at railroad customers. By January, 1959 the company boasted 140 people employed, with an $80,000 payroll, and reported sales of 600,000 doors in 1958.
Two more additions followed in 1959, a sure sign of prosperity and a strong product line. In October 1961, the firm was unfortunately caught up in a sweeping price-fixing indictment, as one of 8 (later 14) door manufacturers in the western U. S. The case was settled in April, 1963 after the largest defendant, Simpson Timber Co., was found not guilty.
SeDorCo constructed a free-standing office that resembled a house near 108th Ave. NE in 1963, the same year that the company introduced a low-cost hardwood paneled door, which increased employment by 40 people.
Another addition was completed in 1964 along with a workforce expansion from 175 to 200 employees. The second half of 1965 saw SeDorCo beset by not one, or two, but three separate fires.
Two more additions were built in 1967, along with a couple of more fires. By 1973, the main building had grown to 120,000 sf, after a $100,000 addition. In 1974, a boiler house building was constructed.
By the 1980’s, doors for commercial applications accounted for a major portion of SeDorCo’s business, reaching nearly $8 million in sales for 1987, by producing about 2,000 doors per day with a workforce of about 85 people. The company remained family-owned and family-operated and they rightly touted that its products demonstrated integrity, quality, and lasting value.
In 1990, the Burlington Northern removed the north switch of the siding, turning it into a spur, indicating a volume of traffic that did not justify the maintenance cost of the second switch. Seattle Door Company officially dissolved on in July, 1995. In late December, the SeDorCo Property Partnership leased space on the site to Fire Safety Service, Inc. The site was redeveloped as Phase 1 of Google’s Kirkland campus in 2007, and most of the remaining trackage was removed at that time.
Western Pneumatic Tube Co. is the only company documented on these pages that is still in business as of 2018. The firm specializes in large-diameter, thin-wall, metal tubing that is in high demand in the aerospace and defense industries. Located just north of SeDorCo, at 805 6th Street S, the company’s first building, used as an office, was constructed in 1947, and the company used part of the then-vacant Lake Washington Shipyards facility next door for manufacturing.
In 1950, the company built a 60-foot by 70-foot warehouse with a shipping door facing the SeDorCo siding. Although it did not have a loading dock at boxcar height, Production Control Manager Larry Kautzman remembers well accessing boxcars via a concrete apron, using a forklift to load and unload.
The company completed a large new building, 100 feet by 160 feet, in early 1960, and a new office in 1964, thriftily repurposing a structure moved from another location that was originally built in 1955. The company continued to add buildings around this core: two in 1965, one in 1973, three in 1978, one in 1979, one in 1980, and two in 1999. The original building that was used for railroad service still exists but is surrounded by one of the 1999 structures.
Some may recall officers associated with the firm in the 1950s, such as President H. Handley Cloutier (succeeded by Ardrey Bounds in March, 1964), Vice President Carson Eckmann, Secretary-Treasurer Nylin E. Ludington, General Superintendent Robert M. Nelson, and Technical Director Joseph B. Bowen.
Virginia Lee Homes was located at 605 6th Street S. The firm began business in 1929 in Seattle and began operations in Feriton in 1953. The owner, C. Fred Dally, also owned Dally Construction Co., which appears to have been the parent company and landowner. Mr. Dally applied his graduate degree in engineering to creating quality prefabricated homes that were quite popular in the fast-growing Seattle-area suburbs. Although not covered often in the East Side Journal, the Seattle Times featured the company many times in articles and in paid advertisements starting in June, 1947. The early homes were quite modest but purportedly well-built.
1956 was a breakthrough year for the company, with model homes featured in the Starmont and Marine Hills neighborhoods, as well as top billing on the Better Homes & Gardens Idea Home. If that wasn’t enough, the firm also debuted a model home called Beltina, which was selected in late 1960 for a feature article in House and Home. The firm continued its momentum with a featured home in the Clydesbury development in 1958, a contract for supplying room interiors for a large motel near the Bellevue airport in Eastgate in 1959, and another model home in the Monthaven development in 1960. 1960 also marks Mr. Dally’s appointment to the board of trustees for the National Association of Home Builders’ Research Institute.
Virginia Lee Home’s first building in Feriton, a fabrication facility, was constructed in 1953. Rail access was provided to this building and a companion structure built in 1955 via the northern part of the Seattle Door Co. siding. The firm received various construction supplies via rail at these buildings, and even had a box car involved in a spectacular derailment in February, 1966. The firm relocated its office from downtown Seattle to Feriton in 1955, and built a building for it on the same property but closer to 6th Street S. It appears that the building used Virginia Lee’s prefabrication technique, no doubt as a sales tool.
In the mid- to late-1960s, as interest in these types of homes appears to have waned, Mr. Dally led his firm into other areas, including construction of prefabricated “portable” classrooms, which were shipped by truck and rail, depending on the destination. This era is also when Mr. Dally began moving more into consulting and devote more time to the National Home Builder’s Association, first as a national representative (1964), then as a vice president (1965), and again as a trustee (1968) in the organization’s research foundation. Soon after, Mr. Dally closed Virginia Lee Homes, and auctioned the firm’s physical manufacturing assets in February, 1969. In 1973, he became Secretary of the NAHB Research Institute.
Mr. Dally was not finished with this property, however, because in 1978, he received a permit to construct a new building on the property, completed in 1980. It became known as the Kirkland Commercial Center and had 380 feet of storefront. The building included a boxcar-height door in its west wall, facing the siding, at the southern end of the building. A raised loading ramp was also provided because the building sat back from the tracks. Cascade Drywall Supply was among the first tenants of the building and is thought to have used the door and ramp for rail service.
Mr. Dally applied for a permit in 1983 to expand the building another 110 feet to the south. Construction was completed in 1984.
Note: Hearin Plywood Industries subleased a least some of the Virginia Lee / Dally buildings from December, 1968 through March, 1970 before moving to Par-Mac.
Note: BN files indicate that the north switch of this siding was removed sometime in 1990 or 1991, changing this track into a spur. As of January 2019, some of the siding’s rail is still in the ground behind Kirkland Commercial Center.
Note: One of the 1950s-era Dally-built buildings was torn down in 1970. The others were removed sometime before the Kirkland Commercial Center was completed but specifically when is currently not known.
Pace National Chemical Co. Spur
Pace National Chemical Co. was located at the intersection of 5th Street S and 7th Avenue S. Various Pace -owned companies operated here: Pace National, Pace Chemical, Pace International and Shield-Brite. Kirkland first learned of this company’s intentions in June, 1970 and preparations continued into early 1971. The building was constructed in 1971 and was occupied by September. It appears that Pace used the J. G. Robinson spur for rail service. Don Winters recalls the company receiving single tank car loads of chemicals at a time and that each car stayed for quite a while before departing.
Records indicated Pace closed in 1999, except for the Shield-Brite subsidiary. Don Winters recalls the siding being taken out of service at that time. US Archive Imaging Corp. occupied the building circa 2003-06. About 2004 the building was sold to Ultra Corporation, which tore down the structure circa 2006. This site, along with the Robinson site, was redeveloped as Phase 2 of Google’s Kirkland campus, beginning in 2010 and opened in 2015. Much soil remediation was needed, due to contamination.
Note: The NP installed flashing crossing signals at 6th Street S in 1969. For more information, see Collisions between Trains and Automobiles and Resulting Safety Improvements.
The primary sources of information that informed this work stop in the mid-1970’s. If you can help tell the history from 1975 – 2009, please contact us!