Leschi (steam ferry)

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Leschi (steam ferry).jpg
Leschi circa 1915 on Lake Washington.
Name: Leschi
Owner: Seattle Port Commission, others.
Builder: J. F. Duthie & Company.
Launched: December 6, 1913
In service: 1913
Out of service: 1986
Identification: US registry #11875
Fate: Capsized.
General characteristics
Type: steam and motor ferry, later a cannery vessel
Tonnage: 433 gross; 272 registered
Length: 169 ft (51.51 m)
Beam: 33 ft (10.06 m)
Depth: 8.3 ft (2.53 m) depth of hold
Installed power: as built: steam engines, 700 hp (520 kW); converted to 500 hp (370 kW) diesel in 1931.
Propulsion: originally sidewheels; rebuilt as propeller in 1931.
Speed: 14 kn (25.93 km/h)to 15 kn (27.78 km/h)
Capacity: 400 passengers, 40 automobiles
Crew: eight (8)

Leschi was a steam ferry that operated on Lake Washington from 1913 to 1950, and afterwards on Puget Sound until 1967. From 1969 to 1986 the vessel was a floating cannery in Alaska.


Leschi was originally built a side-wheel ferry by the Seattle firm of J. F. Duthie & Company for the Seattle Port Commission. The paddle wheels were designed to give less water resistance by being “feathering” which allowed the vessel to move faster through the water.[1]

The steel hull was built on the East Waterway of the Duwamish River. Once the hull was complete, it was disassembled and transported to Rainier Beach on Lake Washington. Once there, the hull was reassembled by J.F Dulthie, the machinery was installed, and the upper works (these were of wood) were constructed. The ferry was launched on December 6, 1913. Conducting the christening was Eleanor Chittenden, daughter of the well-known Army engineer Hiram M. Chittenden (1858–1917), and also chairman of the Port Commission, who spoke at the ceremony.[1]

In 1931 Leshi was rebuilt. The sidewheelers were removed and the ferry was converted to propeller drive. The steam engine was replaced by a 500 horsepower (370 kW) diesel.[1] This increased the speed from 8 kn (14.82 km/h)to 12 kn (22.22 km/h).[2] Later in 1931 the ferry was renamed the Ballard and placed on the Ballard to Suquamish run.[3] Leschi continued to operate on the Lake Washington even after the completion of the first floating bridge across the lake in 1940.

In 1948, Leschi was the last ferry operating on Lake Washington. Mrs. J.L. Anderson, the widow of Capt. John L. Anderson (1868–1941), was operating the vessel at that time. The City of Kirkland then took over operation of the ferry, with King County maintaining the two terminals one at Madison Park and the other at Kirkland.

Leschi remained in service on Lake Washington until 1950. The ferry was then transferred to the VashonFauntleroy and the Mukilteo ferry routes.[1][4] In 1951 the then new Washington State Ferry system purchased Leschi.[4]

In 1967, Leschi was sold to Cape St. Elias Ocean Products Company. In 1969, at a cost of $200,000, Leschi was refitted at the Ballard Marine Center to serve as a cannery. The vessel then was transferred to Leschi Alaska where it was operated as floating salmon and crab cannery off Cordova and Valdez until 1986 when near Valdez the vessel capsized.[1][5]


  1. ^ a b c d e Northwest Digital Archives (NWDA) Leschi Ferry Photograph Album Collection (accessed 05-20-11) Contains capsule history of Leschi and guide to 1913 photographs of the vessel (Collection No. 606).
  2. ^ Newell, ed., H.W. McCurdy Marine History at 411 and 554.
  3. ^ The Marine Digest. October 11, 1986, p. 6-7.
  4. ^ a b Kline and Bayless, Ferryboats, at pages 150-151 and 314-315.
  5. ^ Newell, Gordon R., ed. H. W. McCurdy Marine History 1966 to 1975, at page 66.