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Originally published Friday, March 1, 2013 at 10:01 AM

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Seattle's little freighter that could, ca. 1901

The T.W. Lake was built in 1896 by its namesake, Thomas Lake, a productive Ballard builder of steamers for Puget Sound's Mosquito Fleet.

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LYING HERE AT low tide between waterfront Fire Station No. 5 and the nearly new Pier 3 is the little freighter T.W. Lake. It was built in 1896 by its namesake, Thomas Lake, a productive Ballard builder of steamers for Puget Sound's Mosquito Fleet.

On Aug. 25, 1900, stuffed with empty grain sacks, the T.W. Lake steamed north to the La Conner flats, where fields of oats were ready for threshing. The steamer later may have helped carry the Skagit Valley's sacked oats here to Pier 3 (now 54), and its principal tenants, James Galbraith and Cecil Bacon. Galbraith began selling hay and feed on the waterfront in 1891, and Bacon, Galbraith's partner, was a chemical engineer with extra cash to invest in expanding the partnership onto the new pier.

Built in 1900-1901, and seen here all in a row, Piers 3, 4 and 5 were part of the Northern Pacific Railroad's contribution to Seattle's elaborate makeover of its waterfront. The city was booming then, thanks to the Yukon gold rush, which first brought gold fever and surplus wealth to Seattle in 1897. That same year, Reginald Thomson and George Cotterill, the city's brilliant and politically adept engineers, persuaded dock owners and the railroads to conform to the city's state-sanctioned plans for a uniform waterfront.

A small but steady part of Puget Sound's Mosquito Fleet, the T.W. Lake served well and long, but ended tragically on Dec. 5, 1923. Loaded with 300 barrels of lime and en route to Anacortes from Roche Harbor, the vessel plowed into but not through winds traveling faster than 70 miles an hour. The T.W. Lake sank off Lopez Island, taking all 18 men aboard with it in one of Puget Sound's greatest maritime disasters.

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