Cover Story Plant Life On Fitness Northwest Living Taste Now & Then

Man of Steel

The seven frame sheds and one administration building of Seattle Steel were constructed in 1904 partly on fill over the tideflats below the West Seattle ridge. Here, around 1910, the tide is out. Both views were photographed from Spokane Street - then on a trestle and now on fill - at a site just below Pigeon Point.

BY 1910, the likely date for this panoramic portrait of Seattle Steel, its 50-year-old founder was regularly called the city's "greatest industrialist." When he opened this rolling mill in 1905, William Pigott claimed its neighborhood between Pigeon Point and West Seattle at the mouth of Longfellow Creek as his own. He first named it Hubbard, after the Ohio town where he grew up and where his father worked as a labor boss for an iron company. Later, William Pigott renamed it Youngstown, for a larger Ohio steel city.

By the time he arrived in Seattle in 1895, Pigott had worked as a traveling salesman for the same Hubbard company and, with a W.D. Hofius, opened iron mills in New York and Colorado. Side by side with his Seattle Steel, Pigott built a railway-car-manufacturing company that also began operations in 1905. When Seattle Steel formally opened on May 6, the Railway and Marine News called it "the beginning of a new industrial epoch." Within the year The Seattle Times called it "Seattle's Little Pittsburgh."

While steel manufacturing continues at the site 96 years later, the Duwamish River never turned into the Monongahela. The Pigott entity that ultimately became gigantic was the Seattle Car Manufacturing Co. Following its move to Renton in 1907 through prosperous decades of sweet contracts — including orders for B-17 wing spars and Sherman tanks — acquisitions and name changes, Seattle Car transformed into Paccar, with factories on three continents.

Soon after Pigott died in 1929 his steel plant was sold to Bethlehem Steel. Birmingham Steel purchased the plant in 1991, and it continued to produce what Bart Kale, the company's environmental engineer, calls "plain vanilla steel." Kale also says the Seattle Division "is the last steel mill between here and the North Pole."

Paul Dorpat's two-hour videotape on Seattle's early history, "Seattle Chronicle," is $29.95 from Tartu Publications, P.O. Box 85208, Seattle, WA 98145.

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