This is the second in an occasional series of articles highlighting the sometimes offbeat, quirky, colorful, but always fascinating oddities of our town. We hope you will enjoy these, and welcome your ideas and feedback.
No doubt you’ve seen it when driving through Meadowdale or visiting Haines Wharf Park — the jumble of rotting pilings, wharfs and rusting metal structures across the tracks from the park, all behind tall locked fences and gates plastered with prominent “No Trespassing” signs.
It’s been a long decline for Haines Wharf from its glory days as a vibrant business and mainstay of the economic and social structure of “downtown” Meadowdale.
The wharf had its beginnings in the 1920s when the original structure, a large barn, was barged across the Sound from Irondale and placed on site. Snohomish County records show that a wood boathouse was added in 1920.
Enter Herbert F. Haines, who in 1939 acquired the facility as part of fulfilling his retirement dream — a full-service, “gourmet” sport fishing facility with all the amenities anyone who likes to fish could possibly desire.
Haines grew up in a maritime family – his father was a shrimp fisherman – and Herb earned his captain’s license while still a teenager. Never far from the water, he worked progressively more responsible positions, rising to be president of Seattle’s Washington Tug and Barge Company. Retiring in 1940, he moved to Meadowdale along with his wife and three children to live the good life running what came to be known as the Herb Haines Sport Fishing Wharf.
Operated by Haines and his family, they rented out fishing motorboats, kicker boats, and sold a full range of fishing supplies, food and all the necessaries to make for a great day on the water.
The kicker boats were designed by Haines as an innovative way to get his customers out on the water fishing with minimal fuss and bother. Stored on dollies, they were rolled to the rear of the customer’s car, where they could be easily loaded with motors, tackle, food and sundry gear. They were then rolled to the lifts at the end of the dock. They’d next be lowered into the water where the waiting customers would jump in, pull the starting cord, and head straight out to catch the big ones. Upon return, the boats were thoroughly washed, swabbed by hand, and returned to the dock sparkling clean and ready for the next rental.
Haines Wharf was a bustling, vibrant business in “downtown” Meadowdale. For over 30 years, it gave employment to dozens, as well as pleasure for hundreds, perhaps thousands of customers.
With the onset of World War II, Haines did his bit for the war effort, housing a U.S. Coast Guard patrol boat under his wharf.
As the years passed, Herb took a less active role in running the business. Restructured in the late 1970s, it was renamed Meadowdale Marine and shifted from a full-service sport fishing business to boat storage. With the decline of local fish runs in the 1990s and the imposition of severe restrictions on salmon fishing in the Sound, business at the marina fell off. In 2001 it ceased operations permanently.
The facility was subsequently sold to Slobodanka Stepanovic and Vladan “Milo” Milosavljevic, who in 2006 proposed plans to redevelop the wharf and offer boat rentals, storage, fishing gear sales, food, public open space, and possibly even a hotel. These never materialized, and no further plans have been proposed since. According to Snohomish County property records, Stepanovic sold her interest to Milosavlievic in 2002, leaving him the sole owner today.
After the Haines family closed the business in 2001, weather and winter storms had their way with the old wharf, particularly the wooden sections that deteriorated and fell into disrepair.
In 2010 the City of Edmonds developed the land adjacent to Haines Wharf and immediately east of the railroad into Haines Wharf Park, a popular spot for visitors and walkers in the neighborhood.
A major windstorm in 2011 collapsed what was left of the wood boathouse, making moot any dreams of restoration. Some of the wreckage is still on site today. The metal boathouse remains intact, but is not accessible as the entire facility is fenced off and posted.
So what is the current situation with Haines Wharf?
“The short answer is that not a lot is going on,” said Edmonds Development Services Director Shane Hope. “I’m the first to agree that it’s not attractive, but right now there’s nothing dangerous, which is good.”
Hope explained that the City of Edmonds has minimal jurisdiction over Haines Wharf, since it is over shoreline land administered by the State Department of Natural Resources (DNR). If there were serious safety issues the City could step in, but right now nothing is posing a hazard.
“DNR still holds the lease with the wharf owner,” she added. “Since it’s not in violation of anything and not posing a hazard, the city has no jurisdiction.”
So for the foreseeable future, Haines Wharf will continue as it is, a decaying reminder of busier times in the Meadowdale neighborhood, and one man’s dream of the perfect retirement.
— By Larry Vogel