Edmonds Oddities: Haines Wharf

Haines Wharf today, showing the deteriorated wooden piling and structures, and the remaining metal boathouse.
Haines Wharf today, showing the deteriorated wooden piling and structures, and the remaining metal boathouse.

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.

The deteriorated wooden wharf as it appears today. (Photo by Larry Vogel)

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.

Haines Wharf as it appeared in the middle of the last century. (Photo courtesy Edmonds Historical Museum)

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.

In its heyday in the 1940s and ‘50s, Herb Haines Sport Fishing Wharf was a mecca for anglers.
In its heyday in the 1940s and ‘50s, Herb Haines Sport Fishing Wharf was a mecca for anglers. (Photo courtesy Edmonds Historic Museum)

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.

Loading gas at Haines Wharf. (Photo courtesy Edmonds Historical Museum)

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.

Haines Wharf circa 1944 with Coast Guard boat. (Photo courtesy Edmonds Historical Museum)

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.

A relic of times past, the boat lift is still standing at the end of the old dock. (Photo by Larry Vogel)

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.

The City of Edmonds added Haines Wharf Park to the city park system in 2010. (Photo by Larry Vogel)

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?

Haines Wharf as seen from the Haines Wharf Park’s David M. Stern viewpoint today.
Haines Wharf as seen from Haines Wharf Park’s David M. Stern viewpoint today.

“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

  1. “Haines Wharf as it appeared in the middle of the last century” sent chills down my back: I remember it exactly like that – but “middle of the last century” makes me feel a thousand years old! We used to play near there, kayak around it…

    We also used to play at the Meadowdale Country Club when it was in operation, and later as teens we used to sneak in, before it burned. With friends, we carried an old Franklin stove out from the logging camp above the country club and restored it; that was about 1965. We also found a pile of Edison records. At that time there was still one cabin on what is now the trail down to the park. We’d also jeep up and down the canyon, and in the gravel pit that was then on the bluff above.

    Any chance of an article on the Meadowdale Country Club?

  2. Great article Larry. I have fond memories of renting the boats and my brother and me being lowered down to catch the “Big Ones”. Simpler times. Simpler pleasures.

  3. Great memories at Haines Wharf/Meadowdale Marine. Used to catch salmon right off the dock, and rent boats to get out further. I fished out in front of it a few weeks back, brought back some great memories. Sad to see it in such bad shape.

  4. Haines Wharf was an icon in Browns Bay, and there were other boat houses up and down the coast. I worked summers at Andy’s Boat House next to the Ferry Dock in Edmonds. from 1962-65, where we also rented kicker boats, sold bait and gear and stored private boats for customers in large sheds.I think we had the first all fiberglass kickers, no leaks was a selling point.
    The owner, Howard Anderson, Jr. was a great boss, giving high school age kids like me important work experience. Hours were 4am til sunset on weekends, and the works was hard. The prime job was running the Marine railway that carried boats from the boathouse down to the water.What a great opportunity that was. I reminisced when I reviewed my Social Security work record recently and saw that I first paid into SS in the 1962 tax year. The site of Andy’s is now a park just South of the Ferry Dock, and signs mark the history.

    1. I loved reading these comments about growing up in Meadowdale, especially Kevin Brechner’s. Such great descriptions of how it was in the “old days”. And so many places/landmarks I had never heard about. I grew up in the 70’s between Brier and Kenmore where so much had already been built up, and of course we didn’t have all of the beach related activities. But of course we had our own old fashioned fun too. It sounds like Meadowdale was a great place for growing up.

  5. On Haines Wharf and Meadowdale:

    I spend innumerable hours on Haines Wharf, Meadowdale Beach, and walking “in the stream’ on a little walkway in the rectangular tunnel under the Great Northern tracks, up into Lund’s Gulch.
    I can see Haines Wharf clearly in my mind, of walking across the heavy creosote-soaked deck planks from the shore. Cars’ tires crossing on the beams made a distinctive clacking sound. On the Northwest corner of the dock was an enclosed fishing area where you could cast out a line and sit on a bench. Many days of my youth were spent there. I never caught salmon, but many a flounder and rock cod, and too many bullheads that were not edible. Occasionally a dogfish shark, which we released, and occasionally a dungeness crab would get caught on the baited hook. When I was in elementary school, I participated in a Boy Scout Salmon Derby that went out in the kicker boats from Haines Wharf. I won third prize with a 3lb 6 oz silver salmon. The prize was my first camera, a red plastic Kodak Brownie camera with attached flash that used flash bulbs. I am still a professional photographer today because of that event. I can trace my photo career directly to Haines Wharf. My father and I would occasionally take boats out for salmon fishing, but mostly I fished from the pier. As I recall, there was a cafe there, which was a great place to get breakfast in the pre-dawn darkness before taking out a boat.
    My family lived on the crest of the Meadowdale Hill at 15908 68th Street West. Mailboxes were on posts up at the corner. Our first Meadowdale mailing address was Route 2 Box 2375C. Route 2 came out of the Edmonds Post Office, but Meadowdale was not part of Edmonds at the time. In fact, many people don’t know that Meadowdale was the first incorporated city in Snohomish County. Del Caryl’s book “With Angels to the Rear” is a great historical document of Meadowdale’s past. The Caryls were still living in the former grocery/post office, and the school house was by then a private residence on the road by a little creek from the Meadowdale Community Club at the top of the hill down to Haines Wharf.
    We lived north of the Community Club, of which my father was president for a year or two. It was public and open to any neighbor who wanted to join. Five other families lived within a half a mile of us: The Ferrills, the Minors, the Krafts, the Steeles, and the Teagues. The Ferrills ran the auto wrecking yard and had a palomino horse and about a two-acre pasture, the Minors were early residents who owned a lot of the vacant land nearby. The Krafts were Alaska natives originally from Nome. The Steeles were a large family with a father away most of the year in the Merchant Marines. I played with the Ferrill, Kraft, and Steele kids.
    The Teagues were the oldest residents. Mr. Teague had retired to Meadowdale from the Seattle Fire Department. He hand-built his house and ours in the 1930s. In our house, two of the main upright supporting beams in the basement were tree trunks with bark still attached. He brought his favorite fire wagon pulling horse with him. The lower part of our property had a log barn with a horse stall and manger and a wagonport, where my sisters raised chickens for the 4H Club. In the horse stall was a very old covered gray buckle labeled “Axle Grease” with a drawing of a wagon wheel, which we donated back to the Seattle Fire Department for their fire wagon exhibit. Mr. Teague had built a very large corral next to the barn by attaching horizontal rails of tree logs attached to the 100+ foot tall second growth pines and hemlock trees in the grove. Mr. and Mrs. Teague lived next door. They cooked and heated with a wood stove and cut all their firewood from downed trees. I can still visualize Mr. Teague in his mid-90s wearing denim coveralls, carrying on his shoulder about a foot thick, eight-foot long log, up the hill from the property below.
    We still had deer when I was young and mountain beavers burrowed into hillside slopes on the lower parts of our property. An occasion coyote, skunk, or possum might be found. My father had the local squirrels trained to come up our back stairs into the kitchen and take walnuts from off his knee. East of our house was thousands of acres of second growth timber with huge sad silent cedar stumps 15 feet tall and 10 or more feet in diameter left as ghosts from the original forest. The loggers had to cut footholds in the bark to climb up to a place where the tree was narrow enough to get a two-person saw across. Where 68th West ended over the hill north of us was a narrow trail we could take down the slippery, muddy slopes of the south bank of Lunds Gulch. I would go down alone or with friends with flies, salmon eggs, or worms and a fishing line wrapped around a foot-long branch with the bark removed. Lund’s Gulch creek had trout, mostly tiny fingerlings, but occasionally you might get lucky and pull a 5- or 6-inch rainbow out of the stream. The north bank of the Gulch still had the ruins of a few spread-out cabins that we explored. We kids might have fights throwing 18-inch spears at each other fashioned from the root and main stem of bracken ferns, or the large spiny horse chestnut pods that delivered a good sting when it hit you. You had to be very careful hiking down because of stinging nettles, sharp thorny blackberry vines, and devil’s club. On the way, we would collect and eat huckleberries, blackberries, and my favorites, called redcaps, that were similar to raspberries but softer and finer grained. They grew on thorn-less bushes and would pop right off into your hand.
    When a private company came in and enclosed the Lund’s Gulch’s delta for the Meadowdale Country Club, it ruined Lund’s Gulch for everyone else, and made it an exclusive playground for rich people. It cut off the upper Gulch from the beach. We were all happy when the Country Club went bankrupt and Mother Nature finally returned Lund’s Gulch to the neighborhood. Many of my happiest hours were spent on the point of Meadowdale Beach where the stream empties into Puget Sound. We collected rocks and clam, scallop, and blue-black mussel shells and sand-etched glass and interesting oddities that drifted ashore. The mineral-soaked driftwood from the beach made the most beautifully colored flames in our fireplace. It was great for beachcombing, picnicking, and hanging out with kids and family. Sunsets can be fabulous from the point, looking out at ships passing on Puget Sound and the Olympic Peninsula on the other side. You had to park in the dirt parking lots on the beach at Haines Wharf and hike half a mile with your picnic basket north on the beach below the train tracks. You could see freight trains and the Great Northern Empire Builder pass just a few yards above. When we would see a train coming from the South, we would rush up and put coins on the tracks. After the trains passed, it was usually easy to find the totally squashed coins. Another fun pursuit for kids was to try to throw beach boulders through the open doors of fast passing freight cars. I remember one time when we barely missed hitting two hobos who were riding the rails in an open box car. Sometimes we would end up down by the beach or the wharf on Halloween night. I can vividly remember one Halloween night hanging out with Jiggs Haines when we almost got into some real serious trouble. I will forever be thankful to my parents from making Meadowdale the place where I grew up.

    1. What a great post! It sounds so much like my youth – we moved to Edmonds in ’61 and played many of the same games! Thank you so much for sharing!

    2. They still have mountain beavers at Meadowdale beach park. I read my neighbor’s book, with Angels to the rear as a child, imagining another time. The way you describe cars driving on the marina brings back memories from the early 90s before it was no longer in operation.

  6. The Marina was purchased yesterday by a group led by the former telecommunications mogul Barry Henthorn. Curious what the plans are.

  7. I lived in Meadowdale in the late 60s when I was a teen. It was a beautiful place compared to Texas where I moved from. I spent a lot of time exploring the old country club (ruined by hippies) and fishing on Haines Wharf for sea perch by the pilings and flounder, and caught lots of Dungenous crabs. School was a shock with all the drugs (never was exposed to that in a small Texas town). Our home on the hill had beautiful Japanese gardens, blueberry bushes, rhubarb and huge cherry trees (we could pick them from the deck!) with a wonderful view of Puget Sound. Overall it was a great experience living there. It’s sad now to see Haines Wharf has fallen apart.

  8. love this, my mother grew up in the Gulch. They had a cabin at the bottom of the road down from 68th. There was a fish hatchery, and mom had a horse. She would use the tunnel to get to the beach. As a kid my mom would take us there, before it became a park. There was a cabin up on the north side where an old man lived, and we found the cabin once. I grew up in the Edmonds area, but my grandparents lived on 68th closer to Perrinville, in a house they remodeld. My brother and I and a neighbor girl would hike down to Browns Bay and Haines Warf. At Haines we would buy candy and bait. So glad I grew up there.

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