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Valley Fuel Company

93.01.35This photo was taken in 1912. The location was the southeast corner of Rainier and Alaska Street in Columbia City, where the Post Office is situated today.  Rainier Avenue as well as Alaska Street was raised to accommodate the streetcar tracks which had originally been built on a trestle across the Wetmore Slough. The fill for Rainier And Alaska created a deep ravine on most of the block, similar in elevation to the Rainier play field located on the north side of Alaska Street.

The Valley Fuel Company coal bunker was situated in the ravine with a spur off the streetcar tracks on Rainier Avenue which allowed coal cars to be pushed over the top of the bunkers. Then gravity could feed the coal into the bunkers and into the wagons and trucks on the lower level.

This photo shows the Valley Fuel Co.’s coal bunkers being raised to a higher level to match the tracks after a Rainier Avenue regrade. As the demand for the coal diminished the bunkers were adapted to handling sand, gravel and other building materials.
The ravine where the bunker had been located was used as a garbage fill starting in the 40’s. When that was filled the city continued the garbage fill east from the play field up to 47th Avenue and north across Genesee to the lake where Sayres Hydroplane Pits are today.

This area was known as Wetmore Slough and also included the area north along Rainier as far north as the junction with Empire Way, now  Martin Luther King Way. (When Lake Washington was lowered nine feet to build the locks at Ballard in 1917 the Slough dried up).
The smell from the garbage fill permeated the neighborhood and made living nearby almost unbearable on warm summer evenings. They weren’t as quick to cover it with dirt as they do today. The fill was completed in 1964 and is now Genesee Park.


by Buzz Anderson