Annie Sutter: History of Issaquah Dock

Story By: Steefenie Wicks

Anne Sutter Photo by Steefenie Wicks

Anne Sutter Photo by Steefenie Wicks

Annie Sutter was born in Wisconsin and ended up traveling to San Francisco but in 1974 she would find her way to Sausalito working as a travel agent for Sunventure Travel.  Then in 1976 she began writing for the Marin Scope in what she refers to as ‘the waterfront gossip column’, called ‘On the Water’.  She has published one jewel of a book called ‘The Old Ferry Boats of Sausalito’ in the 1980’s and recently she published what she calls a booklet that describes the history of the Issaquah Dock.

She begins her research by describing where the Issaquah Dock lies today was once a quite place od tidal flats and saltwater marches.  This stretch of land was inhabited by wildlife and shore birds.

World War II would change this so that in 1942 as the War escalated, much of the life on the waterfront would change abruptly when two hundred acres of Sausalito were selected by the US Government to build ships for the war effort.  When the War ended in 1945, the Marinship closed down almost as abruptly as it had begun.

By 1950 the area known as Gate 3 to Waldo Point Harbor had already established it’s self as a waterfront community of artist, craftsmen, boat workers along with families seeking a new life.

The ferryboat ISSAQUAH was affectionately known as “Squash”, she was built in Houghton, Washington, then launched with great fanfare on Lake Washington in March of 1914. By May of 1914 she was serving ports on Lake Washington, she had scheduled runs but was also used as a floating dance hall party cruising vessel.  The little ferry was retired from service in 1948.  There are different accounts as to how the ISSAQUAH ended up in Sausalito.  One famous story has it being brought by artist Jean Varda for one of his girl friends but she did not like the vessel therefore refusing the gift.

Annie goes on to say that it was Donlon Arques who ended up with the ferryboat and settled her into a space at the side of Gate 6 Road in the heart of all the new activity. Once settled in, the ISSAQUAH quickly became a home to many, from families to wandering visitors just passing through.  Usually one person would rent the entire vessel from Arques for a monthly rate, then rent or sublease to tenants.

Smaller boats gathered around the ISSAGUAH, side tied and connected by planks or rickety walkways.

But by the mid 1980’s it had become clear that the end was near.  The Marin County Board of Supervisors declared the old ferries that had become mothball living facilities a safety hazard; they were all scheduled to be destroyed.

Annie brings up the question of, Why?

This is a question with no reasonable answer.  She feels that with a little effort these ferries that had become the last remaining representatives of our maritime history could have been saved.  There had been talk of using the ISSAQUAH for offices or a possible maritime museum, then several businesses came forward wanting to take over the entire vessel but the destruction of the ferries proceeded.

Protest were loud, sometimes violent from the locals while the powers that be brought in bulldozers, along with debris barges that broke up the ferries, hauled away the last remaining bit’s.  When it came time to destroy the ISSAQUAH, she still had residents on board who clung to their home.  This did not work either but the residents were able to save the pilothouses by promising to have the off within a week and they did. 

The destruction of the ferries in 1983 came well after work had stared on ISSAQUAH Dock.   In 1977 Arques had had enough of the politics of starting a marina on his land so he leased a substantial portion of it o the newly formed Waldo Point Harbor.

T.J. Nelson and Ted Eitelbuss who were both Arques employees found this to be difficult task as they tried to create order out of chaos.  This project was not easy for many reasons some having to do with the entrenched locals protesting, blocking equipment, setting fires, throwing rocks and shooting guns.   

But if you walk down ISSAQUAH Dock today you’re in a bright world of color, creativity along with quite beauty. There ‘s a sense of freedom of community and family.  It’s a place where free spirits and risk takers are content to live where they can float on the water.

Annie Sutter is a true Sausalito waterfront historian.  Having lived in this area long enough to see change and growth.  Her stories are full of truth and history that concern this area.

In her closing she states:

And so ends this ferry tale that began in 1914 in Washington with the birth of a ferryboat, and all the subsequent adventures, mishaps and wonders until her end in 1983.  The memories thereafter kept alive by loyal, dedicated members of the Dock along with the Galilee Harbor Community who is now the caretakers of the ISSUAGUAG Pilot Houses.

Thank You Annie.