Seattle's first refuse destructor plant begins operation in April 1908.

  • By Priscilla Long
  • Posted 3/30/2001
  • Essay 3155

In April 1908, Seattle's first refuse destructor plant begins operation at the south end of Lake Union.  This incinerator for burning garbage and waste -- including at least one dead horse a day -- is installed after city engineer R. H. Thomson (1856-1949)  makes a tour of Europe to investigate sophisticated methods of disposing of garbage and waste.  The Seattle Engineering Department plans for clinker from the destructor to be used in road building and for steam generated from the fire to be used in an asphalt plant (for roads), and in a nearby steam laundry. Previous to this, garbage was dumped in the tideflats under the docks, and in alleys and empty lots.  Garbage from the business area was towed out to Puget Sound and dumped. The four destructors eventually built will soon be abandoned in favor of the cheaper method of sanitary land fills.

The Meldrum incinerator principle was used in all four plants. Plant No. 2 was located at N 30th Street and Wallingford Avenue and was serviced by the Northern Pacific Railroad. It began operation on July 23, 1912.

Plant No. 3 was located practically in the Ballard tidelands at 9th Avenue NW and W 43rd Street. The plans are dated June 23, 1910.

Plant No. 4 was located at 9th Avenue S at Massachusetts Street.


Myra L. Phelps, Public Works in Seattle: A Narrative History: the Engineering Department, 1875-1975 (Seattle: Seattle Engineering Department, 1978), 205-207.

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