Voters approve formation of Port of Allyn in Mason County on September 10, 1921.

  • By Priscilla Long
  • Posted 10/10/2010
  • Essay 9608
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On September 10, 1921, voters establish the Port of Allyn, located in Mason County. The port district is the first of an eventual six in Mason County, and encompasses all of Allyn and Belfair. Allyn is located on Case Inlet; Belfair is located a few miles to the north on the north end of Hood Canal. The Port is formed at a cost of $7,500 with the purpose of promoting industry and commerce and, most immediately, of providing a commercial dock for both Allyn and Belfair. The community of Victor, located across Case Inlet from Allyn, has petitioned not to be included, as it expects to form its own port district. In 1973, the Victor area will vote to annex to the Port of Allyn. The Port of Allyn will then cover about 65 square miles and will serve the north end of Mason County. By 2010 the Port will operate two recreational docks, three boat launches, parks, a Class A municipal water system, and other facilities.

To Build a Dock

Allyn was established in 1853 with its first sawmill on Sherwood Creek and by 1889 steamers made twice-daily round trips from Allyn to Tacoma, Olympia, and Shelton. Until into the 1920s these "mosquito fleet" boats carried nearly all passengers, mail, and freight to and from North Mason from a privately owned dock just north of the present day dock. Small unincorporated south Puget Sound communities engaged in logging, oystering, fishing, and farming. They were shaped by their proximity to water and in the 1920s good roads connecting them were nonexistent. They were dependent on water for transportation to Olympia, Tacoma, Bremerton, and Seattle.

The Port of Allyn's first port commissioners were John Murray, Lee Baker, and H. H. Weserling. In response to public demand their first project was to construct a public dock for commercial traffic. In April 1922 the new Port bonded itself for $10,000 to build the dock. In July 1922 a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permit was obtained to construct the dock and the structure was built and in use by November 1922.

This first Allyn dock was a 580-foot trestle extending out from Drum Street (the location of the present-day [2010] dock). At the end of the trestle a 61-by-73-foot wharf was constructed. At the north end of the wharf a covered warehouse was built, which was used as storage for hay, grain, lumber, and other commodities. On the south end a covered storage shed was built that was eventually converted to an oyster-processing plant. The new dock also had a 10-by-50-foot float to the north of the warehouse. It was a great fishing dock and during the summer swimming and fishing were popular pursuits.

Steamers now began to make regular trips from Allyn to Bremerton, Olympia, Tacoma, Steilacoom, and Shelton, carrying passengers, mail, and freight. Over the years various firms leased the oystering facility and these enterprises helped Allyn through the hardships of the Great Depression of the 1930s.

War Years

During World War II oysters were not among the many food items rationed and the oyster business thrived. The oyster facility continued to be used until 1974.

Also Bremerton's Puget Sound Naval Shipyard was working at full bore during the war and, given crowded housing conditions, many civilian workers found Allyn and Belfair to be within driving distance of work. They established homes and remained after the war.

From Boat to Buick

After the war, Americans hit the road. The age of the auto had arrived and roads were improved. The auto altered conditions at Port of Allyn facilities. Ferry service ceased. The warehouse, oysterhouse, and dock had deteriorated and in 1949 the Port destroyed most of it by burning. (The trestle connecting to the shore was retained and until 1974 continued to be used for loading and unloading oysters.)

The area became a vacation destination for families on road trips and for boaters and sports fishermen. In 1940 the Port had purchased property in Belfair at Pleasant Cove Beach on the north shore of Hood Canal. The Port built the first Belfair public dock from 1948 to 1952. This was a floating dock with cedar log floats chained together and with pilings to keep the logs in place. It was used for fishing and swimming, and seasonally to load and unload oysters.

Again in response to public demand, recreational facilities became a goal and the Port constructed its first boat launch, next to the Allyn dock, in 1957. A Port newsletter written in 2000 states that "these facilities did not lack visitors. Residents were provided with easy launching for their boats while vacationers stopped for picnics on their way to the Olympic Peninsula" ("Port of Allyn: Celebrating 80 Years...").

Gone Fishing

By the 1970s tourism was an industry to be desired and developed, particularly in areas like Allyn, Belfair, and Victor, with their pristine shoreline, beaches, water, and nearby mountains. The Port of Allyn improved its recreational facilities and promoted them. The Port built a second boat launch at Allyn and completely rebuilt and expanded the Belfair dock.

This Belfair dock, called the North Shore dock, is a 65-foot trestle with a 100-foot float and two finger piers that provide moorage for 10 boats. In the summertime it is used by boaters and fishermen and in the winter it is used for wet moorage.

In 1974 the Port rebuilt the Allyn dock, extending it out 190 feet, which restored it to its original length. The Allyn Dock, states one history, "has always been a popular fishing spot. On summer evenings as many as 80 or 90 people at one time of all ages, have been observed fishing off the dock or strolling, swimming, visiting friends, and enjoying the scenery" ("Port History -- and a Glimpse of the Future"). In 2000 the Allyn Dock was again renovated and given a longer gangway and a marine pump-out unit.

The Waterfront Park

In 1983 an elevated boat launch was added to the Allyn site and in 1993, a sea wall was constructed to stop erosion of the parking area. In 1987 voters in the port district established an Industrial Development District with the same boundaries as the Port. The purpose was to provide funds to enable the Port to pursue industrial development and harbor improvements.

At this time Commissioners Leo Livingston, Del Griffey, and Irene Davis worked hard to create a Waterfront Park. The Allyn Waterfront Park was completed in the late 1980s. The Allyn Park Gazebo was constructed largely by the Allyn community and donated to the port district. The Gazebo is a popular spot for weddings and family and community celebrations and events.

The Port building, which houses the administrative office and commissioners' meeting room was completed at the Allyn site in 1995.  The lower level of the building was left unfinished due to lack of funds.  In 1999 this area was completed and is used as the commissioner meeting room. The upper level provides office space and a conference room.

In the fall of 1998, the local Lion’s Club, working with the Port, installed a Mason Transit bus shelter on Port property adjacent to Highway 3 to provide a covered area for transit patrons and easy access for local commuters and for visitors to the Allyn business area and Port property. In 2001 the Port purchased 150 feet of shoreline just north of Sherwood Creek Bridge to develop a kayak park.  By 2004 it had purchased another 150 feet of shoreline and North Bay Kayak park had a restroom, picnic tables, educational signage, and an ADA accessible path down to the beach.

In the fall of 2002, the North Shore Dock on Hood Canal underwent a complete renovation. This included replacement of the pier, floats, replacing the 30 foot gangway with an 80 foot gangway, and adding a marine pump-out unit and lighting. A new well and pumphouse were built to provide water service to the dock.  In 2003 the float structure of the North Shore Dock was moved 40 foot farther out into the canal to avoid grounding out during low tides, making all moorage space available during all tides.

In 2005 the Port acquired 160 feet of shoreline property south of the Allyn dock. The ground-level launch ramp south of the dock was replaced and a new boarding float was constructed. The additional area provided a small park and parking area for boaters. In 2007, after many years of operating "sanicans" at the Allyn waterfront park, permanent restrooms with a shower room for boaters were completed.

Business Park and Water System

In 1998 the Port commissioned a study to determine the feasibility of building a light industrial park north of Belfair on the proposed "Belfair Bypass." Agreements were in place with land owners for purchase of property but when the bypass project was halted the agreement was abandoned.  In July 2002, the Port again entered into an agreement to purchase four acres of land north of Belfair to be developed as a light industrial park, but due to circumstances, grants could not be completed and again the agreement was abandoned. Commissioners are still dedicated to building a light industrial park in Belfair.

For years commercial development in Allyn had been virtually halted due to insufficient water rights and fire flow to supply new enterprises. (Environmental regulations precluded the digging of new wells for commercial purposes.) In 2000 an effort was begun to expand the Port's water system to provide to the Urban Growth Area. In June 2010, Washington's Department of Ecology approved the Port's request to nearly triple its water rights and allowed expansion of the Port’s water system to serve the Allyn Urban Growth area as a Class A municipal water system capable of serving up to 1,000 new connections, which should meet the needs of Allyn for the next 20 years. In anticipation of this approval the Port built the infrastructure to deliver water to areas of Allyn that were not being served, including a 144,000-gallon holding tank at the corner of Wade and Fife streets.

Bonnie Knight, executive director of the Port of Allyn, said, "It's a turning point for Allyn. We have tried to put the plans in place to manage the growth that's going to come. Land is going to be sold and people will build." She added, "We have tried hard to make sure we keep what is best about Allyn" ("Water Rights Poised...").

Port of Allyn Today

The Port of Allyn has published its goals, which are:

  • Maintenance and Improvement of existing facilities owned by the Port of Allyn;
  • Recognition of the growing demand for waterside facilities such as docks, ramps, small boat marinas, and similar harbor improvements;
  • Development of Port-owned facilities and properties in particular and Port District and county properties in general;
  • Acquisition and development of land and facilities for industrial, recreational, and other purposes compatible with the area, and consistent with State of Washington Growth Management Act;
  • Development of tourist industry in North Mason area;
  • Development of new businesses and light industry which are compatible with the Growth Management Act and the environment;
  • Development of adequate infrastructure to support the Port District goals;
  • Review all Port activity for consistency with environmentally sound practices to increase small business (Port of Allyn website)


"Port History -- and a Glimpse of the Future," undated typescript (context, 2005), Washington Public Ports Association, Olympia; "Port of Allyn," North Mason Chamber website accessed October 5, 2010 (; Port of Allyn website accessed October 5, 2010 (; Christopher Dunagan, "Water Rights Poised to Bring New Homes, Businesses to Allyn," Kitsap Sun (McClatchy-Tribune Business News), June 12, 2010; "Estimates of Total Populations for Urban Growth Areas, Unincorporated Parts," Population/Small Areas, Office of Financial Management website accessed October 10, 2010 (; "Port of Allyn: Celebrating 80 Years, 1921-2001," newsletter, July 2001, Port of Allyn, Washington Public Ports Association, Olympia; Priscilla Long telephone conversation with Port of Allyn staff, October 20, 2010; additional information provided by Bonnie Knight, executive director, Port of Allyn, April 2011.
Note: This essay was corrected and greatly expanded on April 6, 2011.

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