Preserving the History of the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks in Seattle, Washington

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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

100 Years Ago This Month: Major Cavanaugh Begins Work in Seattle

August 1, 1911 – Major James Bates Cavanaugh is assigned to the Corps of Engineers Seattle District to oversee the construction of the locks and the Lake Washington Ship Canal.

It was Maj. Hiram M. Chittenden whose vision and political skills resulted in the placement of the locks at Salmon Bay, however he had to take early medical retirement in 1909. Major C.W. Kutz served as head of the Seattle District until Cavanaugh was appointed in 1911.



James Bates Cavanaugh's West Point Graduation photo, Class of 1892.

Major Cavanaugh was then working in Washington D.C. as Assistant to the Chief of Engineers. He had graduated first in his class from West Point Military Academy (1892) and was an extremely capable and well-respected officer. He had worked on many river and harbor projects around the country, as well as teaching Field Engineering at the Post School for Officers. He was selected for the Seattle assignment, not only for his technical experience, but his proven diplomatic skills that were needed to complete this enormous engineering project.

In March 1915 he was promoted to Lt. Colonel; then in April 1917, with the United States now involved in World War I, he was assigned to command the 18th Engineers at American Lake, WA (now Joint Base Lewis/McChord) and promoted to Colonel prior to sailing for France in July 1917. Cavanaugh House is named in his honor.


Information for this article was gathered from the U.S.Military Academy/West Point and the Seattle District Army Corps of Engineers.