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

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Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Totems by the Locks

Totem opposite the locks at Red Mill Totem House

A gentleman recently asked a question about the existence of totem poles on the Ballard Locks property.  He remembered visiting the locks about 50 years ago and noticing several totems poles positioned by the small lock.  He asked if the Archival/History Unit could verify his recollection. 

So far, we have not been able to verify that the locks ever had any totem poles within its boundaries.   We did find a 1939 newspaper article about a replica of a single totem pole that was being carved in the Haida style.  At that time, it was going to be installed in front of a curio shop at the corner of Seaview and 32nd Avenue North West just across from the Ballard locks.

More recently and far more well-known, is "The Story of North Island" totem pole located by the Montlake Cut on the southeast bank.  It is the work of Haida Chief John Dewey Wallace.  He carved it in Alaska in 1937 for display outside of a cannery.  When the cannery closed, the totem pole was removed and lost to public view until 1981 when it resurfaced and was purchased by a local preservation group.  It was dedicated in 1983 and still stands on property owned by the US Army Corps of Engineers with the actual statue owned by the city of Seattle.  In keeping with tribal tradition, the totem overlooks the water.

To readers of blog:  if you know of or have heard about the existence of totem poles in the actual Ballard Locks area, please contact the FOBL.