Former location of Yesler Mill

Western Avenue and Yesler Way

Yesler Way, looking west from 1st Avenue, Seattle, May 27, 2020, HistoryLink photo by David Koch
Looking northeast on Yesler Way and Western Avenue, Seattle, May 27, 2020, HistoryLink photo by David Koch
Yesler's wharf, foot of Mill Street (Yesler Way), Seattle, 1880, Courtesy Seattle Public Library (spl_shp_5142)
Yesler Mill ruins after fire of July 26, 1879, Seattle
Mill Street (Yesler Way), looking west from 1st Avenue, 1875, Courtesy Seattle Public Library (spl_shp_5186)
Yesler's Mill, Seattle, ca. 1860, Courtesy Seattle Public Library (spl_shp_22027)

Western Avenue and Yesler Way

When Seattle’s first settlers arrived in November 1851 and landed at what they named Alki Point, their first “jobs” were cutting trees. In less than a month, they cut and hauled 256 pilings of wood, each about 50 feet long. The logs were loaded onto the Leonesa, which sailed on January 2, 1852, to San Francisco.

In late March 1853, Seattle gained a much greater ability to sell lumber when Henry Yesler began operating a steam-powered sawmill. Built to cut logs taken from the heavily wooded areas surrounding the wee hamlet, the mill was located on the eastern shore of Elliott Bay adjacent to what was Mill Street and is now Yesler Way. Yesler employed nearly every male from the settlement at one time or another, including white, Chinese, and Native workers, because the white, male labor pool was extremely limited in Seattle’s early years.

As Seattle’s first startup, the mill attracted settlers and brought much-needed capital into the local economy. Yesler also built the city’s first wharf, which eventually extended nearly 1,000 feet into the bay. After the Great Fire of 1889, most sawmills moved out of downtown to the shores of Lake Union, and Yesler’s wharf was replaced with two piers built by the Northern Pacific Railroad.

Walk east on Yesler Way one block to Post Alley.

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