Here’s a story of charred aspiration as a roadside attraction.
For more than a decade Tacoma architect Silas E Nelsen and his son Silas Jr. labored in a shed behind Nelsen’s Center Street office to build an elegant 50 foot cedar hulled sailboat decked in teak with bright brass fittings and the finest stateroom finishes. On April 4 1970 a fire destroyed the shed and left the yacht a blackened, useless symbol of broken dreams and wasted time. In a hollow, Scandinavian jest Nelsen sold the black hull to the owner of the Bayshore Marina, Wes Hatton, for one dollar. He hauled the boat to his Ruston Way business and used its bow to hang a sign advertising the “Bayshore Coffee Shop” and there it sat for years, a striking sculpture with a sad story nobody talked about. By the time the property was purchased by Virgil Hohman and the architect Paul G. Ellingson to design and build The Lobster Shop at 4013 Ruston Way they couldn’t find the owner and knew nothing about the sailboat backstory. When the restaurant was finished in 1981, the black ship was gone and Silas Nelsen was retired and living in Tacoma. He was 87 at the time perhaps Tacoma’s most notable living architect. He passed away in 1987 never really willing to talk about the vessel or its whereabouts. There is no record of a Viking funeral ever occurring in Tacoma.


Written by tacomahistory

This site is about the way history, in this case of a city and it's surrounds, is remembered or recorded in stories and small bits of memory. It's also about the way images and stories go together, how they inform and enrich each other and how we as thinking people fill in the content between a narrative and a visual document. So here is my city in time past, the way it looked and the people and events that create its character. For more than 20 years I have taught a 5 credit course on the History of Tacoma at the University of Washington Tacoma. With an average of 30 or 40 students a year, each doing a research paper as their primary focus for the course, I have benefited from many paths of inquiry and many researched and assembled stories. Here are some of them in the retelling along with the treasures of photographs and images in the collections of the Washington State Historical Society, Tacoma Public Library, University of Washington Digital Archives, Washington State Archives at the Office of the Secretary of State, Library of Congress, Washington State University, Alaska State Library, and many other archives, libraries and private collections.

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