E. H. Harriman, president of Union Pacific Railroad, sends a representative to Seattle to purchase land for a new terminal in 1907.

  • By Heather M. MacIntosh
  • Posted 2/22/1999
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 926
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In 1907, E. H. Harriman (1848-1909), president of the Union Pacific Railroad Co., sends a representative to Seattle to purchase land for trackage and construction of a new terminal. The Union Pacific’s interest in purchasing lots in Seattle’s southern tidelands plays a large part in a real estate boom that claims plots of land located at the time under water in Elliott Bay. Ultimately, the land originating in these tidelands brings some $150,000,000 in transfers.

Connecting an Emerging City

During the first decade of the twentieth century, interest in reclaiming the tidelands south of the city’s center paralleled railroad development. For decades before the Union Pacific’s 1907 purchase, locomotives were a constant presence along the waterfront, from Pioneer Square north to Smith Cove. Trains arrived from the south on wooden trestles and pilings anchored to the bottom of Elliott Bay. The reclamation of Seattle’s southern tidelands (known in the late 1990s as the SoDo district) provided a level surface for rail traffic and for industry. Harriman would construct his station at 4th Avenue S and Jackson Street, providing an impressive southern gateway to the emerging and expanding Northwest city.


“Railroading in Seattle,” The Seattle Times Magazine, December 31, 1944, p. 5; Pacific Record, Tidelands Publicity, 1912.

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