100 years of Edmonds-Kingston ferry service: Part 2 — January through September 1923

Photo of Joyce Brothers poster showing ferry runs from Edmonds to Kingston and Port Gamble to Shine. Note: the ferry from Edmonds to Port Ludlow was not advertised since that run was to be operated by Capt. Payne’s company, not the Joyce Brothers. The posters also made the mountains appear much closer than they actually were.

When the last auto ferry completes its round trip run from Edmonds to Kingston on May 19, 2023, it will conclude the first 100 years of the ferry run between the two cities. This three-part series provides a glimpse into the ferry run’s first two-and-a-half years of operation. plus a brief look back at Puget Sound water travel prior to the establishment of the Washington State ferry system. You can read Part 1 here.

With the late 1922 announcements of the new automobile ferries coming in early 1923, everyone was abuzz with excitement.  The Edmonds Tribune Review’s coverage was extensive.  There were articles almost every week detailing the progress that was being made on the future ferry runs.

The following Edmonds Tribune Review articles were a few of the ones that chronicled the stops and starts as the process continued:

Initial Steps and Assurances

Jan. 7, 1923 – Ferry To Start By March First – Plan to have Kingston Ferry operating in two months.

Piles are being driven for the Edmonds Ferry landing at the foot of Main Street, this week, and the work is progressing satisfactorily. Mr. Joyce who is building the dock states that he plans to have it completed and start the ferry service between this point and Kingston no later than March 1. He plans to start with three round trips daily.

Feb. 2, 1923 – Weather interferes with work on ferry dock.

In a letter to City of Council officials, Olaf Joyce of Joyce Bros. Ferry Company states, that the work on the Edmonds ferry dock will resume as soon as the weather permits. He states that the ferry his company is establishing between this point and Kingston will be placed in operation at the earliest possible moment.  Since the stormy weather has prevailed during the past few weeks, the company has postponed work on the dock and been busy completing the boat that will be used on the run.

Feb. 23, 1923 – Ferry Service Assured May 1 – Capt. Joyce Reports That Preparations are Nearly Complete.

Edmonds is assured of a ferry to be operated out of this point on or May 1, this year. Capt. Olaf Joyce of Joyce Bros. Ferry company was in Edmonds on Monday evening and met with a number of local business men, at which time he told them of the progress of his company in the preparation to establish a ferry this spring between Edmonds and Kingston.

The dock here is only partially constructed, but other work has been progressing while waiting for more settled weather to complete the dock and ferry slip. Alterations have been completed on the dock in Kingston, states Mr. Joyce and the new ferry boat which they are building for the run is nearly completed. Mr. Joyce was on his way to Seattle to purchase a 75-horsepower engine for the ferryboat when he was here.  The boat will be well finished and the seats nicely upholstered. The ferry will begin with two round trips daily and increase to at least five round trips though the summer.

On May 1, the people of Kingston are planning a barbeque in celebration of the ferry and Edmonds is invited to participate. 

City Council Action

March 16, 1923 Ferrymen to attend Council meeting:

Mayor M.C. Engels announced at the meeting of the Chamber of Commerce Tuesday evening that the city council is inviting Capt. Joyce and Capital Payne, heads of the companies that are preparing the operations of the ferry system this spring between Edmonds and Kingston, and Edmonds and Pt. Ludlow to be present at the City Council meeting next Tuesday evening. 

Capt. Payne visited last Friday to see the progress of the construction of the dock being done by the Joyce Bros. Capt. Payne said that his company is in readiness to proceed with advertising and all the preliminaries to the starting of the run to Port Ludlow as soon as the construction of the dock is completed. 

It is expected that the final details regarding the lease of the docking privileges from Joyce Bros. to the Sound Freight Lines Co., Capt. Payne’s company will be completed next Tuesday evening.

Note: From February 1923 onward, the Joyce Brothers were actively promoting and advertising the future ferry runs between Edmonds and Kingston, and Port Gamble to Shine. Large posters showing the routes (see illustration above) were being placed around Seattle, Everett and other communities.

March 23, 1923 – Ferrymen Agree On Edmonds Dock – Dock will be built to accommodate both ferries.

The ferry dock and slip which is now under construction at the foot of Main street at Edmonds will extend into water deep enough at extreme low tide to accommodate the “Gleaner” which is to be placed on the run between Edmonds and Port Ludlow about May 1, according to an agreement reached between Capt. Payne, head of the Sound Freight Lines which will operate the Gleaner, and Joyce brothers, builders of the dock here, at the session of city council, Tuesday evening.

In consideration of a longer and more substantial dock to accommodate his ferry boat, Capt. Payne offered several months’ rent in advance on his lease for the use of the dock.

Capt. Olaf Joyce stated that the boat which they are constructing to place on the Edmonds-Kingston run May 1 is nearing completion and will be in the water about April 1. As soon as the boat is floated, work will be resumed on the Edmonds dock, Mr. Joyce declared.  The dock at Kingston is completed and ready for use. 

Boat Ready For Deployment

April 20, 1923 – New Ferryboat launched Monday – “City of Edmonds” takes to water Monday evening.

The “City of Edmonds” glided gracefully into the waters of Puget Sound at Clinton, Whidbey Island, about five o’clock Monday evening. Thus the history of Edmonds as a ferry-boat terminal was begun, and this enterprise bids well to play an important part in the future development of our city.

The “City of Edmonds” is the new ferryboat just completed by the Joyce Bros. for the run between Edmonds and Kingston which will be established about May 1.  The boat is 65 feet long and is equipped with a 85-horsepower Atlas engine. It will carry at one time, twelve automobiles and 125 passengers. 

With the announcement of the ferry being floated, the Joyce Brothers started advertising the ferry schedule for both the Edmonds-Kingston run as well as the Port Gamble-Shine run, although the Port Gamble-Shine docks and the small ferry was not ready yet.

Initial schedule as advertised indicated three round trips on weekdays and six on weekends.

Celebration Planned

April 27, 1923  – May 16 Set For Ferry Celebration – Edmonds Will Declare Holiday To Attend Barbeque.

Wednesday, May 16 will be a holiday in Edmonds when our people will be the guests of the Kingston community at the big barbeque to honor our establishment of ferry service between the two points. 

The date, together with an outline of the program was determined upon Tuesday when Mr. Coats, chairman of the Kingston committee met with the celebration committee of the Edmonds Chamber of Commerce, consisting of Geo. W. Yost, D. G. Godman and J.W. Colley.

The program as outlined will include a concert by the Park Band of Edmonds, a grand barbeque, a baseball game in the afternoon and dancing.

The pile-driver has been at work on the dock here the past week and with everything else in the readiness, Captain Joyce hopes to have the ferry operating by May 1, as originally planned.

Despite all the assurances and enthusiasm, delays still occurred as reported by the Edmonds Tribune – Review in early May. 

Two articles ran on the same day:

May 4, 1923 – Grant Extension On Ferry Lease – Joyce Bros. Given til May 10 to Establish Service.

An extension of ten days for construction of the ferry dock here and the establishment of ferry service between Edmonds and Kingston was granted to Joyce Bros. by the city council in session on Tuesday evening.

Joyce Bros. last winter entered into a contract with the city for the lease of the dock site on the stipulation that they construct a substantial dock and establish a ferry run between Edmonds and Kingston on or before May 1, 1923.

The dock construction has gone forward rather slowly owing to several delays but finally a pile-driver has been secured and the piling driven and all that remains is to lay the decking and build the float. The dock at Kingston and the ferryboat are in readiness and when the Edmonds dock is completed the ferry will be placed into operation. 

May 4, 1923 – Dock For Ferry Nears Completion – Planking is being laid on Edmonds’ new ferry dock.

With the arrival of a scow load of planking and timbers yesterday morning, work on the ferry dock at the foot of Main Street is now being rushed to completion.

While Joyce Bros. have been granted an extension on their lease from the city, giving them until May 10 to establish ferry service to Kingston, it is reported that they plan the first trip Sunday.

This will be only for foot passengers, however, as the slip will not yet be completed. 

On May 13 during a test run, the City of Edmonds broke down and was not ready to transport automobiles or passengers to the planned May 16 celebration and barbeque in Kingston.

That didn’t stop the celebration though. The City of Edmonds was moored at the end of the dock as the Edmonds Park Band and other dignitaries posed for a photo op.

A photo of the May 16, 1923 celebration with Edmonds Park Band filling most of the lower deck of the City of Edmonds ferry. (Photo courtesy Edmonds Historical Museum)

Celebration occurs

May 18, 1923 – Hundreds Attend Big Ferry Picnic – Picnickers brave weather and difficulties to hold celebration.

With many unfavorable circumstances to contend against about six hundred Edmonds people and nearly as many people of Kingston and vicinity enjoyed a picnic on Wednesday in honor of the establishment of the ferry route between these two cities.

The people of Kingston were hosts to the Edmonds people and the affair was held at that place in their beautiful city park.  Delicious barbecued beef and hot coffee were served the visitors by the Kingstonites and everybody was made to feel welcome. 

Due to the fact that several minor changes in the ferryboat “City of Edmonds” were ordered by the inspector at the last moment, it could not be used to transport the passengers to Kingston, and a launch with a carrying capacity of about one hundred was engaged for the day. In spite of the slightly unfavorable weather with occasional showers, the Edmonds people turned out in such numbers that the launch was kept busy all day, the last load reaching Kingston about four o’clock in the afternoon.  A small launch from Kingston carried a few and some managed to make the trip in a lifeboat of the ferry, towed by the launch.  On the return trip transportation was speeded up by the arrival of a freighter which was pressed into service for one trip. 

The May 16, 1923 Celebration in Kingston. (Photo courtesy Edmonds Historical Museum) 

By all accounts, the celebration was a huge success.  But a Seattle newspaper did have a little fun with the event, stating “a huge party and a boat that didn’t want to go”.

On the following Sunday, May 20, 1923, the City of Edmonds made its first trip carrying both automobiles and passengers across Puget Sound.

A photo of the City of Edmonds ferry loading automobiles and passengers circa 1923. (Photo courtesy Edmonds Historical Museum)

May 25, 1923 – Ferry Operating Regular Schedule

Sunday morning the Joyce Bros. Ferry Company carried the first load of passengers and automobiles aboard the ferry “City of Edmonds” from Edmonds to Kingston and thus marked an important mile post in the history of the two cities on opposite sides of Puget Sound. 

The ferry was exceptionally well patronized on Sunday and has shown a steadily increasing volume of commercial business during the week.

The time schedule under which the ferry is now operating is as follows: 

Leaving Edmonds – daily except Saturday and Sunday – 9 a.m., 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. Leaving Kingston 7 a.m., 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. 

Leaving Edmonds – Saturday and Sunday – 8 and 10 a.m., 12 noon, 2, 6 and 8 p.m. Leaving Kingston 7, 9 and 11 a.m, 1, 5 and 7 p.m.  

Port Gamble-to-Shine Ferry Progress

June 8 1923 – Ferry Men Constructing Dock at Port Gamble

Joyce Bros. Ferry Company which operates the Edmonds-Kingston ferry, has the past week completed leases on the docks at Port Gamble and Termination Point and will at once begin construction of a ferry slip at Port Gamble, when they will be prepared to establish a route between those two points across the mouth of Hood Canal.

This ferry will provide a connecting link to the Olympic Peninsula, and will provide through Edmonds, Kingston, Port Gamble and Shine, by far the shortest route to Port Angeles and all northern points on the peninsula.

Mr. Coates of the ferry company states that this ferry will be in operation before July 1. 

Unfortunately, Mr. Coates’ optimism on the start of the ferry run did not prove to be accurate. The first ferry run between Port Gamble and Shine occurred on July 16, 1923

July 20, 1923 New Ferry Starts Operating Sunday – Makes Four Trips Daily Across Mouth of Hood Canal

Last Sunday a ferry was placed in operation across the mouth of Hood Canal by the operators of the Edmonds-Kingston ferry. The boat placed on the run is the one formerly operated by the Joyce Bros. between Clinton and Mukilteo. Four round trips will be made daily, with extra trips when traffic requires them.

This ferry provides the connecting link between the Olympic Peninsula and Seattle and will save hours of travel between Port Angeles and the metropolis.

Photo of the “Acorn,” which began operation July 16, 1923. (Photo courtesy Port Gamble Historical Museum)

The 65-foot ferry was powered by a 75-horsepower diesel engine, and could carry six cars and their passengers at a time.

Once the two ferries were in operation, the Joyce Brothers changed the company’s name to Sound Ferry Lines, Inc. and published a combined schedule of the ferries between Edmonds and Kingston, and Port Gamble and Shine. The Port Gamble-to-Shine ferry offered three round trips daily with more trips added if the traffic warranted it.

Initial Results

By the end of the summer, the Edmonds-to-Kingston ferry run had far exceeded expectations, as had the Port Gamble-to-Shine ferry. Citizens on both sides of the Sound were ecstatic about the number of people who were traveling to each town and the business they brought with them. The citizens in Kingston and Port Gamble — which was largely a lumber company town — did not feel as isolated. The city’s residents and workers could travel in a short period of time to the towns on the east side of the Sound, and their products could make it faster to the east side towns and the metropolis.

But with the huge success came problems, too. People quickly became frustrated by the long waits to board a ferry. There were many reports of people waiting for hours if not days to get a ride across the Sound. With traffic backed up for blocks, it also clogged the streets and led to disputes between the townspeople and the travelers.

Additionally it became apparent quickly that the docks needed to be enlarged and strengthened to support the weight of larger touring cars and increasing amounts of freight.

What was needed were additional ferries to alleviate the long wait times, and improved infrastructure to support the new ferry system’s increased and varied vehicles and cargo.

Author’s note: Despite all the success of the Edmonds-to-Kingston and Port Gamble-to-Shine ferry runs, the Edmonds-to-Port Ludlow project that was initially outlined by the combined ferry companies in March 1923, did not materialize.   Since there was no coverage of the project in the Edmonds Tribune Review or other historical texts I had access to, it’s unclear whether it was due to dock construction issues, ferry boat problems or simply a change of plans. 

This article was researched and written by Byron Wilkes. The article would not have been possible without the research assistance of the Kitsap County Historical Museum, The Kingston Historical Society and associated library, the Edmonds Historical Museum, the Port Gamble Historical Museum, Sno Isle Genealogical Society and the Everett Library Northwest Room.




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