Working Waterfront Tradition



The Port’s early economic development role was tied to the completion of the first marine shipping docks in 1925, which led to rapid development during the booming 1920s. Wood product cargoes dominated the late 1920s, with almost 300 million board-feet of lumber shipped over Port docks between 1928 and 1930.

The Great Depression

The Port was hit hard by the Depression of 1929, but federal economic revitalization activities of the 1930s benefited the Port:

  • Dock pilings were replaced
  • Mooring dolphins and railroad tracks were installed
  • New cargo transit sheds and additions, earth dikes and wharves were built

Cargo shipments from the Port increased through the decade, and in 1939 the Port achieved its highest volume ever.


Local 38-89 of the International Longshoremen’s Association was formed in late 1933 and became part of the International Longshoremen’s and Warehousemen’s Union in 1937. Today, it continues this association as Local #47.

The Port of Olympia was known as a weekend port, which allowed topping off cargoes on weekends when ships wanted to get underway. This practice brought considerable business through the efforts of local longshoremen. Olympia harbor longshoremen have historically had a reputation as record-setting work crews.

World War II

The Port joined the World War II effort as shipbuilding, an early South Sound industry, expanded on Port property during the 1940s. Port facilities and cargo-handling equipment were upgraded under its second major comprehensive improvement plan, and war-related cargo volumes increased significantly.

The 1950s were marked by a post-war continuation of wood product shipping activity. In 1957, 161 million board-feet of lumber were shipped over Port docks. Another major cargo handled by the Port in the 1950s was canned fruit and vegetables from the Olympia Canning Company, which closed in 1959.