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Taylor's Mill

RVHS Photo #98.07.01

Taylor's Mill shown in the photo was located on Lake Washington, one mile south of Rainier Beach near the present Seattle City limits.  Sanford Taylor's first mill was also on Lake Washington but further north at the base of a bluff near Leschi. Conveyor belts connected the mill with planing mills at the top of the bluff.

About 1901 heavy rains caused the bluff to slide and severely damaged the operation.  Taylor loaded their machinery onto a barge and moved south, setting up the mill shown in the picture. The business was also known as the Rainier Beach Lumber Co.

The workers at the mill formed a small community the post office designated as "Tamil." Although the town was never incorporated, "Tamil" appeared in the 1911-12 Polk Directory. The names of all the residents appeared in the directory and it listed their job descriptions at the mill. 

The mill employed about 100 workers but only 78 were listed in the directory.  The others that didn't live there probably commuted on the streetcar line's special car that showed the name "Taylor's Mill Express" on the front. The only name in the directory not associated with the mill was the branch post office clerk listed as "M. R. Metcalf, clerk in charge."

The building now on the corner of 68th and Rainier was originally the town's grocery store with apartments above. It is presently the '"Lakeside Tavern" with one side of their sign turned upside down.  Just south of the grocery store the mill had built some bunkhouses for the workers.

When the mill first opened, Rainier Avenue had not been constructed beyond Rainier Beach Station. Lumber was delivered by railcars on the streetcar line either south to Renton or north to Seattle. Lumber delivered locally to the many homes that were being built, was hauled on a wagon pulled by a team of horses. 

The only road in and out of the mill went south along 68th Avenue and followed Taylor Creek, also known as Dead Horse Creek. The area, still thickly wooded, is now known as Lakeridge Park. The road made an abrupt right turn, climbed the steep hill now named Holyoke Street up to Waters Avenue and then on to deliver the lumber to the location of the new house being constructed.

At that time however, and still referred to by some, it was known as the "Dead Horse Canyon" road. It was necessary to add a second team of horses to the lumber wagon to climb the hill and it was rumored that one of the teams went off the road, killing one of the horses. This explains the name "Dead Horse." 

When the mill first started operating, their supply of logs came mostly from the heavily wooded Skyway area. The trees were very large, mostly Douglas Fir. To get them to the mill a chute was constructed from the top of the hill, over the streetcar tracks, and down to the mill. 

In an Interview with Mort Taylor, now hale and hearty at the age of 100, he said several relatives worked at the mill. His uncle Bill was a logger, uncle Dave operated the boom,

his dad was foreman and one of the girls in the family ran the mill restaurant. The pay for loading lumber was 22 cents an hour. At the left in the photo Mort, as a young boy, is holding the hand of his dad with his sister at his right. 

The Hitt Fireworks Company located in Columbia City just after the turn of the century is the subject of the current display at the Rainier Valley Historical Society's office. It is a fascinating story of the Hitt family and their small company that made it big in the fireworks manufacturing business and became famous worldwide.

Days Gone By 

South District Journal 6/2/1999

By Buzz Anderson


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