History of Seattle Municipal Railway's Division C, the streetcar line that once connected Burien with White Center and Seattle.
July 17, 2005
White Center Remembers pp 24-29

George W H White


With the toss of a coin, George White and Hiram Green decided the name of our community. It is not certain where the event took place (some say the triangle), but according to Hiram Green's daughter, Mrs. Ethyl Brown, George White did win the toss of a coin for the naming of White Center in the summer of 1918.

While many of us remembered Hiram Green personally or through his daughter Mrs. Ethyl Brown, little is known of George W. H. White. We do know, however, that George W. H. White was instrumental in developing the Highland Park-Lake Burien Street Car Line along with many others such as Hiram Green, Sam Metzler, Jacob Ambaum (who laid much of the railbed) and others. He also was the brother of Harry White, a former Mayor of Seattle from 1890 to 1892 and Will R. White a former Washington State legislator during the 1890's.

All three brothers first made Seattle their home in 1887 and together engaged in the business of buying, improving and selling real estate. They also would buy, develop and then promote the sale of mines.

Beginning in 1887 and continuing until 1893, the firm of Harry White with his brothers George and Will did the largest real estate business in the city of Seattle. The firm of Harry White and Company bought and sold its own property, buying and clearing land in the county and then putting it under cultivation before offering it for sale. They also bought and sold numerous tracts adjacent to the city including several acres of present day White Center.

Will R. White as a member of the real estate firm figured largely in matters dealing with the progress and development of Seattle, and as a member of the legislature he authored, introduced and was instrumental in securing the passage of a bill authorizing the filling in and reclamation of the tide flats of Seattle.

The firm of Harry White and Brothers prospered and acquired many valuable holdings, principally in Alaska during the late 1800's and early 1900's. They built the first long distance telephone lines in Alaska and were one of the first to engage in the oil business in Alaska, in the Kayak and other Alaska oil districts.

While Harry White and his brothers George and Will were among the pioneers in the opening and development of new districts. Harry was for several years one-half owner of the Daily Times which was to later become the Seattle Daily Times. Harry's partners in this enterprise were C. H. Kittinger and Homer M. Hill. The paper was sold to William E. Bafley, and eventually became the property of Colonel Alden J. Blethen.

George's brother Harry was also elected one of the eight members of the city council of Seattle, and took an active part in advocating municipal ownership of the water system and other public utilities. He was chairman of the police committee and had practical charge of the police department.

He spent many nights in planning and providing for a public library and a system of public parks, and it was through his efforts that they were established. The fact that his efforts were appreciated became evident with his election in 1890 to the mayorality, on the issue that the city should own its water system and other public utilities.

While George and Will were engaged primarily with the business of their real estate firm, Harry's duties when first elected mayor were ‘onerous in the extreme'. The entire business portion of the city had recently been swept away by fire, and it was during his administration that the streets were widened and regraded. Railroad avenue was planked and put in good condition, and all the railroads which under early franchises had been permitted to run through streets and alleys were removed to this common rail thoroughfare. The work of practically replatting the city of Seattle and reorganizing its various departments was very great.

While George's brother Harry was the first mayor under the new freeholder's charter of 1890, Mayor Harry White would not aggressively pursue a policy of closing down various gambling and prostitution establishments as was being suggested by Mr. T. S. J. Hunt the owner of the Post Intelligencer at that time. Therefore, when there was wide-spread demand for vicarious atonement, Mayor White was chosen for sacrifice. It was assumed that a well advertised display of virtue would redeem the city. Consequently, Mr. Hunt called Mayor White to appear before him and said to him . . . "You may resign and retire from the office of mayor if you choose to go that way, but go you must." Because Mayor White signed a resignation without hesitation and left it with Mr. Hunt to be published in the next issue of the morning paper, it was assumed that Mr. Hunt had found proof of wrongdoing or at least neglect in pursuing the so—called immorality of prostitution and gambling.

{LOOKING SOUTH FROM 16th SW and SW Roxbury at the present location of the Apothocary House where the first house of entertainment was the White Center Theatre owned and managed by George Shrigley and Walt Coy which featured such tantalizing headliners as Mae West Greta Garbo, and Fay Wray. }

While the work of Harry White as the chief executive did take Seattle from a village plan to the beginnings of a truly metropolitan entity, Harry's brother George White was instrumental in spurring the growth of what we know today as White Center with the development of a street car line, according to Leslie Blanchard, the author of Street Railway Era in Seattle. The line, known as the Highland Park and Lake Burien Railway, was conceived as part of a real estate venture aimed at developing the thinly settled region north of Lake Burien. It was incorporated on October 10th, 1911 by George W. H. White, D. I. Burkhart, F. M. McElroy, C, A. Doty, W. H. Murphy, L. I. Gregory, F. W. Dashley, Charles Schoening, J. R. McLaughlin, Sam Metzler, Jacob Ambaum, Hiram Green and others. It took in two preexisting franchises, one of which had been granted W. H. Coughlin on March 27, 1911 to build a railway on "Michigan and other streets," and another, granted by the King County Commissioners to George W. H. White to build a street railway between Highland Park and Lake Burien, "beginning at the N.E. corner of Section 6, Township 24, Range 4E and terminating at or near Lake Burien."

Completed and opened for service by the middle of 1912, the trackage extended from the intersection of Riverside Avenue (W. Marginal Way) and Spokane Street, south on W. Marginal for about a mile, where it turned southwest, climbing a steep grade (Dumar Hill) to the intersection of 9th Avenue S,W. and W. Holden Street.

There it turned south again, skirting 9th Avenue S.W, S. W. Henderson Street, turning west to 16th S.W.

It headed south once more, passing through White Center and turning east at S.W. 107th Street (Oak Park) to 12th Avenue S.W. At this point, it made a wide sweep around the Mt. View School and then headed south once again to S.W. 118th, taking a short semi-circular detour around Salmon Creek.

It continued along Ambaum to the intersection of 128th (stopping at the Jacob Ambaum home) from which point it continued in a southerly course along Ambaum. Here it ran through a genuine wilderness of primeval forest, according to Leslie Blanchard, where for a considerable stretch a road that ran parallel to the trackage, it provided the only indications that civilization had penetrated this otherwise untouched region.

The trackage followed the ups and downs of the terrain and emerged from this forest of "sylvan solitude," passing through Buriens "old town". The line swung westward about halfway between 151st and 152nd, and continued on to Seahurst, the southern terminous of the system.
On October 16, 1913 the City of Seattle accepted the Highland Park and Lake Burien Railway as a gift from its original builders. However, there were a few "catches," A year before a tremendous earth slide had wiped out nearly a mile of the line; and the system was donated with the proviso that the city undertake at once to clear and rebuild this incapacitated portion and to restore traffic. Other than two dilapidated Hammond cars leased from the Seattle Electric Company there was no rolling stock; nor were there any barns, shops or other structures, aside from a few waiting stations.

According to Leslie Blanchard, this particular rail system was unique among the electric lines of Seattle. It was part street railway and part interurban. Consequently, because Municipal ownership of street railways had gained sufficient prestige and popular support, the Municipal Railway put a sizeable crew to work to clear away tons of earth and rubble that had obliterated practically all the trackage and right of way between the turn off from Riverside Avenue and the intersection of 9th Avenue S.W.

WM N REDFIELD, president
C S HARLEY, cashier
M J HENEHAN, vice-president
D B FAIRLEY, vice-president
J L JAFFE, vice-president
FRANKLIN SHUEY, vice-president
R F HARLEY, asst. cashier
E W CAMPBELL, asst. cashier
NO. 9662
CAPITAL $200,000.00
Sept. 19, 1912.
Messrs. D. E. West, W. A. Hutton, S H Metzler, Clyde W Sherman, Theodore Hansen, W H Murphy, Silas C Roll, Geo. W H White, H C Green, C A Doty, C Schoening, F A Ausman, Seahurst Land Co, Jacob Ambaum, F A Harris, Emil C Rink, F W Dashley, William Hill, Chas C Suter, Henry B Green, W A Dashley, F W Mitchell, J F McElroy, A K Wylde, and D I Burchart [sic].


We beg to advise you that notes of the Highland Park & Lake Burien Ry. Co. to The Mercantile National Bank and payment of which are guaranteed by you will be due as follows: Sept. 22, 1912, 5000.00; Sept. 26, 1912, 6000.00; Sept. 27, 1912, $3000.00 and October 3, 1912, $1000.00, In addition to this, there has been due for some time past to us approximately $1500.00 which we paid to various creditors of the Highland Park & Lake Burien Ry. Co. at your request and payment of which accounts to us were guaranteed by you.

We have repeatedly called upon the Highland Park & Lake Burien Ry. Co. for payment of the moneys due to us, but without result. This letter is for the purpose of notifying you and each of you that when the notes of the Highland Park & Lake Burien Ry. Co. become due that they must be paid and upon failure of the said Highland Park & Lake Burien Ry. Co. to pay said notes and interest and any and all other moneys due to us by the Highland Park & Lake Burien Ry. Co., demand will immediately be made upon you for payment of the amounts due to us and in the event that payment is not made by you immediately, suit will be brought against you and each one of you to compel payment of your obligations to us.
Yours very truly,

M Harley,


With the track cleared, service was resumed and the Highland Park—Lake Burien line rapidly built up a lucrative business under its new management. A real estate boom, stimulated in part by the railway itself, was in progress over much of the White Center area. The area was rapidly filling up with new homes, and the passenger trade was brisk from the very beginning. Numerous spans and passing tracks were built; and the freight business became almost as profitable as the passenger traffic, with cars of bricks, building materials and produce sharing the tracks with passenger and express cars.

Although George White had won the toss of a coin with Hiram Green for the naming of White Center, his street car line was short lived. Service was discontinued to Seahurst in May of 1929. White Center was served until precisely 11:50a.m., December 17, 1933, when a sodden mass clay and trees covered the Michigan Street siding. Before an attempt was made to clear it, a 200 foot washout developed further along the line, leaving the tracks dangling 20 feet in the air.
Clarence Gresset writes -- "gone now are the sounds of the street car rolling free down from Highland Park and the wheels harsh grind as they rounded the turn at 16th. The still night air carried every movement of the ugly [??] motors as they shunted freight cars into Bunge's fuel yard.

"The warning bell sounded at the Greendale crossing. One could detect the sound of steel brake shoes screeching on iron rims as the car neared the Oak Park turn and the slow climb up 107th to 12th near the Mt. View School, The intermittent and varying sounds as it completed its solitary trip could be depicted mentally from almost any hill in the community."

Posted by Rob Ketcherside at July 17, 2005 4:14 PM