[Ed. note: This text has been rewritten to reflect the fact that this is the Swanson Bay in BC, not the one in the Chugach NF of Alaska]
In September of 1917 Alva Day boarded a southbound steamer leaving Alaska behind. We have no evidence he ever returned.
On his return trip his ship stopped at this mill town on Swanson Bay, British Columbia. This 1974 magazine article offers a good history of the town. Apparently siting a pulp mill in a forest with low quality trees wasn't a winning business proposition, so not too many years after Alva Day visited this spot the town started its slow fade into the forest. It now has more of the feel of a Central American jungle ruin than a mill town. This blog shows what this spot looks like 90 years after today's HHR photo was taken.
This week's journey through some of our earliest Alva Day photographs just scratched the surface of this collection. In the next few weeks you'll get to climb Mt. Hood with him and travel around Oregon selling electrical appliances. I could easily spend the rest of the year showing you nothing but Alva Day photographs, but there are so many other corners of our collection to explore.
Thanks for the Alva Day photos. I am still hoping to see one of my grandfather, Harold W. Bryant, who also worked for the power company.
Jeffrey Bryant on 13th April 2012 @ 7:08am
Quite a little settlement in its day and the article relating to it returning to nature is interesting.
I would think that this was a "two fold" settlement. Naturally fishing and timber would be what they were after. Lots of tall timber there in the background.
Charlott on 13th April 2012 @ 7:14am
You could almost think you were sitting in the Columbia River and looking at the Gorge hills.
The tall object in the photo is taller than a three story concrete boiler building. Is it the brick chimney?
Thank you Alva Day for your wonderful photos.
l.e. on 13th April 2012 @ 7:20am
l.e., the tower is very large (wider than most of the buildings) and appears to be made of wood or metal latticework-- like a radio tower or lighthouse. It looks like there may be a cloth banner at the top, but I can't read it. Unfortunately the camera moved during the exposure-- unusual for Alva Day, but he was on a ship-- so the negative is a bit blurry. I suspect we'll find more pictures from Swanson Bay as we dig through the collection, so we yet get an answer.
Arthur on 13th April 2012 @ 7:40am
Jeffrey- Only a few of the workers are identified in the Day photos. When we're done scanning the collection we'll have to have you in to try to ID your grandfather.
Arthur on 13th April 2012 @ 7:42am
Arthur...Swanson Bay is in British Columbia.
I think the tower was a drying tower for the poor quality lumber in the area.
l.e. on 13th April 2012 @ 4:31pm
Very interesting. l.e. is right-- while there is a Swanson Bay in the Chugach NF of Alaska, this is not that Swanson Bay. I'll correct the text to reflect this interesting ghost town's history.
Arthur on 13th April 2012 @ 7:39pm
According to my dad's birth certificate, this is where he was born in 1925. (He's still alive, as of June 2018.) His dad was a millworker/logger who was sent here in the early 1900s to join his parents, who'd moved to coastal BC from Japan to work. Thanks for posting! I hadn't seen any photos of this place before, since Dad's family moved to Vancouver when he was a child.
Lisa Kadonaga on 18th June 2018 @ 2:49pm