Written by James Bentley (Originally published in the Eureka Times, 2009 Fall issue)
Tacoma’s First Port
In its infancy, Tacoma, and especially Old Town along the mile-long docks, earned a reputation that was common to waterfront cities of the era: rough and tumble and unsafe to wander alone in. As the end of the nineteenth century drew near, as many as 20 ships a day called at the wheat docks in Old Town. Majestically rigged deep sea cargo ships cluttered the bay waiting their turn to take on thousands of tons of wheat on their way back to European ports. Many of these deep sea cargo boats had already spent a better part of a year working their way east from Europe. Sailors from every walk exited those ships, many off to spend their wages in the numerous saloons across the area. But for sailors seeking comfort, safety and sobriety, there was one harbor for them in Old Town: Seaman’s Rest.
Seaman’s Rest opened on North Carr Street in 1897 by Mother Funnemark and daughter Christine, pictured here in the black dresses.
Opened in 1897, Seaman’s Rest occupied a small wooden structure, at what is now a private home on North Carr Street. Operated by Birgitte Funnemark, affectionately known to the sailors as Mother Funnemark, and her daughter, Christine, Seaman’s Rest provided a haven for many traveling sailors. The experiences of Birgitte’s past fueled her compassion for the wandering seafarer and gave Old Tacoma what many considered a beacon of stability in the midst of chaos.