Friday, April 18, 2008

Tuna Anyone

Built in 1881 and expanded during the twentieth century, the Samuel Elmore Cannery became the longest operating salmon cannery in the United States. Typical of fish canneries of this era, the structure was built over the river and supported by massive pilings that were driven deep into the bed of the Columbia River.

The cannery continued to be profitable until the 1940s when the salmon run declined sharply; the cannery would have ceased operations if it had not begun processing albacore tuna. Since tuna could be frozen before canning, the cannery now had a steady supply of fish for processing in the salmon off-season and thus began year-round processing at the Elmore plant.

The canning of tuna under the Bumble Bee label quickly surpassed salmon both in terms of quantity and market recognition. Both products were canned under the Bumble Bee label; however the label branding is now more commonly identified with tuna. If you ever ate Bumble Bee canned tuna before 1980, it was likely processed in this plant. The cannery ceased operations in 1980 and the building was destroyed by the work of an arsonist in 1993.

Samuel Elmore Cannery circa 1960

This is how the cannery appeared on a sunny afternoon in April of 2008. All that remains today is rubble from the once proud structure. Pictured is the concrete bunker that once housed the boiler. During low tide, a part of the boiler is visible to the left of the bunker. It's the thing that looks like a submarine sticking out of the mud.

Shown here are many of the piling that supported the cannery and the fuel room for the cannery's massive boiler.

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