DELSON LUMBER COMPANY
and
THE HISTORY OF THE SMYTH FAMILY

The Smyth family has deep roots in the history of West Bay drive. At the turn of the century West Bay Drive was a bustling community, a working waterfront full of life and activity. The Smyths have always been a part of that working waterfront. The family has traced its roots back as far at Edward James Smyth who owned a boat building company in Olympia in the late 1800's. Edward and Viola lived on North Sherman Street, but when times got tough, Edward left for Alaska during the gold rush and made his fortune in Alaska. All we know, is that he had a shipbuilding business in Whitehorse Alaska and that streets were named after him in downtown Fairbanks, Alaska. He owned a lot of property in downtown Fairbanks, but his estate was never probated because his attorney died after he did. Viola Smyth is buried here in Olympia.

Edward and Viola Smyth, had a son named Delta Victor Smyth. Delta V. was well known in Olympia. He formed many businesses along West Bay Drive. Delta V. Smyth Tug and Barge was his most well known business. He also formed Hardel Plywood with the assistance of his brother, Harold Smyth. Delson Lumber Company was started by Delta, Eb Nelson and Clare Dickison, hence the name "Delson". Ordel was another business on West Bay that Delta helped start. All these businesses were named by Delta's wife, Ruth Smyth.

Delta's tugboat business operated along Percival landing and near the present day Oyster House there is an interpretative sign showing the many tugboats in his fleet. The Sandman, which is being restored today, was one of his tugs. Delta's office was a small building located over pilings, which has now been expanded and is the present day Budd Bay Cafe. Every year at the annual Harbor Days celebration the trophy that is given to the winning tug is named after Delta V. Smyth, in honor of his years in the tugboat business in Olympia.

Eventually, Delta sold the business to Foss Tug and Barge and when they determined the wooden tugboats were no longer economically viable they consolidated their operations in Seattle. Presently, we only have one tugboat company remaining in Olympia, Olympia Towing, which used to be owned by the Willies, but is now owned by Dunlap Towing out of LaConner. However, Dunlap Towing's Olympia operations is still managed by a Willie, Mac Willie.

Delta V. Smyth also served as a Port Commissioner for the Port of Olympia. In the late 1950's, Delson Lumber Company was going through a difficult period, so Delta asked his son, Delta Wayne Smyth, to come and help him with the family business. D. Wayne Smyth was young at the time he had just returned from the war, where he was a lieutenant in the Navy. He was now an engineer, but he had grown up working on his father's tugs. D. Wayne Smyth took Delson lumber Company from a small cant mill to a full sized sawmill that produced and sold lumber all over the world. At one time Delson Lumber had fourteen railcars shipping lumber all across the country.

In the mid 1970's, Wayne Smyth foresaw the trends in the industry and started Skookum Lumber, a small log mill in Mason County. It got harder and harder to operate on the waterfront in Olympia. There was increasing conflict with the residential community that was developing on the hilltop. Olympia was growing as a government town and industry was shrinking.

In 1982, during a low point in the industry, Wayne shut down the Delson mill in Olympia. Skookum Lumber was still going strong and fitting the niche in the market that he had foreseen. Therefore, the Smyth family focused there energies on the mill in Mason County.

Wayne and his wife, Jean, had two children, Delta Tucker Smyth and Sarah Wayne Smyth. Wayne asked his children to come and work for the family business. His son was also an engineer and he came and worked with his father at the Skookum mill in Mason County. His daughter was a lawyer and she served as General Counsel for the family business as well as managed the timberlands and the redevelopment of the old Delson millsite on West Bay.

In 1985, Delson leased the Olympia millsite to WTD Industries, who for five years tried to make a go of it on the Olympia waterfront. WTD had mills all over the Pacific Northwest. In 1990, WTD Industries declared bankruptcy and auctioned off the mill equipment. Delson Lumber took back the West Bay Drive property and has been managing it's redevelopment ever since.

From 1990 through 1992, the Smyth family worked with the City to get the appropriate permits to demolish and cleanup the old millsite. The family successfully obtained a No Further Action letter from the Department of Ecology after years of hardwork and diligent efforts to review all environmental issues on the site.

In 1993, Delson applied for a rezone of the site from Industrial to Urban Waterfront. A new zoning designation had to be created for West Bay as well as the Port peninsula called Urban Waterfront and new development regulations had to be drafted. Finally, in 1996 the old millsite was rezoned to Urban Waterfront and the site was ready for redevelopment.

From 1997 through the present, the Smyth family has invested considerable time and money into developing a master plan for the site that represents their vision for the property's future. The Smyth family has participated in over two decades of public planning processes for the West Bay Drive area.

The family has listened to what the community would like to see on West Bay and they have made every effort to incorporate these ideas in the master plan for the Delson property. There are parks, trails, habitat restoration and enhancement and stream restoration for Schneider creek, all included in the Smyth Family Redevelopment plans.

We encourage the public to take a look at what we have done and help us make this place a wonderful place for this community to enjoy and learn the history of this magical part of our world.