Eugene L. McAllaster
1866 - 1946
Prominent Seattle Naval Architect
and Engineer
Designer of the Historic Seattle Fireboat the Duwamish

Eugene L.


Katherine F.


December 5, 1902
Curtis Studio

Courtesy, Charles A. Rough Photography Collection

Courtesy, Charles A. Rough Photography Collection

Eugene Loring McAllaster was born April 20, 1866. He graduated from the University of Michigan in 1889 and in 1890 he married his sweetheart Katherine F. Nichols. Kittie, as she was known by friends and family,  was born in Matterwan, Michigan, on June 16, 1867, and spent her girlhood in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

The newlyweds lived in Detroit until their move to Seattle in 1894. Mr. McAllaster quickly established himself in the Seattle business community as a skilled naval architect and engineer. With his business prospering he purchased a fine home on Capital Hill. On March 2, 1902 they moved into their home at 509 Belmont overlooking downtown Seattle, Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains.

509 Belmont
Capital Hill
Seattle, Washington
circa 1910

The McAllaster home overlooking downtown Seattle and the Olym- pic Mountains. Here Mrs. McAllaster gave piano lessons. The third floor was the maid's quarters. 

Courtesy, Charles A. Rough Photography Collection

In 1892, when it was discovered that the First Avenue sewer trench was installed running uphill, Seattle’s city council decided it was time to seek professional engineers. Reginald H. Thompson was hired as the City Engineer and Seattle would never look the same.

Seattle's Denny Hill Regrade, circa 1909

Over the next twenty years Mr. Thompson would profoundly change the landscape of the city with dozens of regrade projects, most notably the Denny Hill regrade (started in 1898) and the Jackson Street regrade (started in 1907).

Mr. Thompson needed competent engineers for his many regrade projects and so he contracted Eugene L. McAllaster as a consulting engineer.

Seattle's Jackson Street Regrade, circa 1908


In 1908 Eugene L. McAllaster's office was suite 22 in the Haller Building located at the northwest corner of Second and Colum- bia. Later, as business expanded, he moved his firm to the fifth floor of the Dexter Horton Building.

Haller Building, 1905
Second & Columbia
Seattle, Washington

After the June 6, 1889 fire that ravaged thirty prime city blocks of downtown Seattle and much of the waterfront, the city was deeply concerned with upgrading its fire protection. Within a year the city had five new fire stations and in April 1890 construction commenced on the city's first fireboat, the wooden-hulled Snoqualmie.

Seattle, with its long waterfront of wooden docks and wooden warehouses frequented by wooden merchant vessels, was an enormous responsibility for the city's fire department. It was rightfully feared that another devastating fire like the one in 1889 could overwhelm the capability of the city's single fireboat.

In response to this concern, a new and more powerful fireboat was ordered in 1909. They knew just the man to trust with this important design task, the distinguished Seattle naval engineer Eugene L. McAllaster.

It wasn't in Eugene L. McAllaster's character to design just some old tub with water cannons. He had arrived in Seattle only five years after the 1889 fire and he knew what kind of catastrophe another big city fire would cause. He set out to design a state of the art fireboat like no other. It would be the most powerful fireboat in the world.

ca.1910 postcard, the Duwamish

Mr. McAllaster specifically designed the fireboat for the uniqueness of the Seattle waterfront, Smith Cove and the Duwamish River. He made it robust and introduced many innovations. He had a serious mission and that was to keep Seattle's waterfront and waterways safe.

His fireboat would be a riveted steel-hulled 120 foot steam-powered battering ram, with its sharp bow capable of sinking any wooden vessel unlucky enough to be so engulfed with flames that only a submersion into the depths of the Puget Sound would end the conflagration. Yet, he knew this function might never be needed after he had installed three American-LaFrance steam piston pumps with a rated capacity of 3,000 gallons a minute. Total water cannon delivery, 9,000 gallons of Puget Sound saltwater a minute!

One of several innovations Mr. McAllaster cleverly incorporated into the
Duwamish was a shallow-water capacity by the elimination an external keel. This was especially important since Seattle still had areas with shallow water and tideflats, especially the fill areas around the mouth of the Duwamish River and the newly forming Harbor Island.

The Duwamish fireboat (right) successfully keeping the July 30, 1914 Grand Trunk Dock fire from spreading to the rest of the Seattle waterfront.

The fireboat's twin screws were driven by double marine steam engines, with four Mosher watertube boilers. Maximum speed 10.5 knots.

The brasswork was amazing and by some considered nothing short of a work of art.

With business booming, Mr. McAllaster found himself having to travel to Portland, Oregon, and other port cities to conduct business. Since he and Kittie were childless (their only child, Eugene Henry died December 4, 1898 after living only one day), Mr. McAllaster was deeply concerned about leaving Kittie alone for long stretches. Charlie Rough (rhymes with plow) was formally introduced to Aunt Kittie in 1908 or 1909 at the Fredrick and Nelson Tea Room. He came to live with them and became the same as family ever after.

In 1907, at only 15 years old, Charlie Rough, traveling alone, came from Buchanan, Michigan, to Seattle to live with family friend Olen Fox. His father, Edward Rough, died of consumption (tuberculosis) in 1901 and his mother was developing symptoms of the dreaded disease as well. In a loving gesture to save him from consumption and thus save his life, she sent him to Seattle.

Initially a job was waiting for the young Charlie, but once he arrived they turned him down for looking too young. He weighed only 96 lbs. He was soon able to find work at Stewart Holmes & Co. as a delivery boy. During the summer of 1908 he worked at White City (Madison Park carnival). That fall he went to Eastern Washington and got work grafting fruit trees in a nursery.  Getting a message that Olen Fox was very sick he rushed back to Seattle arriving only 20 minutes before Mr. Fox passed away.

With Olen dead, his wife sold out and left the state to live with relatives. Charlie, now 16 years old, was completely on his own.  He soon obtained a job in downtown Seattle's Stone Fisher Co. as a delivery boy and watchman. Meanwhile he lived on the streets of Seattle, happy to be controlling his own destiny. Instilled with a fine sense of right from wrong by his parents, Charlie's reputation as a trustworthy and upright young man began growing.

Once when the night watchman at Stone Fisher Co. failed to show up Charlie voluntarily, without hesitation, remained to guard the building all night. This caught the attention of owner Mr. Stone, so when Mr. McAllaster told Mr. Stone that he was looking for an upstanding man to come live with him so that his wife Kittie wasn't alone during his business trips, Mr. Stone said, "I've got just the person for you."

That is how Charlie Rough came to live with the McAllasters and be their son in all ways except formally. Descendants of Charlie Rough affectionately refer to the McAllasters as Uncle Gene & Aunt Kittie.

1913 Stanley Steamer, Model 77
"Princess Angeline"

Vacant lot on Beacon Hill

July 1, 1913

Courtesy, Charles A. Rough Photography Collection

The Duwamish fireboat was steam powered so it was only natural that when the McAllasters bought a new car in 1913 it was a Stanley Steamer. Gene, being an engineer, enjoyed his automobiles. They affectionately named each automobile they owned. They named their shiny new 1913 Stanley Steamer "Princess Angeline" in honor of Chief Sealth's daughter.

Gene and Kittie loved to take road trips and camp at various rustic places such as Crescent Lake near Port Angeles, Washington. They loved out-of-the-way places like Bainbridge Island.

Sometime around 1911, the McAllasters purchased a camp lot on Bainbridge Island's Wing Point.

Wing Point Camp, Bainbridge Island, 1911

Courtesy, Charles A. Rough Photography Collection



Gene and Kittie liked to take long road trips to California in the winter. They enjoyed staying at a lodge on Crescent Lake, near Port Angeles, and Sund's Landing, on the Hood Canal, in the summer.

Left to right
Mr. Mason
Kittie McAllaster
Mrs. Mason

Sund's Landing, Hood Canal, 1915
Charles A. Rough Photography Collection

Gene, being the engineer he was, enjoyed keeping careful and precise mileage records during his road trips. They would often travel with friends. With the opening of the highway to Paradise Valley in 1915 the McAllasters seized upon the adventure.

Left to Right
Gene McAllaster
Kittie McAllaster
Wixie Calhoun

Mt. Rainer National Park
June 29-30, 1915

Courtesy, Charles A. Rough Photography Collection

In the summer of 1920 Gene purchased an air-cooled 1920 Franklin and named it "Florodora" after the Florodora Girls in France.

Newlyweds, Charlie and Lydia (Blenkinsop) Rough with "Florodora", July 3, 1920. The McAllasters stopped by the renowned 2,350 acre A. L. Brown Farm in Nisqually Valley on their way to Sund's Landing on Hood Canal. Charlie Rough, wearing his WWI Calvary uniform, was the Manager of the farm. Today the sprawling A. L. Brown farm is known as the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge.



Courtesy, Charles A. Rough
Photography Collection

Kittie and Gene McAllaster, 509 Belmont, Seattle, Washington
July 30, 1921, their 31st wedding anniversary photograph.
Courtesy, Charles A. Rough Photography Collection


Kittie's voice was "musical and lilting". She was completely at home in any social situation. Gene was a big man with a deep, pleasant voice. He was dignified, but not excessively so. They were sensitive, intuitive, and they spoke clearly and intelligently.


Gene, Kittie and infant Eugene Henry are interred, along with other Seattle notables, in Lakeview Cemetery on Seattle's Capital Hill.

Mr. Eugene L. McAllaster was known and respected as a man of integrity. It was said by Charles A. Rough that when it came to the Fireboat Duwamish, "If he had wanted, he could have lived just off the bribes people wanted to give him."

Rogue Publishing,  Division of Morgan Consultants, Inc.



The official site for the Fireboat Duwamish.