Posted by: wadahp | June 7, 2011


Friday Harbor Laboratories – University of Washington

Organized, university-backed field research can be traced back to 1903 when University of Washington Professor of Zoology Trevor Kincaid searched for a site in the Salish Sea to establish a marine biology field station, selecting Friday Harbor on San Juan Island. UW Botany Professor Theodore Christian (T.C.) Frye joined Kincaid and together they taught students at the station through 1910. The station received its first class of students on June 15, 1904. Using a cabin south of Friday Harbor that was loaned to the station by Captain Warbass, students slept in tents and spent nearly each day outside, exploring the islands or working at the station’s outdoor laboratory. Their field studies focused on the collection and identification of biological specimens. By 1906, the field station moved to an abandoned Pacific American Fisheries (PAF) cannery in the heart of downtown Friday Harbor, where the station operated until 1908.[1] The larger site allowed for processing specimens as well as an indoor space for class instruction.[2]

View of: Trevor Kincaid, the first director of the Puget Sound Marine Station (later Friday Harbor Marine Laboratories), bending over a microscope at his workbench. Source: Washington State Archives.

In 1910, appointed the first official director of the Puget Sound Marine Station, Trevor Kincaid took over full leadership and responsibility for the station. A new building was built during the late spring and early summer of 1910, and the completed building stood two-and-a-half stories tall, hovered over the water on concrete piers, and featured a lecture room, laboratory rooms, two darkrooms, an office, and a storeroom. The 1910 summer session was so successful, it led to discussion of maintaining a year-round educational facility.

In 1914, Kincaid resigned as the Director of the Puget Sound Marine Station and the UW appointed T.C. Frye as his replacement. Frye served as director from 1914 to 1930. During World War I, the UW changed the station’s name to Puget Sound Biological Station. Due to the terrain of the station’s site and its proximity to the cannery, UW sought a new site for the station and selected the former military reserve at Point Caution (or Military Point). A 1921 Act of Congress transferred ownership of the land to the University and construction of the new station (in its current location) began in 1923.[3] During World War II the station was used by the U.S. Coast Guard to train servicemen, but returned to full-time use as a marine and biological laboratory in February 1946.  The station continues to provide University of Washington students with hands-on field experience today.

View of: Friday Harbor with the Friday Harbor Laboratories site just visible in the background past the marina. Source: Artifacts Consulting, Inc., 2010.

[1]  The field station was briefly located at this site between 1906 and 1908. The location is currently the site of the modern Cannery Landing shopping pier, just south of the present ferry landing.


[2]  Claudia E. Mills and Colin O. Hermans, “Historical Centennial Timeline for the University of Washington’s Friday Harbor Laboratories: 1903-2005,” Friday Harbor Laboratories, last modified November 2010,


[3]  Mills and Hermans, “Historical Centennial Timeline for the University of Washington’s Friday Harbor Laboratories.”



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