Ivar Haglund was a true Seattle character and icon. He was known as an entertainer, folksinger, restaurateur and ultimately the "King," "Mayor" or "Patriarch" of the waterfront. The story of Ivar's Seafood Restaurants began in 1938 when 33-year old Seattle native Ivar Haglund opened his city's first aquarium on Seattle's Pier 54. Droves of people lined up and paid a nickel to view the sea life that Ivar had collected from the surrounding Puget Sound. Noticing that his patrons were working up an appetite, Haglund began to sell red clam chowder and fish n' chips from the site – an instant success that began his career as a restaurateur.
The Norwegian/Swede Haglund, locally known as a folksinger before a fish n' chips purveyor, spread the word about his aquarium and seafood bar by performing in educational and entertainment programs at nearby schools. He also staged a number of infamous pranks such as octopus wrestling and clam eating contests on the Seattle waterfront.
He worked his way into the hearts of many by his endearing and self-deprecating humor as well as his ability to make guests feel at home. He had a love of Seattle that was unparalleled and it showed. Through the years, he supported many local causes, so much so that the city asked him to take on the local Independence Day fireworks show for Seattle. To this day, it is the longest running privately held show on the West Coast.
He knew the value of advertising and public relations and relished in it. He was a regular on KJR and KIRO radio stations, as well as the Captain Puget show on channel 4. He maneuvered numerous stunts, including the syrup spill/pancake feed on the rail tracks, strolling to Frederick and Nelson's department store with Patsy his seal, and created a Clam Stamp that US Postal Inspectors didn't think so humorous.
He had a knack for pushing the civil boundaries. Ivar loved a good controversy over the mundane elements of life that government leaders attempted to control. When a bureaucrat told him ‘no', he just went ahead and did it with Seattle spirit and reckless abandon. For instance, Ivar hung his beloved Salmon Sock on the Smith Tower (one of Seattle's tallest structures that he owned at the time). Or, when he wanted to use a barge for his outdoor dining at Ivar's Salmon House and brought it through Lake Union in the middle of the night. He also ran on a lark in the Port Commissioner race and much to his surprise, won!
In 1985, just shy of his 80th birthday, Ivar Haglund passed away. He was posthumously voted by the public as "the person who best exemplified Seattle. A group of longtime friends commissioned a statue to honor him and placed it on historic Pier 54, next to his first restaurant, Ivar's Acres of Clams. Ivar showed us that Seattle was and still is the jewel of the Northwest. Everyone was entertained by his quips and irreverence. And to this day, his motto KEEP CLAM lives on.