Wilbur Drugstore Building, 1889

In the December 15, 1888, issue of The Eye, Snohomish’s 19th century newspaper of record, editor C. H. Packard wrote:

“One day this week we were shown the plans of the fine brick block which L. Wilbur will erect in the spring to replace his old drug store on the corner of first and C streets.”

The plans were those of J. S. White, whom I consider to be Snohomish’s first architect. He settled here in 1884, with his wife and three daughters, just in time to catch a front row seat on the roller coaster ride of frontier development. By 1890, White was responsible for at least nine structures, including his own home that is still standing at 310 Avenue H.

A special section of the Snohomish Sun, published in 1891, titled “Our Business Men,” wrote about J. S. White:

J. S. White, 1891“He is the architect and builder of nearly every building of note in the city. Among the residences built by him are those of E. C. Ferguson, O. E. Crossman, Mrs. Sinclair, H. C. Comegys, H. D. Morgan. etc., etc. Among the business blocks and fittings put up by him are Wilburs, Burns, A. M. Blackman’s […] and all these buildings are after his own plans.”



Lot Wilbur’s new drugstore was not finished until the following fall, several months beyond his expectations — some things never change in the construction business. The Eye reported on October 19, 1889:

“Contractor White, expects in a few days, as soon as he completes the Wilbur block to commence the erection of a handsome and commodious new residence for Mr. O. E. Crossman on the latter’s Avenue B property (320)….”

Busy man.

Last month, I introduced you to the work of Seattle photographer Otto Greule, with his image of the Odd Fellows Hall, and told you of our project to document the surviving structures designed and built by J. S. White. The Wilbur Drugstore Building — the second brick building in the county, a boastful edifice marking the economic success of Wilbur’s Remedies — is one of White’s most important commissions. It is not ready for its close-up.

Wilbur Drugstore Building today

Now: American Legion Post 96, (1201 First). The architectural celebration of a boom time in early Snohomish has been banished to the second floor by an expedient store front alteration.


Sad to say, a photograph of the Wilbur Drugstore Building will not be included in a publication honoring the work of White, and the 19th century architectural heritage of downtown Snohomish, due to its obvious need for historic restoration.

The structure will be 125 years old in 2014, and I challenge members of the American Legion Post 96 to set this date as a goal to gift their community a restored Wilbur Drugstore Building.

[singlepic id=157 w=260 h=163 float=right] Goodwill Tour, 1912.
“You can’t miss Snohomish if you come over the Milwaukee,” read the white ribbons worn by the men. (Click image to enlarge.) They are posed in front of the historic Wilbur Drugstore Building, then the depot for the new Milwaukee Road Railway, which I wrote about here.

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Published in the Snohomish County Tribune, December 26, 2012.

Frank and Betty Green

Got a call from Frank Green the day after my plea for information as to the whereabouts of the Snohomish Odd Fellows Lodge’s records appeared in the Tribune. Turns out his father, William, was not only one of the last members of the lodge, but that he was also the oldest member in the country. “Only for a short while,” Frank quickly added.

Frank did not join the lodge though both his father and grandfather were members. “So I don’t know much about it,” Franks claims, “but the membership just petered out.” The lodge was sold in 1978, as I wrote in the previous post.

William and his fellow Snohomish lodge members joined the Everett lodge but it was run by younger members and William soon lost interest in attending.

As for the records, “I suppose they were taken to the dump, unless some were accepted by the Everett lodge,” Frank suggested. My phone call to the national organization, the only number listed, has gone unanswered.

The Greens by Betty Green

William & Laura Green photographed by Betty


But my visit with the Greens was not without rewards, since I got to meet not only Frank but his wife Betty (Winston) Green who worked as a professional photographer for years, beginning with her first job in 1949. Readers may remember her studio in the basement of the Marks Building, known as the Village Photographer.

Plus, her father was Ollie Winston who built the famous steam locomotive that ran on truck tires and was fixture of the Kla Ha Ya Days Parade for years. Betty sent me this link to its new home in the LeMay Car Museum of Tacoma.

Best of all, Betty promises to dig some of her historic photos for a return visit.

Odd Fellows Hall, 2012


Photograph by Otto Greule

It’s early evening by the time we reach the last stop, #5, on our 19th-century walking tour, where a long line of mostly men, engaged in several sotto voce conversations, are waiting to enter the Odd Fellows Hall at 1205 Second Street.

Snohomish Lodge, No. 12, of the I.O.O.F was dedicated on April 20th, 1886, in an elaborate ceremony presided by Grand Master G. D. Hill, of Seattle, that included Lodges of the Order in the Territory, as well as the general public. The ceremony was followed by a grand ball at the Atheneum Hall, First and Avenue D.

Referred to as the Odd Fellows Hall in the newspapers, the handsome facility, built by J. S. White, immediately filled the need for a community meeting place for a growing Snohomish.

For example, there was a huge turnout for the railroad meeting held in the hall on Friday, December 15, 1887, about bringing the Seattle, Lake Shore and Eastern Railway into town — a meeting that I wrote about in March 2010.

The “Snohomish Choral Society” meet there on a regular basis, charging ladies 10 cents and gentlemen 15.

With a name whose meaning has been lost in translation over the years, the “Wranglers Society” offered a mix of song and debate.

The “Free Thought Society” met to organize its upcoming schedule of lectures in 1889: State Constitution, Weatlh and Want, Evolution and Religion — but put off forming a committee for music.

Lectures by travelling personalities were a staple of the hall, usually about religion, such as the one announced June 8, 1889 in “The Eye” — “Dr. J. L. York, the well known lecturer will speak upon the subject: ‘Our Religion and the New State Constitution.’”

The Odd Fellows Hall was the scene of many contentious gatherings beginning in 1887, over the tandem subjects of statehood and incorporation, covered in juicy detail by the two newspapers, “The Eye” and “The Sun” — each with an editorial stake in the outcome of the discussions.

Let’s imagine it’s Friday, April 25, 1890, the issue of incorporation is coming to an head as the crowd gathered on Second Street is waiting to hear Hon. Sam H. Piles, a lawyer who got his start in Snohomish and has returned as Seattle’s city attorney. The expectation is that Piles will speak in support of the opposition to the wishes of Snohomish’s Founding Father, E. C. Ferguson, on the question of re-incorporation as the City of Snohomish in the new state of Washington.

The doors are opening now and the charged crowd quickly disappears to find a seat in the large, open room on the second floor — a room that remains essentially unchanged over the years. Of all the wonderful historic structures in Snohomish, I would select this room if I had one wish to make the walls talk.

You are invited to read the fascinating story of Snohomish’s re-incorporation as a City of the third class at HistoryLink.org.

Birdseye View of Second Street Walking Tour, circa 1890

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Published in the Snohomish County Tribune, November 21, 2012.

Riding the Coast Starlight South

Riding Amtrak’s Coast Starlight to Los Angeles from Seattle is a relaxing two day trip except for the urge to capture it all on video.

Departed Seattle, Monday morning at 9:30a, and arrived Los Angeles Tuesday evening at 8:46p — 15 minutes early!

Warner BlakeBeing a sleeping car passenger includes access to the Pacific Parlor Car, where I went to capture this short clip of the much anticipated horseshoe curves.

Check out this website where true train fans are tracking the locations of these rare cars; gotta love them internets!

Location of the horseshoe curve, southwest of San Luis Obispo.

Masonic Hall, 1903

Last month we watched the Mayor, the Marshal, and Councilman Knapp, along with two schoolboys, chase a rebellious pig down Second Street. This month we continue our 19th-century walking tour to the Masonic Hall (#4) at the corner of Avenue C, site of the forgotten outhouse.

The application to organize a Masonic Lodge in Snohomish was made in April 1876, and when approved the following November, it was named “Centennial Lodge No. 25” in celebration of the nation’s centennial year. It was the first Masonic Lodge organized north of Seattle and its charter members are a who’s who of early Snohomish’s founders and business leaders.

The first meetings were held in a room over H. D. Morgan’s saloon that was both noisy and cramped. In 1878, Brother Joseph Getchell sold fellow members a lot across Second Street from his home (that we visited in August), for $100. The Blackman Brothers, also lodge members, built the 30 x 60 foot, two-story structure for $1,850.

 Northern Star, January 25, 1879 News of the sale was published in the Northern Star, January 1, 1879.

Of particular interest to members of the Snohomish Historical Society, 1878 is the year that Hycranus Blackman also built his family home at 118 Avenue B, now the Blackman House Museum.

During the first meeting in May 1879, as related by Stan Dubuque in River Reflections, Part I on page 86 reads:

“A serious shortcoming was discovered by a Brother and the following motion carried unanimously … that contractors build an outhouse and bring the bill into the Lodge.”

Good thing because the first floor was rented out for County business, including the District Court. Eleven years later, 1891, county offices and records were moved into the new courthouse on Avenue D.

And on April 26, 1958, the Centennial Lodge dedicated its new hall at Sixth and Avenue B, home base to a still active community organization.

Second Street, Avenue C, 1886
Fraternal Lodge face off in 1886 across Avenue C. The roof on the right belongs to the Knapp and Hinkley Livery.

It’s assumed that even the memory of the forgotten outhouse was long gone when the original hall was demolished, and the land sold for the parking lot that it is today.

Masonic Hall, 1903
Masonic Hall, 1903. Lodge members moved into their new hall in May 1879, along with County officers who rented space on the first floor. Facing the afternoon sun, the handsome structure was photograph in 1903, most likely to show off the recent addition to the east that included a kitchen and perhaps an indoor toilet.

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Published in the Snohomish County Tribune, October 17, 2012.

Northern State Hospital, 1912-2012

September 15th, a Saturday, but it’s a sunny day for the drive north on Route 9. Turning right at Sedro-Woolley, the Northern State Hospital site (now called “The North Cascades Gateway Center”), is four miles northeast of town. By the time I arrive around noon, the off-site parking is looking full with a long line of history buffs waiting for the white shuttle van that could carry only 10 of them at a time up the hill to the start of the guided tours.

Striking out across the parking out, I decided to hoof-it across the large expanse of grass that holds the historic structures at a graceful, yet mysterious distance.

The hospital, intended for what was referred to at the time as the “harmless insane,” is noted for its abundant campus acreage and has been long recognized as one one of the most beautiful hospital sites in the country. It was a major creative coup, as Noel V. Bourasaw writes in his, “Skagit River Journal,” was to commission the Olmstead sons (of the famous designer of Central Park in New York City), to plan the initial grounds around the hospital buildings.

Some 200 patients were transfered from the overcrowded facility in Steilacoom by 1913. For many years it was referred to it as the “bughouse,” even as the community grew to depend on the significant payroll generated by the institution.

The hospital ended operations in 1973, and eventually the stewardship of the site was taken up by the Washington State Department of General Administration and Skagit County. Once considered agricultural area the site is now the Northern State Recreation Area, home to many organizations, but the largest user of the historic structures is the Cascades Job Corps Center. (An extensive accounting of the history and pleas for the future of the site can be found online at The Cultural Landscape Foundation.)

My self-guided tour across the grounds ended at the Assembly Hall where I arrived just in time for the 12:30 public tour led by Job Corps students Margaret and Kelsey — enjoy!

snohomishthenandnow animation

The Knapp and Hinkley Livery, circa 1890

Leaving the Getchell House at 1122 Second Street to continue our imaginary 19th-century walking tour, we would most likely follow our nose to Knapp and Hinkley’s Livery next door (#3).

Owners Sewell M. Knapp and Elwin B. Hinkley were in business when the first insurance maps of Snohomish were published in 1888. Cyrus H. Knapp was the first cousin to Sewell and we assume a business partner since he is identified in the historic image as the man on the extreme right.

Cyrus was an active participant in the civic affairs of early Snohomish, serving as a council member in 1891, and on the committee to establish a fire department. This may explain why The Eye would describe his wagon shop as the place for catching up on the town gossip.

On January 30, 1892, The Eye reported a hilarious story “The Porker Escapes” that has been published in River Reflections, Part II on page 152. The short version is that Councilman Knapp joined Mayor Ferguson and Marshall Cleveland in pursuit of a large pig running loose on Second Street. Just as the men, joined by two schoolboys, had the rebellious beast cornered, it insisted on paying a visit to the Presbyterian church on Avenue A, (where our Then-and-Now tour began in July).

snohomishthenandnow image
This badly faded print is the only one we have of this popular early Snohomish business, often mentioned in the local newspaper The Eye. As if to make up for the poor condition of the photograph, the names of the men posing for the camera are listed on the reverse. From the left, A. C. Carpenter, L.A. Carter, Ora C. Knapp, Pat Coffee, and Cyrus H. Knapp.

Thanks to Ann Tuohy and David Dilgard, Northwest Room, Everett Public Library for research help on this story.

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Published in the Snohomish County Tribune, September 19, 2012.