Historic Avenue B

Historic Avenue B, looking south, 1855-2009

SNOHOMISH’S OWN PIONEER PHOTOGRAPHER, GILBERT D. HORTON, captured this month’s historic image of Avenue B around 1885. By then, all three Blackman families had made their homes in this part of town, but only one has survived, and it is now the Blackman House Museum at 118 Avenue B.

Alanson “Cap” Blackman was the eldest brother to settle in Snohomish along with his wife, Eliza, also from Bradley, Maine. Their home was on the corner of Avenue B and 2nd, across the street from pioneer drugstore owner Lot Wilbur’s home. The Wilbur’s three story home was built on a south-facing hill that was removed in the 40s to build an automobile dealership level with the street. Most likely, Horton had his large format camera set up on the hill in order to capture the historic bird’s eye view, as opposed to my “ladder-high view” repeat photograph.

Next in line age wise, was Elhanan who built a home on the east side of Avenue B, on the left in the historic image, and lived there with his wife Frances and their daughter Edith. (We wrote about Edith last month since her grandson, Richard, had just donated her family album to the Society.)

Just across the wide, park-like avenue from Elhanan’s family was the youngest brother, Hyrcanus and his wife Ella living at 118 Avenue B. Their two children, Clifford and Eunice were born and raised in this home that is now our museum. Plus, Eunice and her husband Dr. William Ford lived in the home until his death in 1951, but Eunice stayed put for another 10 years or so until accepting her daughter’s invitation to live with her family in Sacramento, California, where she died in 1974.

Hyrcanus was the financial officer of the Blackman Brothers Company and civic activist. By the time this photograph was taken, the Brothers had a logging operation on a small lake north of town, and a very busy mill on the Snohomish River turning out red cedar shakes by the (coming) trainload for shipment to the East Coast.

The structure in the historic image at the end of the block could be the location of Blackman roller skating rink that’s mentioned in the early newspapers. In any case, the structure was deconstructed to make room for the four-star Penobscot Hotel, which opened on this site in 1888. Sadly, it burned to the ground in the great fire of 1911 when the current two-story brick building was built inside of a year.

Then there is the story of the heated contest between Hyrcanus and city founder “Old Ferg” to be elected the first Mayor when the citizen’s voted for the city’s incorporation in 1890. You are invited to hear that story and more as part of my second annual Blackman Stories for the Holidays offered weekend afternoons from 1 to 4pm, but only through December at the Blackman House Museum on historic Avenue B.

Published in the Snohomish County Tribune, December 16, 2009


Avenue B, circa 1885
A Gilbert Horton photograph of Avenue B around 1885 captured from a hill that was removed to build the Poier Chevrolet Dealership on Second Street. All three Blackman Brothers had homes on this street at the time, but only one home has survived to become the Blackman House Museum, the second structure up from First Street on the right.

Avenue B looking south towards the river, 2009
Avenue B looking towards First Street and the river. Today’s view of the Blackman House Museum at #118, located on the right, is hidden by trees. The white structure at the end of Avenue B is the public restroom and the Sea-Sno Mill beyond.