First Street Bridge Looking West c.1885

With an eye on recent front page news, let’s look back to the time when Snohomish was once a city of bridges.

Regular readers may remember last month’s historic image of the Eagles Hall that included a glimpse of the First Street Bridge at the bottom of the image. This month’s photograph is most likely of the very first bridge joining First (or Front) Street across our famous gulch, captured by an unknown photographer around 1885.

The Snohomish Gulch is a 30-foot deep memory of the Vashon Glacial Period that ended 10,000 years ago. The resulting ravine was the runoff route from Blackman Lake, first called “Stillaguamish,” to the Snohomish River. In early descriptions, it’s sometimes referred to as “Blackman Creek,” or “Ferguson Creek,” but officially today, it’s “Swifty Creek” – a name of hope and promise.

My guess is that the bridge pictured was considered temporary because in the June 9, 1888, issue of The Eye, under the subheading of “What the Eye Would Like To See,” it’s requested: “The street commissioner repair the First street bridge before a fatal accident occurs there. Several of the timbers have become so rotten as to make it unsafe for loaded wagons to cross.”
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A close look at our historic image confirms this opinion 125 years distant.

Then, two months later, the August 4th issue publishes an account of the Village Trustee’s meeting where “Messrs. Vestal and Blackman were emphatically in favor of building that much needed bridge on First street.” The account continues with Mayor Ferguson’s opinion, “there were other streets the improvement of which would benefit the public as much as the bridge, but he failed to name them.”

By the turn of the century, Snohomish, no longer a “Village,” but an incorporated city of the third class, had four bridges over the gulch – at First, Second, Fourth and Fifth Streets.

For addtional reading about “Our Snohomish Gulch,” check out Ruth Brodigan Dubuque’s account in “River Reflections, Part II,” published by the Snohomish Historical Society, available at the library and Upper Case Books on First.

And, I will return next month with an inside view of the new First Street Bridge.

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Published in the Snohomish County Tribune, June 19, 2013