Getchell House, 1887

Let’s return to the Getchell House (#2) that was pointed out during our turn-of-the-century walking tour of Second Street last month. It’s on the north side at Avenue C at 1122 Second Street.

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Photograph by Otto Greule.

This handsome structure is the last one standing of a time when this street was a residential neighborhood with several family homes, large and larger.

The April 2, 1887, issue of The Eye reported:

“One day this week we were shown the plans of what, when completed will be one of the finest residences in Snohomish — the property of Joe Getchell. The main part will be 24 x 30 feet, two stories high, with a one story addition, 14 x 16. J. S. White, the architect, will commence work upon the building within a few weeks. It will occupy that sightly location on Mr. Getchell’s lots at the corner of C and Second streets.”

Joseph Getchell left his home in Maine as a young man, traveled through the Isthmus of Panama, up to San Francisco, then on to Snohomish, arriving in 1864. Evidently, he did well enough in the logging business to buy several lots around the intersection of Avenue C and Second Street soon after that location was named (and sold) by E. C. Ferguson in his 1871 plat of Snohomish City.

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Then: Getchell House, circa 1900

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Published in the Snohomish County Tribune, August 15, 2012.

Snohomish then and now

Presbyterian Church, circa 1910

This month we remember Second Street when it was part of a neighborhood. It came out of the woods to the west and ended with a name change to “Hill” in the east. Only four blocks long, family homes, even mansions, mixed with two meeting halls, churches and one livery stable, where you could rent a horse and buggy for a Sunday ride in the country.

snohomish then and nowChange in the air landed when Poier Motors opened its new dealership on the north side of Second Street between Avenues A and B in 1947.

Across the street was the Presbyterian Church pictured above in a photograph by Index resident Lee Pickett taken around 1910. The cornerstone of the church was dedicated in 1904. St. John’s Episcopal Church, 1893, is half a block east, where it still stands and serves.

If retracing our steps at the turn of century, we pass three family homes, then come upon two large halls facing each other across Avenue C. The Odd Fellows, 1885, is still standing, while the site of Masonic Hall, 1879, on the southeast corner is now a parking lot for business operations.

Across the street, stands the stately Gretchell House since 1885. It’s a surviving peek at the grand residential style that has been lost to the sometimes selfish demands of progress.

snohomish storiesWhen Charles Poier purchased the lot on Second for his dealership, it was a hill overlooking First Street and the hustle and flow of the Snohomish River. Of the two mansions on the hill, only one is remembered as the family home of Lot Wilbur, Snohomish’s pioneer druggist. As Charles’s son Art tells the story, the Wilbur mansion was of such solid construction that it survived dividing the three floors into three new homes now located somewhere around Glen Avenue and Fifth Street. Empty of homes, the hill was removed, used to build the dikes that still control the Snohomish River.

snohomish storiesPoier’s new building featured a multi-arched roof that created a pillar-free showroom for the still popular Chevrolets of the 1950s. Its conversion into a two level furniture store, however, is crazy with pillars today.

snohomish storiesIn 1966, Poier purchased the land under the Presbyterian Church. He carefully removed it piece by piece, and opened a used car lot.

It was a handy lumber yard when Karen and I were fixing up the old St Michael Church, just around the corner on Avenue B, but we would have to throw a heck of a party to use it today, in its new role as the Snohomish Events Center.

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Published in the Snohomish County Tribune, July 18, 2012.

The Cape Alava Trail

Site of the Ozette People’s village where paths were cleared between large rocks as drag ways for their dugout canoes, which can still be seen today, some thousand years later. James Swan would have landed here on his visit in 1864.

On June 18, 2012, the forecast for the rainbelt around the Ozette Loop slacked abit to predict a couple days of sunshine, and I was there.

The first cedar planks were shaped and placed by Swedish settlers beginning in the late 1890s but followed a well established trail by the Ozette people.

I wanted to retrace the steps of James Swan since reading “Swan Among the Indians” by Lucile McDonald, and “Winter Brothers” by Ivan Doig.

James G. Swan“On July 21, 1864, James Swan had lunch at the Ozette Village and then took off by foot down what is now called the Cape Alava Trail, bound for Ozette Lake, accompanied by Indians from Badda, Kiddecubbut (a Makah summer village), and Ozette. On the way they walked through West Prairie and Ahlstrom’s Prairie, both of which Swan described in the following passage (1859-1866):

“The trail commenced a short distance south of the village and runs up to the top of the hill or bluff which is rather steep and about sixty feet high. From the summit we proceeded in an easterly direction through a very thick forest half a mile and reached an open prairie which is dry and covered with fern, dwarf sallal [sic] and some red top grass, with open timber around the sides. This prairie has the appearance of being long and narrow. Its length running in the direction of the coast and about a quarter of a mile wide where we crossed it, although from the appearance of the land south I infer that it is much wider at intervals. From the prairie we pass through another belt of timber to another prairie lying in the same general direction as the first but somewhat lower and having the appearance of being wet and boggy. This was covered in its drier portions with a coarse grass and some red top and in the lower portions with water grass and thick moss which yielded moisture on the pressure of the feet.”

The second prairie passed on the trail is named after Lars Ahlstrom who arrived in 1902 and maintained a homestead here for 55 years. Many of the older cedar planks were laid by him as his access to the world was this trail to Lake Ozette.

More reading about the Ozette Prairies: “The Ozette Prairies of Olympic National Park: Their Former Indigenous Uses and Management” Final Report to Olympic National Park, Port Angeles, Washington, Winter 2009.

And “Hiking Washington’s History” by Judy Bently

Northern Pacific Depot, 1968

We are in the memory garden now,” said Bob Heirman, trying to figure out exactly where the old depot stood on Lincoln Avenue, between Third and Fourth Streets.

“I fired out of this station many times over the years,” Bob reminisced, studying a copy of this month’s historic image. Bob was a fireman on the Northern Pacific Railroad — began working at 19 years of age, and retired when he turned 62.

The station was built in 1888 to host the arrival of the Seattle, Lake Shore & Eastern Railroad on its way to the Canadian border.

An obvious promotional image for the New Brunswick Hotel, located at 1208 First Street, captures the earliest view of the Snohomish Depot (circa 1890) built facing Railroad Street, now called Lincoln. [Click thumbnail to enlarge]

The independent line followed the route of many all across the country, merging into larger railroads; and in 1892, the Northern Pacific Railroad Company took over operation of the line serving Snohomish. The company’s distinctive red-and-black Monad logo was installed on the structure in the 1920s where it remained until the modest building was dismantled some 50 years later.

Allen Miller got the sign. He is a railroad historian and collector who writes in an email:
“N.P. Snohomish was quite a busy place in the early days. I recall reading some of Max King’s stories from the newspapers at the library where he mentions locomotives switching the yards at night, stock pens of cattle, and the helper engines on Maltby and Getchell’s hills working out of Snohomish. The depot was open 24 hours a day until 1915, when the cutoff to Everett, via the Great Northern Railroad, was placed into service.”


The structure shrunk over the years but was still in service when the historical image was captured in 1968. Its anticipated demise sparked the establishment of the Snohomish Historical Society the following year, but the depot could not be saved. Nor a second one across the river that served the Great Northern line.

On May 19, 2012, a link of the Centennial Trail that passes through town was dedicated. Now you can ride, walk, or roll, the historic route of the rails from downtown Snohomish to Arlington.

Think of it as trip through a memory garden.

Retired railroad fireman, Bob Heirman, is pictured sitting on the fence of the recently completed Centennial Trail link that passes alongside the new library. Best as Bob could tell, he would be sitting in the waiting room of the depot — something he rarely did, if ever, over his 53 years with the Northern Pacific Railroad.

Depot images courtesy Allen Miller

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Published in the Snohomish County Tribune, June 20, 2012.

Ferguson Canning Company

Since we were in the neighborhood of the Ferguson Farm last month — now the future site of the Aquatic Center, off of Maple Avenue — why not track down the location of the former Ferguson Cannery? Not so easy. It took an animated discussion between both Ferguson brothers to pin it down.[singlepic id=129 w=160 h=120 float=right]

As teenagers, the brothers along with their older sister, Sharon, worked summers at the cannery started by their grandparents, Cecil and Clara, in 1914.
Bruce (L) and Gary on the site of the Ferguson Cannery.

[singlepic id=130 w=160 h=120 float=left] According to their uncle Emory’s account in River Reflections, Part II: “the original cannery was a lean-to, consisting of three sides … It had a tarpaper roof, a dirt floor, one ten-horsepower steam boiler and one steam engine.”
An early photo of the cannery interior.

[singlepic id=126 w=120 h=160 float=right]The homegrown company seems to have come into its own with the renewed popularity of Victory Gardens during World War II. Called a “custom cannery,” it meant that the customer brought the food already prepared to the plant for packing. The Ferguson Cannery ran several large ads in the Tribune promoting the Victory Garden business during the early 1940s.

[singlepic id=128 w=120 h=160 float=left]With the end of the war, the commercial canning business, Ferg’s Finer Foods, expanded with new products and retail outlets. Mountainous displays of canned goods was a popular point-of-purchase style in food stores well into the 1950s. Ferg’s Finer Foods topped their displays with a small sailboat, one of Bruce’s souvenirs from those days.
Price list dated 1941.

The company wasn’t incorporated until [singlepic id=132 w=160 h=120 float=right]1954 with the boys’ father Burdette, uncle Emery, aunt Madeline and grandparents as officers. Clara died in 1961, but Cecil, E. C. Ferguson’s only son, lived to see the production of “Puget Sound Air” — yes, canned air — a novelty item sold at the 1962 World’s Fair in Seattle. Cecil, the cannery founder who preferred working barefoot, died in November, 1964.    Cecil (L) with his sons Burdette and Emory.

[singlepic id=131 w=120 h=160 float=left]The canning industry by this time was ripe picking for manufacturers influencing the regulations. The investment required to continue did not pencil out, and operations ended in 1971.

Gary, Bruce and their sister Sharon were free to look for another line of work.

Senator Henry “Scoop” Jackson photographed with Burdette Ferguson on the cannery’s Berry Porch for Life Magazine.

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About the now image in the animation above: Gary is standing at the south end of the parking lot as it appears in the historic photograph. Maple was not as wide then as it is now. The building to Gary’s left is the former cannery warehouse built in 1945 as reported in the Tribune, December 6: “[Fergusons] Construct $3,000 Addition To Cannery On Maple St.” The Fraternal Order of the Eagles renovated the old warehouse for their use after selling their historic building at 801-807 First Street.

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Published in the Snohomish County Tribune, May 16, 2012.

The Ferguson Mansion, circa 1900

The Snohomish School District’s Maple Avenue Campus is located on the former grounds of the Ferguson Farm.

Soon, construction will begin on the new Aquatic Center on this site for an anticipated opening of fall 2013, and best as I can tell, the competition pool will be located in between where Ferguson’s barn and the mansion once stood.

Bruce Ferguson, Ferguson Farm mapBruce Ferguson, great grandson to E. C., is pointing out where the Ferguson mansion was located, just south of the Maple Avenue Campus and up on a rise where an apartment complex now stands at 514 Maple Avenue. Bruce remembers exploring the mansion’s foundation with his brother Gary. The large barn to the north was still standing during his childhood. “It had a concrete floor,” claims Bruce, still impressed after all these years. Ferguson Creek, now called Swifty Creek, ran above ground in those days, directly in front of the home. There were two wooden bridges built for cars crossing the creek to the estate. Asked about the “water tank,” Bruce pointed out where concrete footings were removed for the new trail, near the Soccer Dome. He expressed his hope to the trail designers that the footings might remain with an interpretative sign indicating the location of the railroad water tank that serviced the steam engines beginning in 1888.

For readers new to Snohomish, E. C. Ferguson is often referred to as the “the father of Snohomish.” It’s my hope that some part of the new Aquatic Center will carry the Ferguson name. Judging by this historic photograph from the Ferguson Family album, the entire family were avid swimmers.

"The Bathers, 1900" Ferguson Family Album

The School Board’s decision to go ahead with the Aquatic Center at this site followed a February 7, 2012, vote by the Snohomish City Council to approve an Interlocal Agreement between the city and school district to provide the water and sewer to operate the facility at the Maple Avenue Campus. (The city paid for these same utilities at the Hal Moe Pool during its many years of operation.)

In return, residents of Snohomish will receive discounted use fees for what promises to be a must use facility with various water features for every family member. My granddaughters and I are particularly looking forward to the water slide that protrudes at the top of the structure and ‘S’ curves its way down outside of the building, then re-enters the structure — dropping us off into the ground level pool inside!

How does the “Ivie Ferguson Water Slide” sound to you? Let’s let the School Board Members know that we would like to see this fantastic facility honor the founding family of Snohomish.

Now and TomorrowMaple Avenue Campus: Now and Tomorrow

Please follow this link to contact School Board Members; and/or leave a comment of support below.

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Published in the Snohomish County Tribune, April 18, 2012.

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Snohomish Dairy Products

This ramshackle collection of structures sported several company names over the 75 years of service, but it has always meant dairy products and jobs to the people of Snohomish; now, it’s a used car lot with an abandoned boiler.

[singlepic id=124 w=240 h=320 float=right] “Wm. H. Schott, right, firing furnace at condensery” reads the inscription on the reverse of last month’s historic image. The twin stacks to the boilers are clearly visible in the historic image; and the abandoned boiler is just left of center in the contemporary view. The stacked wood pictured in the left-hand foreground is the fuel for the wood fired boilers.

The first creamery in Snohomish County was located on this site when Noble Harvey leased land to John Alexander and E. C. Ferguson in 1894. Turned out that not enough milk was available in Snohomish and Alexander moved his operation to Stanwood. H. McMaster moved in with a small scale cheese making factory and two years later he was producing prize winning buttermilk as well.

By the turn of the century, the Snohomish Condensed Milk Company had its name in oversize letters on the main building of its thriving business of providing an market for the local dairymen. At some point, the company attracted the eye of East Coast investors and it was sold to a New York firm.

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Washington State Dairyman’s Association annual convention held at the Fraternal Hall, Stanwood, WA in 1907. [Courtesy Stanwood Area Historical Society]

By 1917, the Snohomish County Dairymen’s Association was established and took over the plants here and the largest operation in Arlington. The record is not clear, but it seems that the co-op was responsible for the name change to “Snohomish Dairy Products” as pictured in the historic image.

The name “Darigold” first appeared in 1925, and by 1931, the Snohomish operation was the manufacturing all the butter and ice cream sold by the Association under the Darigold name. The facility was updated in the early 1940s with a new concrete building and the installation of refrigerated holding tanks. Cottage cheese was introduced in 1954, in case you were wondering.

As is the way these days, consolidation of the plants, within the Dairymen’s Association, took place in the early 1960s and our plant was closed. Several business came and went until the structures were destroyed by a spectacular fire on June 12, 1979.

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“While Firemen reach through the burning walls with their hoses, one of the many trucks damaged in the June 12 fire burns in the background. This truck was soon pulled to safety.”

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“A Fireman clears out of the way as volunteers prepare to pull one of the many large trucks away from the burning structure. The truck’s rear tires were completely afire.”

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