Snohomish Snowstorms

You may blame me for the “Thanksgiving Snowstorm” last month. I was wishing hard for snow in order to do a repeat photograph of this month’s wonderful historic image from Bob Bickford.

The image dates from around 1935; capturing Bickford Motors used car lot on First Street under several feet of snow. This location is currently a parking lot for the American Legion Post and, of course, it was quite empty on the morning of November 22nd, even with only a few inches of snow.

Lawrence Bickford and is partner Paul Reed moved their newly acquired Ford Dealership to the west end of First Street in 1934. The showroom was across the street in the east half of the Brunswick Building. The Moehring Shoe Company, founded by Charles Moehring in 1888, was next door, currently home to Snohomish Bicycles.

The Shell station at the west end of the car lot was part of Bickford’s one-stop business plan as well. This corner site was first developed as a hotel in early Snohomish. A photographer’s studio was across the street with its telltale north-facing window built into the roof. Today, it’s the site of the Visitor’s Center with Chuck’s Seafood Grotto in the former gas station.

1105 1st Street, 1920s
So if you didn’t like the Fords in those days, you would simply walk a block to Poier Motors at 1105 First Street to check out the Chevrolets. There is no building there now because it collapsed in the 1940s nearly killing an employee. Charles Poier and sons moved their operation to Second Street between Avenues B and C where they built the existing large structure featuring the multi-arched roof. But it was not until the 1960s that the collapsed showroom, along with adjacent storefronts, all condemned, were demolished and Kla Ha Ya Park was created with volunteer labor.

The Historical Society’s photo archives have several excellent images of First Street buried under the great snowfall of 1916 when Lot Wilbur’s home made gauge measured over 40 inches of snow. Please consider this fair warning that we may get what I wish for again.

Along with wishes for a happy holiday, I must add a reminder that I am always on the outlook for historic images, with or without a story to go with them. Also, an invitation to the 5th annual Solstice Candlelight Walk on Snohomish’s Riverfront Trail, Tuesday, 12/21/10!
Follow this link for photos and details.



Then: Bickford Motors, ca. 1935 (Click to enlarge)
Reed & Bickford Motors moved to the Brunswick Building on the north side of 1st in 1934, then established a used car lot and service station across the street. Lawrence Bickford became the sole owner of the Ford dealership by buying out his partner Paul Reed in 1936. The family owned business, currently located on Bickford Avenue, north of town, celebrated its 75th Anniversary last year with the addition of the 4th generation to its management team.

Now: American Legion parking lot, 2010 (Click to enlarge)
Before this site was a parking lot for cars, it held railroad box cars for the Milwaukee Road when the Legion building served as the depot from 1911 to 1930. The writer of this column hopes that one day the site will boast of handsome storefronts as it once did in the 1890s when the Legion building was built and next door was the First National Bank of Snohomish.


Published December 22, 2010 in the Snohomish County Tribune

Brunswick Building

Bob Bickford had this month’s historical photograph, labeled on its face “Bobo Studio, Snohomish, 1935,” in a folder of old pictures of the family business. It’s a revelatory image that has been added to the Society’s digitized collection of historic images, just in time to share with you as we celebrate our annual festival this weekend, currently called, “Kla Ha Ya Days.”
In 1935, Snohomish celebrated the 12th Annual Garden City Grange Fair. A banner headline for the September 5, 1935, issue of this paper, shouted across the entire page: “3 BANDS, 42 FLOATS, WILL PARADE HERE. The gathering of women and girls on and around the black convertible is Queen Irma Salvadalena and her entourage. The parade, boasted as the largest in years, is scheduled to “move off promptly at 2:30 [Friday], the line of march will carry the entrants down First and Second Streets, past the Grange Hall and through the business district. A newsreel cameraman will be in the city to take pictures of the parade and will be stationed on an especially constructed platform at the corner of First Street and Avenue B.”

You may have noticed by now that the name of the company is Reed & Bickford Motors listed on all three sides of the stylish portico. The partners began the firm in a small building on Maple a few years earlier, quickly outgrew it and moved into the east half of new Brunswick Building in 1934, when they also acquired the local Ford agency. Effective July 1, 1936, Lawrence Bickford became the sole owner by buying out his partner Paul Reed, who was the repair shop foreman, overseeing some half dozen mechanics. Just up First Street was the Chevrolet dealership owned by Charles Poier, which also became a family operation just as Bickford Motors, now located north of downtown on an avenue bearing the family name. Mike Bickford said that his Sunday school teacher was Art Poier, one of Charles’ sons that took over the business, then relocated to Second Avenue when it was sold and eventually closed in the 1970s.

Beginning on Saturday, August 21, 1937, the first annual Kla Ha Ya Days celebration was held. It featured the early morning arrival of the “Northwest’s finest yachts from boat clubs in Everett, Bellingham, Seattle and other towns.” Besides the parade that afternoon, there was a street dance in front of the library on Cedar, and a wedding was held on a platform erected near the First National Bank (now John Scott Real Estate office) where a mystery couple, “well known in the community, will exchange vows.”

For history fans, the Society is hosting a two-week exhibition in the Waltz Building, 116 Avenue B, to celebrate along with the city its 150th and our 40th anniversaries. Admission is free to the extensive exhibition, which will be open to visitors daily, 11 a.m. to 3p.m. The exhibition runs July 11-25. Wish we had a pristine 1935 Ford V-8 Sedan on display, but the bidding often exceeds $50,000 these days!


Then: Brunswick Building, 1935
Once called Reed & Bickford Motors, the family firm was first located on First Street in the Brunswick Building. Lining up for the 12th Annual Garden City Grange Fair parade are sparkling new 1935 Ford Sedans, festively decorated to carry Queen Irma and her Maids of Honor. Note the corner building that was home to Snohomish’s own Moehring Shoe Company; and how handsome the transom windows are above the entrance, which are now buried in years of stucco.

Photo courtesy the Bickford Family

Now: Brunswick Building, 2009
Part of the Brunswick Building as it appears today, and the former Moehring Shoe Store on the corner. The service entrance for the Ford dealership was where the stripped awning is now.

This article was first published in the Snohomish County Tribune on July 15, 2009.