Looking West from Maple Avenue

This is an encore edition of Snohomish Then and Now, first published in July 2007, and the inscribed date on the Gilbert Horton photograph remains a mystery.

The print is mounted on cream-colored cardboard with the hand-written notation at the bottom, “Downtown Snohomish, 1882” and “At the Foot of Maple Avenue”. On the reverse is a stamped impression of elaborate typography that reads, “Palace Floating Gallery, Horton & Lewis, Proprietors, Puget Sound, Instantaneous Portraits and Landscapes.”

“In the spring of 1884 I built a boat at Tacoma which I called the Palace Floating Gallery,” related Horton to the Snohomish County Tribune on November 8, 1928.

Horton first came west in 1877. After a short stay, he returned to Michigan, and then returned to the Pacific Coast with the goal of establishing a floating photo gallery.

So, he could have captured the image in 1882 but didn’t get around to mounting it until all set up in his Floating Gallery, including equipped with a fancy stamp. However, since we are not sure who wrote the inscription, nor when, circumstantial evidence leads us to believe that the date is mistaken and that Horton captured this historic image around 1885.

Since all of “downtown Snohomish” at the time was built of wood, none of the structures pictured are still standing. We need to remember that nearly everything, as well as, everybody, arrived by the river in early Snohomish and that the riverside buildings were primary warehouses, built quickly to handle the ever-increasing supplies required to support the rapid growth of the young city.

In those busy times, it would have been impossible to imagine a leisurely walk on a sun-dappled path alongside the river, beneath the tall, gently swaying Cottonwoods, and that only peek-a-boo views of downtown Snohomish and the river would be available from the foot of Maple Avenue.

Read more about Gilbert Horton.

. . .

Gilbert Horton, circa 1885 (Courtesy Snohomish Historical Society)
Snohomish River Trail at Maple Avenue, 2007

Rails Over the River

“The second railroad meeting last Friday evening would not have impressed a stranger very forcibly with the idea that the people of Snohomish were imbued with a spirit of progress.”

This was reported 123 years ago in the Snohomish Eye, at a time when two railroad companies wanted to come through town, a Canadian company from the north and the Seattle, Lake Shore and Eastern Company from the south, but both concerns wanted property and money from the citizens of Snohomish.

Ferguson, Blackman, Cathcart put up the first $1500 in cash and Mary Low Sinclair (then Mrs. Packard) donated some 20 lots to keep the latter company aiming toward Snohomish, but more was needed.

Ferguson’s brother, Clark, the town’s first milkman, offered to head up a subscription committee that would solicit funds from property owners along the proposed route of the train. John Otten rose to speak, offering $25 if the railroad would not come near the town. (Otten’s short-slightness may have led to his mercantile business eventually going belly up and the sale of his handsome new building at 1024-26 First to Tom Marks who wasted no time in having his name chiseled in stone and placed over the entrance.)

With the Lake Shore operation just over the hill from the Snohomish River, a curious concern was mentioned in the June 13, 1888, issue of the Eye: “Should the railroad touch the shores of Lake Stevens, a town will be built that will become a dangerous rival to Snohomish. Being situated near the geographical center of the county, could but with little difficulty secure the county seat.”

By July however, with regular train service to and from Seattle expected by the end of the month, attention was focused on the preparations to welcome the “Seattle excursionists.” The reception committee consisted of about 20 of the leading businesses and professional men. Between 300 and 500 excursionists were expected for a public reception in Atheneum Hall, located on the northwest corner of Avenue D and First, with a free lunch served at 3p.m in Ferguson’s new hall just across the street. Although the return service to Seattle was scheduled for 6pm, many visitors had indicated a desire to remain in town for the grand free ball that evening. First class accommodations would have been available at the recently opened Penobscot Hotel on First, an investment of the visionary Blackman Brothers, in preparation to serve a new class of visitors with over-sized wallets.

No mention of how the “open house” went in subsequent issues of the Eye, but the August 4 issue reported, “… between 75 and 80 passengers arrived on Wednesday’s train.”

Since the railroad bridge was still a work in progress at this time, arrangements were made for carriages to pick up the passengers and bring them across the river on George Tompkins ferry at Avenue D.

Work continued on the bridge even though the Lake Shore owners were under an injunction by the Canadian company “laboring under the delusion that they have the exclusive right to construct a road between Seattle and the British Columbia,” as the newspaper put it. However, since the bridge builders had their plan approved by no less an office than that of the Secretary of War, work continued uninterrupted.

The August 31 issue reports that, “the draw of the bridge was swung into position for the first time last Wednesday afternoon,” which could be the occasion pictured in our historic image. The Lake Shore owners secured a modification of the Canadian injunction that allowed them to finish the bridge and the running of trains thereon upon posting a $20,000 bond.

The first passenger train crossed the bridge and entered Snohomish City proper on September 19, 1888; but on October 27, a run-away log boom consisting of some 3,000,000 logs jammed up against the southern most pier of the new bridge.

“The pier slowly but steadily crowded down until the span was about six feet out of line with the draw, when at 2 o’clock with a crash it gave way, “ the paper reported. “It is doubtful if the missing spans can be replaced before low water next summer. About 500 people witnessed the thrilling scene,” the report concluded.

Published in the Snohomish County Tribune, March 17, 2010


The first railroad bridge to cross the Snohomish River into Snohomish City, completed September, 1888. Since the previous July, service ended south of town and passengers used the ferry at Avenue D to reach town. This system was called into service again in October when the pier seconded from the left collapsed due to pressure from a run-away log boom consisting of some 3,000,000 logs.
(Photo courtesy University of Washington, Special Collections, #uw18022)

The second railroad bridge over the Snohomish River built in 1910 as it appears today, without train traffic. Will that change this summer with the arrival of an excursion train to Snohomish?

Ferguson Wharf, 1877 -2009

Ferguson Wharf, 1888-2009

WE CONTINUE OUR TOUR OF EARLY SNOHOMISH’S RIVERFRONT this month to the western end of town, when Avenue D was little more than a rutted dirt path.

E. C. Ferguson and his wife Lucetta, platted the town site they named
Snohomish City in 1870, which comprised of Avenues A through D, and three
or four streets. Seems that between the two of them, they couldn’t come up
with, or agree on, names for the avenues. Woodbury and Mary Low Sinclair*
on the other hand, the couple who purchased the Cady claim to the east,
named the streets after trees. Evidently, both couples agreed on naming
the shared street “Union. ”

Ferguson was serving as a territorial representative in Olympia, where he
met Lucetta Morgan and they were married in 1868. Returning to Snohomish,
the couple appears to have worked together to develop the town site,
including the wharf and warehouse pictured in this month’s historic image.
There is still much to learn about the Fergusons’s business dealings in
those early days, but we do know that by the time railroad arrived in
1888, the Bruen and Henry business had taken over the wharf location. And
Ferguson had built a handsome building at the corner of 2nd Street that
featured a large window built into the roof, which was required for a
photographer’s studio.

We have yet to learn which photographer(s) rented the studio from the
Fergusons. It could have been the one who captured this month’s image
since we have no record. So, we are left to imagine the festive scene
that brought the Nellie to town, and wonder why it was photographed at
Ferguson’s wharf rather than Jackson’s at the east end of town?

Plus, the sight of the unknown photographer setting up the large format camera
across the river didn’t go unnoticed by the workers in the warehouse who are filling very doorway, with a curiosity that is related to ours, watching back we could say, even though ours is from a viewpoint over a hundred years away.

*Follow this link to read more about Mary Low Sinclair
Ferguson Wharf, 1877
The steamship Nellie tied up at Ferguson’s Wharf. This is most likely the first photograph of the year-old steamship that grew to become very popular and essential to the everyday life of early Snohomish. Behind Ferguson’s warehouse is Isaac Cathcart’s Exchange Hotel built around 1875. On the right, looking at this image, we are treated to our first view of the muddy lane leading from the river that eventually becomes Avenue D. (Courtesy Snohomish Historical Society Archives)


North bank, west end of town

The Snohomish Riverfront at the west end of downtown as it appears today, 2009. The Snohomish Visitor Center, pictured here just west of the Avenue D Bridge, is the approximate location of the Ferguson warehouse.


Riverfront at Cady Landing: 1885, 1892 and 2009

Riverfront at Cady Landing

THE FIRST LAWYER IN TOWN, Eldridge Morse, and the first doctor, Albert Folsom, initiated the organization of the Atheneum Society, and produced a hand-written newsletter, The Shillalah, Devoted to Art, Science, Literature and General News. This effort led to their publication of our first newspaper, The Northern Star in 1876, but businesses didn’t have to wait until then to place an ad.

Shillalah cover, 1874
Shillalah cover, 1874

Thanks once again to Ann Tuohy for transcribing an ad for the Riverside Hotel (the three-story white building in the center), from a hand-written business directory issue of the Shillalah (circa 1874), which I am including in its entirety with only the spelling updated, but wtih the tongue-in-cheek firmly in place.

Riverside Hotel. By Frank Mathews, lately proprietor of the Iceburg House, North Pole. This house has been fitted up in princely style with all the modern and ancient improvements. Guests have the privilege of being eaten by the landlord or of eating themselves. A large number new 0 nails have just been purchased from John Hilton, and sincerely driven in all the rooms, so that any number of patrons can be accommodated with a place to sleep on short notice. Those preferring light airy rooms can be accommodated on the new side walk, on the west side of the hotel, lately erected by the celebrated architect and builder, Mr. Ward, of Jersey City, Forks of the Snoqualmie. There is a fine bar attached to the house, and the best evidence of the superior quality of the liquors furnished to customers may be found in the fact that the former proprietor and the present landlord are both still living, and are liable to linger along quite awhile longer. A spacious hall may be found in the 3rd story where the light-fantastic toe and ponderous heel often smite the floor at the same time. A beautiful zoological garden and pleasure ground are adjacent to the building and free to all the guests, here is the finest collection of old hens, chickens, roosters, mice, rats, hogs, pigs, puppies, dogs & bears ever before kept in any hotel in Washington Territory.

By 1892 Snohomish boasted of its first four-star hotel, the Penobscot, at First Street and Avenue B, so we are not sure how this building was being used when Anders Beer Wilse captured this informative image. Ads in the newspapers of the 1890s list Ferguson’s Blue Eagle Tavern, west of the hotel building, as “Ferguson’s old store,” and it seems that other merchants were using it for selling overstock.
Albert Folsom passed away in 1885 and so missed the expansion of Snohomish’s riverfront with the coming of the steamships. Morse retired to a farm outside of Snohomish to grow vegetables that he sold in town until his death in 1914.

Eastside Riverfront circa 1885. A prized image captured by Gilbert Horton, Snohomish’s own pioneer photographer. Far left is the Ferguson Cottage, built in 1859 and still standing; next in line is Ferguson’s famous Blue Eagle Tavern; then the two story Riverside Hotel and behind it is the Sinclair store and first home.
[Photo courtesy Snohomish County History Museum]
200903_1892 Another pictorial gem showing the eastern end of early Snohomish’s riverfront captured by the Norwegian photographer Anders Beer Wilse. Barely included on the left is the Ferguson Cottage next to two unidentified buildings, then the two story Blue Eagle Tavern with a new addition, and the Riverside Hotel building is still standing. The age of the steam ship is in full bloom showing two ships double parked at the Jackson Wharf, only the stern-wheeler Florence Henry is identified. And that’s Maple Street meeting the river on the right.
[Photo courtesy Museum of History and Industry, Wise No.11007]
Cady Landing, 2009. The eastern end of Snohomish’s downtown riverfront as it appears today. The Ferguson Cottage stands out on the left, sporting a recent coat of white paint, and Cady Landing at the end of Maple Street is on the right.