Stilled by a Blanket of Snow, 1916

There are reports of the Snohomish River freezing — 1880 and 1893 come to mind — but it was not until the record snowfall of 1916, that a photographer, standing on the roof of the Mark’s Building, (1024 First), captured our river stilled by a blanket of snow.

Thanks to the Minisoft Company, current owners of the historic Mark’s Building, I was given access to follow the unknown photographer up the ladder to the roof to take a repeat shot and captured only another wearisome, wet, winter day on the river. But still beautiful, like an aging relative all bundled up in a familiar raincoat.

Combining the two shots taken 97 years apart, then highlighting the “then and now” parts, I ended up with an informative composite photograph with which to begin our sixth year writing the Then and Now column.

Beginning in the lower, left hand corner, at the ochre storefront, now a sweet shop and hair saloon, (1009 First), this Spanish flavored structure was built in 1927 as our first City Hall on what was then an empty lot. Evidently, it had been empty long enough to erect a temporary wall of four billboards. Ah, the days of unfettered capitalism.

Perhaps the intention of the billboards was more altruistic than simple ads, but were meant to minimize the unsightly view of the Snohomish Steam Laundry — the industrial looking structure just left of center. “Give your wife a rest — have her send her laundry here,” reads an ad in a 1925 issue of the Snohomish Tribune.

In addition to city government, First Street welcomed the nascent motion picture industry with a first class theater built by Lon Brown, two doors up from the new City Hall. Its grand opening was in October, 1924, with a screening of “Hold Your Breath.” Its red stage house seems to hover over the steam laundry in our composite image, but there was in fact room for both, between First Street and the river.

Back on First Street, the Everything Tea Shop (1015 First), is located in the only structure pictured in 1916 photograph that is still with us today. The Bruhn and Henry Company, the next door neighbor in 1916, followed the railroad workers to town and stayed for good long runs at two locations on First.

A favorite subhead reporting on the four-day snowstorm was published in the Snohomish Advance, February 4, 1916, which read:

“Many Exhaust Themselves Telling of Former Experiences.”

We do seem to associate heavy snowfalls with memories, even of childhood, which in turn becomes the stuff of poetry. The famous 1916 storm was written about last year here.

A special thanks to Jude, the Mark’s Building Manager who helped me with access to the roof. I told her I would be back when it snowed and she said, “OK!”

. . . .

Published in the Snohomish County Tribune, January 16, 2013