901 First Street Building

901 First around 1930 and 2009

RESEARCH ON THIS MONTH’S POST presented me with the perfect excuse for making a Sunday afternoon call on Rosemary and Cliff Bailey. I needed to learn more about the fact that Cliff’s grandparents once owned the store at 901 First Street, and that he had a photograph of his mother and grandmother behind the candy counter.

John and Margaret Kleisath were Pennsylvania Dutch people, who found their way west and landed in early Snohomish, date unknown. John worked as a barber before opening the candy store on the southwest corner of First Street where Union Avenue ends at the famous Snohomish gulch. Let’s imagine they were the first tenants of the building, built around 1900, with their storefront business (pictured below) on the street level and their new home above.

Interior of the Kleisath Cand Store at 901 First Street sometime before 1918.  That's when the young clerk on the left, Florence Kleisath, married Earl Bailey and moved to the Bailey Farm that still exists south of town.

Perhaps it was the birth their daughter Florence (pictured above on the left) that marked the beginning of the Kleisath’s passion for making ice cream. But by the 1930s, the family operation was too large for its Snohomish home and the K & K Ice Cream Company opened a manufacturing operation in Everett. In the meantime, Florence had left the family business when she married Earl Bailey in 1918, and seven years later, Clifford was born, the middle child between two sisters.

Clifford and Rosemary, who are Snohomish High School sweethearts, don’t know how the store passed on to someone named “Edwards” – but they do have teenage memories of Mona’s Café that occupied the storefront space during the thirties since it was an after school hangout. The popular café also served as the Stage Depot for local bus service, so there must have been an air of anticipation amongst the young people of escaping to the big city of Everett at any minute.

Since those happy days, the wooden building built on tall posts on the steep slope facing the now dry gulch began looking worse for wear as it continued to serve a number of storefront businesses and residency’s on the second floor.

Three years ago, Zouhair Mardini and Joshua Scott of Mosaic Architecture began the journey of saving the building that has ended with its current full occupancy, featuring Mardini’s antique storefront, law offices on the second floor, plus a condo in the back and more office space below grade that opens up in back to a private view of the gulch. (It’s worth the short trip around back, where you can compare the building’s new foundation of concrete with the existing wooden posts of the Oxford Saloon.)

It should come as no surprise to the long time Snohomish reader that I left the Bailey’s with a generous bag of corn and home grown tomatoes. More important, I left with stories, a folder of old photographs and a promise to return.

[Published in the Snohomish County Tribune, September 16, 2009]

901 First Street Building circa 1935
The 901 First Street Building was home to Edwards Confectionery in the late 1930s, featuring Snohomish’s own K & K Ice Cream, and it was the Stage Depot for local bus service. The image captures the annual Memorial Day parade marching east on First Street.

901 First Street Building in 2009
The 901 First Street Building as it appears today in the morning light. The renovated building is sitting on a new foundation of concrete, boasting restored storefront windows for the Mardini & Company antique store, and featuring the addition of an enclosed stairway to the second floor business and residence. This renovation was given a Founders Award for Historic Preservation from the Historic Society.