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

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