First Street Bridge Looking West c.1885

With an eye on recent front page news, let’s look back to the time when Snohomish was once a city of bridges.

Regular readers may remember last month’s historic image of the Eagles Hall that included a glimpse of the First Street Bridge at the bottom of the image. This month’s photograph is most likely of the very first bridge joining First (or Front) Street across our famous gulch, captured by an unknown photographer around 1885.

The Snohomish Gulch is a 30-foot deep memory of the Vashon Glacial Period that ended 10,000 years ago. The resulting ravine was the runoff route from Blackman Lake, first called “Stillaguamish,” to the Snohomish River. In early descriptions, it’s sometimes referred to as “Blackman Creek,” or “Ferguson Creek,” but officially today, it’s “Swifty Creek” – a name of hope and promise.

My guess is that the bridge pictured was considered temporary because in the June 9, 1888, issue of The Eye, under the subheading of “What the Eye Would Like To See,” it’s requested: “The street commissioner repair the First street bridge before a fatal accident occurs there. Several of the timbers have become so rotten as to make it unsafe for loaded wagons to cross.”
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A close look at our historic image confirms this opinion 125 years distant.

Then, two months later, the August 4th issue publishes an account of the Village Trustee’s meeting where “Messrs. Vestal and Blackman were emphatically in favor of building that much needed bridge on First street.” The account continues with Mayor Ferguson’s opinion, “there were other streets the improvement of which would benefit the public as much as the bridge, but he failed to name them.”

By the turn of the century, Snohomish, no longer a “Village,” but an incorporated city of the third class, had four bridges over the gulch – at First, Second, Fourth and Fifth Streets.

For addtional reading about “Our Snohomish Gulch,” check out Ruth Brodigan Dubuque’s account in “River Reflections, Part II,” published by the Snohomish Historical Society, available at the library and Upper Case Books on First.

And, I will return next month with an inside view of the new First Street Bridge.

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Published in the Snohomish County Tribune, June 19, 2013

Fourth Street and Avenue B Looking West

My promise to share with you a second, early image of the Eagles Hall is postponed until next month in order to follow up on the front page story in last week’s Tribune – the story of apodments and the vacant structure at 402 Avenue E.

[singlepic id=203 w=260 h=175 float=left]This month’s historic image was first published in the paper, October 24, 2007 (pre-dating this blog), following the annual Tour of Historic Homes that featured the Stevens’ House pictured predominantly on the left. The structure in the distant center was identified at the time as possibly that of 402 Avenue E.

Referring to the Sanborn Insurance Maps of 1905, and seeking second opinions, I am certain now that the home pictured in the distance is the subject structure of so much community discussion and emotion.

Missing is its beginning as a family home.

Victor A. Marshall is listed as living at “402 E” in three directories, 1903, 1904 and 1905. The 1900 Census has Victor as head of household, age 46, owner of the home and his occupation as a proprietor of a shingle mill. Family members include his wife, Minnie, age 31; Virgil, age 10; George, age 7; Mary age 4; Maurice, age 2; and a nephew, James, age 20, from Victor’s birth state of Ohio. Snohomish County property records indicate the home was built in 1896.

By 1920, Victor, now 66 years old, is listed as a widow and border living in Seattle with a job described as “Mine owner.” His first born, Virgil, is 40 years old in 1930, and has been married to Grace for 18 years. They are living the good life, we imagine, in San Francisco — he working in the automobile industry, and she as a bookkeeper with a wholesale tobacco company.

Brother George, also living in San Francisco, but in a hotel, still single at 37 years old, and selling insurance. The third boy, Maurice is 32 in 1930, listed as head of household but single, working as a Real Estate salesman.

First daughter and her mother’s namesake, Minnie, doesn’t show up in the records until 1940, age 38, living with her 13 year old son, Dudley as a single mom in a rented home on Bush Street in San Francisco, and working as a waitress. Daughter Mary married Raymond Hatch in Spokane in 1917, and their son Marshall was born the following year. In 1930, age 11, he was living with a relative named Holmes When the boy turned 21, he married Helen Rupp, also 21 years old, living in Seattle, but no record found of any children. My search for living descendants ended there.

Going back to the beginning of this census synopsis, pre 402E, the parents, Victor and Minnie turn up in a 1884-1887 Washington Territory Census, where he is listed as 30 years old, working as clerk; while his wife Minnie Marshall is 18 years old, born in the Territory to a mother from Missouri and a father from New York in 1869.

Snohomish was the county seat then, though barely a clearing on the north bank, 12 miles up the Snohomish River. But by the time their first child, Virgil, was born on October 28, 1890, Snohomish had been an Incorporated City for three months, with a counted population of 2,012 residents.

The passionate discussion around 402E repeated the refrain that the developer was an outsider, looking to make buck. But it’s a song of irony since the town of Snohomish was founded by an outsider looking to make a buck.

E. C. Ferguson came from the east coast via Steilacoom with first, plans to soak the military with a ferry service crossing the river; but when that scheme sunk, he showed up anyway in 1860 to live on his claim with enough supplies to build our first saloon.

The location of the property at 402 Avenue E is legally described in part as “Fergusons 2nd Add to Snoh.” This was land Ferguson was holding back from selling until the arrival of the railroad (1888). Editorials in “The Eye” often chided Ferguson for not developing his land holdings between Avenue D and the Clay Addition to the west.

Council member J. S. White, representing Ward 1, had to bring a lantern with him to council meetings in order to light his way through Ferguson’s dark land to his home on Avenue H.

By the time the Marshall family was living at the corner of 4th and E, Ferguson was doing a land-office business. In the end though, a home is not about price but about the family stories it holds and the memories the Marshall family members carried with them into the world – memories of their childhood adventures amongst the stumps, for example.

Slideshow: Interior Images of 402E Click to Visit

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Click to View Thinking of Starting Your Own Blog?
Then Save the Date: Sunday, April 21, 2013,
for a workshop on using WordPress software which I use to publish this blog — to be held at the Snohomish Library, 2-4p — follow this link to download the details!

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Published in the Snohomish County Tribune, April 17, 2013

Eagles Hall, 1915/2013

The Fraternal Order of the Eagles building was at the time, 1904, Snohomish’s largest building. It was dedicated two years later with a grand ball for 1,000 members and guests. The second floor features a ballroom with a floating or suspended dance floor, boasted as the first in the Northwest.

At street level the robust structure features large plate glass windows, creating inviting storefronts that were quickly leased, we imagine. But now, seen for the first time, we have a photographic record of Harmon’s first store in the Eagles Hall, which we mentioned in last month’s post.

The Snohomish Historical Society is fortunate to have a small collection of glass plate negatives produced by the prolific photographer Lee Pickett, who after years of travel, made the town of Index his home base. His former home is a cozy, jam-packed museum today, well worth a Sunday drive east.

Two of the three glass plates of the Eagles Hall were broken, yet both show Harmon’s Specialty Shop with clear detail. I have not had much luck scanning the plates, but the history happy elves of the Northwest Room, David, and Lisa, (also known as Everett Public Library staff members), came to my aid. I am grateful — it’s very exciting to have these images to share.

A third plate shows the Eagles Hall at an earlier date when a dry goods store occupied Harmon’s space — did Harmon buy the partners out?

We will show that image next month as we continue to celebrate the renovation of the Eagles Hall after its long hibernation of emptiness, and welcome its new businesses located in one of Snohomish’s still largest buildings.

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Published in the Snohomish County Tribune, March 20, 2013

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!”

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Published in the Snohomish County Tribune, January 16, 2013

Odd Fellows Hall, 2012

Photograph by Otto Greule

It’s early evening by the time we reach the last stop, #5, on our 19th-century walking tour, where a long line of mostly men, engaged in several sotto voce conversations, are waiting to enter the Odd Fellows Hall at 1205 Second Street.

Snohomish Lodge, No. 12, of the I.O.O.F was dedicated on April 20th, 1886, in an elaborate ceremony presided by Grand Master G. D. Hill, of Seattle, that included Lodges of the Order in the Territory, as well as the general public. The ceremony was followed by a grand ball at the Atheneum Hall, First and Avenue D.

Referred to as the Odd Fellows Hall in the newspapers, the handsome facility, built by J. S. White, immediately filled the need for a community meeting place for a growing Snohomish.

For example, there was a huge turnout for the railroad meeting held in the hall on Friday, December 15, 1887, about bringing the Seattle, Lake Shore and Eastern Railway into town — a meeting that I wrote about in March 2010.

The “Snohomish Choral Society” meet there on a regular basis, charging ladies 10 cents and gentlemen 15.

With a name whose meaning has been lost in translation over the years, the “Wranglers Society” offered a mix of song and debate.

The “Free Thought Society” met to organize its upcoming schedule of lectures in 1889: State Constitution, Weatlh and Want, Evolution and Religion — but put off forming a committee for music.

Lectures by travelling personalities were a staple of the hall, usually about religion, such as the one announced June 8, 1889 in “The Eye” — “Dr. J. L. York, the well known lecturer will speak upon the subject: ‘Our Religion and the New State Constitution.’”

The Odd Fellows Hall was the scene of many contentious gatherings beginning in 1887, over the tandem subjects of statehood and incorporation, covered in juicy detail by the two newspapers, “The Eye” and “The Sun” — each with an editorial stake in the outcome of the discussions.

Let’s imagine it’s Friday, April 25, 1890, the issue of incorporation is coming to an head as the crowd gathered on Second Street is waiting to hear Hon. Sam H. Piles, a lawyer who got his start in Snohomish and has returned as Seattle’s city attorney. The expectation is that Piles will speak in support of the opposition to the wishes of Snohomish’s Founding Father, E. C. Ferguson, on the question of re-incorporation as the City of Snohomish in the new state of Washington.

The doors are opening now and the charged crowd quickly disappears to find a seat in the large, open room on the second floor — a room that remains essentially unchanged over the years. Of all the wonderful historic structures in Snohomish, I would select this room if I had one wish to make the walls talk.

You are invited to read the fascinating story of Snohomish’s re-incorporation as a City of the third class at

Birdseye View of Second Street Walking Tour, circa 1890

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Published in the Snohomish County Tribune, November 21, 2012.

The Knapp and Hinkley Livery, circa 1890

Leaving the Getchell House at 1122 Second Street to continue our imaginary 19th-century walking tour, we would most likely follow our nose to Knapp and Hinkley’s Livery next door (#3).

Owners Sewell M. Knapp and Elwin B. Hinkley were in business when the first insurance maps of Snohomish were published in 1888. Cyrus H. Knapp was the first cousin to Sewell and we assume a business partner since he is identified in the historic image as the man on the extreme right.

Cyrus was an active participant in the civic affairs of early Snohomish, serving as a council member in 1891, and on the committee to establish a fire department. This may explain why The Eye would describe his wagon shop as the place for catching up on the town gossip.

On January 30, 1892, The Eye reported a hilarious story “The Porker Escapes” that has been published in River Reflections, Part II on page 152. The short version is that Councilman Knapp joined Mayor Ferguson and Marshall Cleveland in pursuit of a large pig running loose on Second Street. Just as the men, joined by two schoolboys, had the rebellious beast cornered, it insisted on paying a visit to the Presbyterian church on Avenue A, (where our Then-and-Now tour began in July).

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This badly faded print is the only one we have of this popular early Snohomish business, often mentioned in the local newspaper The Eye. As if to make up for the poor condition of the photograph, the names of the men posing for the camera are listed on the reverse. From the left, A. C. Carpenter, L.A. Carter, Ora C. Knapp, Pat Coffee, and Cyrus H. Knapp.

Thanks to Ann Tuohy and David Dilgard, Northwest Room, Everett Public Library for research help on this story.

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Published in the Snohomish County Tribune, September 19, 2012.

Presbyterian Church, circa 1910

This month we remember Second Street when it was part of a neighborhood. It came out of the woods to the west and ended with a name change to “Hill” in the east. Only four blocks long, family homes, even mansions, mixed with two meeting halls, churches and one livery stable, where you could rent a horse and buggy for a Sunday ride in the country.

snohomish then and nowChange in the air landed when Poier Motors opened its new dealership on the north side of Second Street between Avenues A and B in 1947.

Across the street was the Presbyterian Church pictured above in a photograph by Index resident Lee Pickett taken around 1910. The cornerstone of the church was dedicated in 1904. St. John’s Episcopal Church, 1893, is half a block east, where it still stands and serves.

If retracing our steps at the turn of century, we pass three family homes, then come upon two large halls facing each other across Avenue C. The Odd Fellows, 1885, is still standing, while the site of Masonic Hall, 1879, on the southeast corner is now a parking lot for business operations.

Across the street, stands the stately Gretchell House since 1885. It’s a surviving peek at the grand residential style that has been lost to the sometimes selfish demands of progress.

snohomish storiesWhen Charles Poier purchased the lot on Second for his dealership, it was a hill overlooking First Street and the hustle and flow of the Snohomish River. Of the two mansions on the hill, only one is remembered as the family home of Lot Wilbur, Snohomish’s pioneer druggist. As Charles’s son Art tells the story, the Wilbur mansion was of such solid construction that it survived dividing the three floors into three new homes now located somewhere around Glen Avenue and Fifth Street. Empty of homes, the hill was removed, used to build the dikes that still control the Snohomish River.

snohomish storiesPoier’s new building featured a multi-arched roof that created a pillar-free showroom for the still popular Chevrolets of the 1950s. Its conversion into a two level furniture store, however, is crazy with pillars today.

snohomish storiesIn 1966, Poier purchased the land under the Presbyterian Church. He carefully removed it piece by piece, and opened a used car lot.

It was a handy lumber yard when Karen and I were fixing up the old St Michael Church, just around the corner on Avenue B, but we would have to throw a heck of a party to use it today, in its new role as the Snohomish Events Center.

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Published in the Snohomish County Tribune, July 18, 2012.