g horton snohomish wa

Epilogue: October 1922

Above, on the left, is the earliest photograph of the White Building found to date. It was taken on a Monday afternoon, July 13, 1908, either “at 2:16 o’clock sharp,” or “at 3:25 P.M.,” reported the Tribune, covering all bases, in the Friday edition. “The official photographer was on hand, and was ready to do his duty, but someone stole his flash light, and he was constrained to use the sun,” the story continued, without mentioning that Gilbert Horton was the photographer in question.

The event shown in the photo is the ceremonial laying of the first brick of the new pavement “to decorated Front street,” as the writer put it. The ceremony was held in the intersection of Avenue A, where “the town turned out,” the account claims, when clearly it was only half the town. The wooden planks have been removed, soon to be replaced with the cobble stones lining the street in neat stacks. This occasion was certainly worth the talents of Horton, Snohomish’s pioneer photographer emeritus, who had retired to open a store in the Burns Block with his brother.

We assume that the billboard on the side of White’s building is promoting the current tenant’s stock of the hot products of the day: Kodak cameras, phonographs, sewing machines, and bicycles.

In the February 21, 1908, issue we read that council members are talking about moving, we assume from the second floor of the White Building. If this report is correct, they have occupied the large room in the back for 15 years. “It appears that the building […] is in a bad condition and a new building is necessary,” reads the report. The proposal under consideration was to move to the Otten Block at First and Avenue B, which did happen, as later accounts confirm. These accounts often mention in the same breath the Otten Block was the first building in Snohomish with a flush toilet — though the Tribune did not make a note of it.

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Front Page, October 21, 1898

J. S. White’s name no longer appears in the news by the turn of the century. A five-page booster edition of the Tribune, published on October 21, 1898, praised the growth of Snohomish, which then numbered “about 3,200 souls.” Page two featured, “Our Progressive People […] Her Leading Citizens and Representative Men.” White is not listed, nor is he mentioned in five pages of copy — even in the list of the first councilmen elected when Snohomish approved incorporation only eight years earlier.

White still had 22 years to live before the grim and silent reaper again entered a Snohomish home, removing a highly respected pioneer from amongst us – as his obituary will begin when it’s published in the Everett Daily Herald, October 20, 1920, three days after his death in the family home on Avenue H – after a protracted illness.

. . . .

Moehring House 1900C. F Moehring, “Boot and Shoe Dealer,” headed nearly four inches of copy in the booster edition. “About ten years ago,” began the account, [he] “established the first exclusive boot and shoe store in the city.” Moreover, Moehring manufactured the footwear in his store at 1200 First Street, the beginning of a business that became the Washington Shoe Company. Located for years in Seattle, the manufacturing facility is now in Kent, Washington, with Karl Moehring as the CEO. White built Charles Moehring’s two-story home during the building boom of 1891, and the growing family moved in the following year. Its formal features echo the Crossman House, including a multi-gabled roof, two-story window bay, and small entrance porch. Over the years, the structure has been extensively modified inside and out, but the addition of asbestos siding and a tall hedge make it impossible to include a color portrait of the handsome structure with this account.

. . . .

js white story imageHon. E. C. Ferguson, “Mayor of Snohomish,” is given a long column on the final page, opposite the Time Table of the Local Railroads and Steamboats. “The very name Ferguson binds the present to the past,” begins the October 21, 1898, account. “A pioneer settler, where he was married and where his children were born and still reside.” White built the Ferguson Residence in 1889 for $6,000, doubling up on the two story window bays, each with its own gable. Ferguson’s house was located so far northwest of town that the street had yet to be named. The property eventually included a farm with a large barn, which today is the site of Snohomish’s Aquatic Center. E. C. died in 1911, long after his wife, so his daughter Sylvia, married to Elmer Lenfest, moved in with their young son Norman. By 1946, however, a renter was living in the large structure, which was badly in need of repairs, according to the newspaper account that reported a second fire, which so severely damaged the grand structure that it had to be destroyed.

. . . .

js white story imageMary Low Sinclair was more progressive than many of the men featured in the booster edition of 1898.But her name was not mentioned, nor was the name of any woman. White built her stately Italianate-style home in 1888, and it was featured, along with the Ferguson Residence, in the August 1890 issue of “Northwest Magazine.” When the house was built, Mary Low was still married to M.L. Packard. She divorced him and then added to the gossip by taking back “Sinclair,” the name of her first husband, who had died. Lynda Schuler, in her history of the Snohomish School District, “And We Will Not Forget,” calls Mary Low the “Mother of Snohomish Schools.” She opened the first classroom in the Sinclair’s first home — “a 12×16 shack,” to use her own words — and later donated land for the first school building. Working with children of mixed native and white marriages, Mary Low grew conversant with the native language and was often called upon to translate. She died in her majestic home; we do not know when or how it was destroyed.

. . . .

js white story imageFrances Wood and the Drift Inn.
Around 1910, White was commissioned by Ben and Nettie Morgan to design and build a beach cabin on Whidbey Island. The story is told in the endearing memoir, “Down to Camp,” by Frances Wood.

By 1890, it was the summer tradition among several Snohomish families to shutter their city home and board a steamship loaded down with enough supplies to last a generous part of August camping on a beach across Possession Sound. Since, for many years, the journey began by going down the Snohomish River, the annual event became known as going “down to camp,” well into the age of the automobile. At first platforms with tents were set-up on a relatively narrow shelf of land between the water and a steep bluff, then modest cabins sprouted up year after year, all in row, along a foot path still referred to as “Camper’s Row.”

Ben and Nettie purchased a lot in 1902 and around eight years later, commissioned White to build a cabin to replace their tent, a choice perhaps based on his association with Ben’s father. They christened the structure “Camp Illahee,” a word of the indigenous people carrying “a sense of home, and connections between people and living place,” according to Frances.

Three decades later, Frances tells us, her grandparents purchased Camp Illahee from Nettie, then married to a Taylor, who described the cabin in a letter: “… it could be rolled over and over and not come to pieces.” Regardless of this vivid pitch, Frances’s grandparents got the cabin for a low-ball offer of $1,100, and renamed it “Drift Inn.”

Fast forward through a childhood of summers spent at the beach cabin to the 1970s, when Frances and her growing family are spending summer months at Drift Inn and discuss modifying the cabin. The conversation involves three generations, including her grandmother Inez, the daughter of Nina and Charles Bakeman, who owned the furniture building that burned in 1893, sending the homeless city council members to White’s then-new building.

In a telephone conversation, Frances shared with us the family lore that White was given the commission because he was down on his luck and needed the work. She also remembers Inez advising the grandchildren, when remodeling, to not change the “lines” because it was designed by the famous Snohomish architect, J. S. White.

. . . .

John S. White died on Sunday, October 17, 1920, in the family home on Avenue H. Funeral services were held on Tuesday morning, under the auspices of the Odd Fellows’ Lodge. The pallbearers were a who’s who of Snohomish’s pioneer leaders: Samuel Vestal, E. L. Mallett, Lot Wilbur, William Whitfield, C.H. Crippen, and Henry Spurrell.

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White’s last will and testament, signed on March 28, 1917, left Delia, in addition to property, the household goods and one cow.

. . . .


Edited by Susan Geib

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11. White Building, 1893

Color Plate 11: White Building Photographed by Otto Greule ©2011. (See Otto’s Notes Below)

There is promise of quite a building boom in this city this season. So far it is principally in the residence line. Mr. White, the architect, alone having made plans and specifications for quite a number of residences to cost from $2,590 to $5,006. The Eye, May 30, 1891

Councilman-at-Large White came next. He lives in Claytown and carries a lantern. The Eye, January 23, 1892.

White’s corner lot next to the palace saloon is being graded for a shooting gallery. The Eye, December 22, 1892.

“Corner lot next to the palace saloon” is not much to go on. We were in the dark until we read: “A scow load of stone for the foundation of J. S. White’s building at First street and Avenue A has arrived from the Chuckanut quarry,” in the April 27, 1893, issue. Looking back to 1888, we found the mention of White’s purchase of First Street footage from Ferguson. Four years later, a load of Chuckanut sandstone has made the long, slow journey from Fairhaven to enclose the first shooting gallery that we’ve ever read about in Snohomish.

The first floor of the White building is a restaurant these days, and the lone morning kitchen worker let us in to check out the basement. It is a full basement, with at least nine feet head clearance, a dirt floor, but it was graded and level. No sign of old targets, and it was too dark to look for bullet holes, but we returned to the surface convinced that we had discovered the White Building.

js white story imageWhite Building, 1973. The nomination form for the National Register of Historic Places, describing the inventory of our Historic District application, listed the building as “Number 5. This building was built as the Princess Theatre in the early 1900’s. The theatre was on the first floor and there were apartments on the second floor.” It was an antique store when the nomination was submitted. There were so many antique stores on 1st Street at the time that this one adopted the meta name of “Another Antique Store”– no evidence of a theater remained.

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The structure was referred to as the Princess Theater building, circa 1900, in all historical accounts of Snohomish because of this small, blurry photograph published in the Snohomish Historical Society’s “River Reflections, Part One” in 1976, with no source listed.

“Attorney Hart appeared on behalf of J.S. White, stating that the Palace saloon was four inches on his lot at First street and Avenue A, and asking the city to remove the same. The council were not convinced of their duty to do so and instructed Mr. Carothers to survey First street from D to A and fix the corners.” The Eye, May 4, 1892

White was not re-elected to the city council in 1891; but served again in 1892, which was a troubled time for the city — and, reading between the lines of the news reports, as the one quoted in full above, a confusing time for White.

The City of Snohomish was broke. The vendor would no longer feed the city’s prisoners without payment “in coin, warrants would buy neither grub or coal,” reported The Eye on January 23, 1892. It took several meetings to set the salaries of city officials, only to have the salary ordinance vetoed by Mayor Ferguson at the next meeting. Changing the topic, Councilmen White and Buck tried to get a discussion going about the cow ordinance after it failed to pass — it was “against milch cows running at large […] and Ferguson declined to listen to them,” wrote The Eye on February 3, under the subhead: “Councilmen Chew the Rag and Do Nothing.” (Readers should know that White’s family had a “milch” cow.)

The subhead on Saturday, March 26, 1892, suggested further disfunction: “Unparliamentary Language by the Councilman.” It seems White set the scene in motion by taking his time to stand when Ferguson asked for the “ayes” to rise. “Councilman White, who is sometimes absent-minded, got on his feet,” said the report, and Ferguson thought White was against the motion. Then, as White was taken to be opposed, Bowen stood to be counted. Ferguson, catching the mix-up, told Bowen to sit down. He refused, the mayor asked for order, and Bowen demanded his rights. Then the mayor said, “(with asperity)–I don’t want any of this kind of work.” Bowen reportedly replied, “(coolly)–I don’t care a damn what you want.”

Ferguson returned the focus to the committee’s report, which favored a dam that a private citizen wanted to build if the city furnished the materials. The project was accepted. Councilman White left , concluded the news article, picking up his lantern, we imagine, for the long, dark walk home.

The summer brought the “great smallpox scourge” of 1892, to use William Whitfield’s description. According to his account, the railroad camps were blamed for bringing the plague into the county, as there was no way of enforcing a quarantine — the common treatment at the time. Pest houses were established in the city for the stricken, and one was burned to the ground by fearful neighbors. The city was in full panic mode within a month of the first recorded case, on June 4. Schools were closed, public meetings were forbidden, even church services were postponed. On June 30, The Eye had this observation describing the unhealthy practice of dumping human and animal waste into the river: “We do not need to mention the state of the north bank of the river, except to say that the filth it shows would nauseate an Indian going down the river in his canoe on the tide.”

Meanwhile, White’s peculiar claim of a four-inch encroachment on his lot was back in the council chambers with the results of City Engineer Carothers’ survey of First Street. As expected, the “City Fathers,” as the paper refers to the councilmen in its August 10, 1893, report, took no action except to order the city attorney to draw up an ordinance according to the facts — each block is 336 feet long and some odd change. Certainly, the Palace Saloon was not ordered moved.

But the same issue had good news for White: “The City of Paris moved into White’s new building Saturday night.” Further, we read about the “arrangement of the rooms in the second floor,” especially the large one in the back with “two bathrooms, a kitchen with a place for a range, a dining room, ample closets, all necessary accommodations for housekeeping on a large scale.” White gave the Eye-man the inside story that a city physician wanted to occupy it as a hospital but then changed his mind, so “any responsible party who wants to rent a hospital is invited to call and inspect the premises,” White reportedly said.

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Today, this large, second-floor space is an artist work/live loft. At some time over the years, a bedroom was added within the large studio space, together with a spiral staircase to the roof. The remaining layout is original.

A solution to White’s dilemma of this plus-size space was found in the disastrous turn of events for his city council colleague, Charles Bakeman, when his three-story furniture building burned to the ground. This event was reported under the headline: “Bakeman Burned Out. A Fire of Unknown Origin Destroys the Furniture Store,” in the September 18, 1893, issue of The Eye. Three days later, the headline is straightforward: “The City Council Meets in the White Building.” It was before the age of the tabloid when today it might read: “City Councilmen Admitted to White’s Empty Hospital.”

As we come to learn, city council had been meeting the city clerk’s office in Bakeman’s building, and their first meeting on the second floor of the White Building on September 21, had a full agenda: “A Whole Lot of Work Cut Out for Street Committee,” read the subhead in part. “Minutes of the previous meeting were read out of the record book, which bore evidence of having been through fire and flood,” continued the account. A motion was approved to pay rent for $15 per month for two rooms in the White Building, and the clerk was authorized to replace the damaged record books.

On October 21, 1893, The Eye provided this graphic glimpse of the damage suffered by City Attorney Coon: “His hundred dollar type-writer is a bunch of twisted wire and broken iron.” Note the eye-popping cost of a “type-writer” in the 1890s.

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Aftermath of the Bakeman Furniture Building fire, 1893. Pictured across First Street, to the left, is the two-story Penobscot Hotel, built in 1888 and destroyed by fire in 1911. The Rockefeller people investing in the new town of Everett stayed here, as it was the only first-class hotel in the area, the first notes of Snohomish playing second fiddle to a town named after a kid.

It was not until March 1, 1894, that we come across White’s name in the paper again, and curiously enough it’s for a job connected with the Bakeman fire. The Bruhn & Henry firm, a grocery store operation that came to town catering the railroad workers, purchased the Bakeman lot at First and Avenue B with the reported promise to erect “as fine a building as the one which was burned.” Twenty-eight days later, The Eye reported: “Contractor White and a force of workmen are rapidly raising the Bruhn & Henry building.”

White’s eldest daughter, Linnie, still in high school, was mentioned in The Eye in the March 10 issue as taking a temporary job in the post office “during the absence of Postmaster Ames on matrimonial business.”

js white story image“Bruhn & Henry have removed to their new quarters.” The Eye, May 3, 1894.

It must have been bad news for White to learn that his anchor tenant, the City of Paris, would consolidate its Snohomish business with its Tacoma operation on August 1. “The entire stock here will be sold at auction, commencing Saturday,” reported The Eye, July 5, 1894. Taking advantage of the empty store front, the ladies’ organization at White’s Methodist Church held a fundraising “crazy dinner” on Tuesday, September 18, from 5 to 8 p.m. — for only 25 cents. There was a follow-up mention after the event on September 20, but no description of what made it “crazy.”

White was elected to the city council in 1895 and again in 1896. Newspaper coverage was sparse, perhaps fortunately so, given his rocky term in 1892. According to our historian, William Whitfield, with the back-and-forth news of elections created by Everett’s petition to wrest the county seat from Snohomish, “there was not a great deal to chronicle as to other events,” he writes on page 252.

Our old friend O. E. Crossman’s name resurfaces in the news with his intention to move his store into the “White brick block,” as it’s referred to in The Eye. On January 31, 1895: “O.E. Crossman has moved his store into new commodious quarters in the White building, where he is opening up a fine new stock of dry and dress goods.”

Later that year, on October 21, The Eye reported, “J.S. White, chairman of the board of school directors for this district, has resigned….” As we didn’t catch the announcement of his appointment, we have no idea how long he served. In 25 years, the number of school children in the county had grown from 22 to 602. White’s daughter, Linnie, was in the high school class of 1896, with three other students. The class motto read: “Launched but Whither Bound.”

As a city council member, White played a part in the story of Snohomish’s first reported gunfight: “Shot in Cold Blood,” shouted The Eye’s headline on October 31, 1895. The report went on for three columns about a midnight shooting outside the Gold Leaf Saloon, on the east end of town, where the owner, called “Omaha Bill,” killed a patron known as “Texas Jack.”

Councilmember White, along with his colleagues, became involved when 677 citizens petitioned them to revoke the license of the notorious Gold Leaf Saloon, which was “a sign of the new era in public morals,” according to Whitfield. The matter was referred to a committee headed by White, which at the next meeting recommended revoking the saloon’s to the full council. The recommendation was tabled, and then rejected at the next meeting. This action was met with vocal indignation by an active group of citizens lead by the pastors in town, raising fear among council members of a lawsuit. That didn’t come to pass, and an editorial published in The Eye on February 25 put it this way: “The council will probably not reconsider their action of the 18th, and the matter will become a part of history.” Indeed, J.S. White’s marginal participation brought his name at least 15 words of fame in the history pages.

The year 1896 began with the Snohomish River on a rampage, reported The Eye, January 1. But it brought good news later in the month, noting that White was “putting the finishing touches on a handsome new home” for E.D. Sutton on Avenue D. An extensive description of the home in the January 28 issue ends with a tribute to J.S. White, the architect and contractor, who “takes as much pleasure in the building of the house as Mr. Sutton will take comfort in living in it, and shares with him the credit for putting up so handsome and creditable a residence.”

Downtown Snohomish, on the other hand, was looking a little worse for wear, according to the diaries of Philip Clayton Van Buskirk, a United States Navy career man. Arriving in Snohomish in 1896 with the intention of retiring in the area, he found the place had changed dramatically since his last visit six years earlier.

“Walk along First Street to its west end. This is the main business street of Snohomish; save here and there a group of vicious looking youngsters, very few people are in the streets. The west end is a picture of wreck and ruin. Cathcart’s Hotel–the Snohomish Exchange–is windowless and boarded up [….] Wilbur’s Drug Store, a fine brick building, appears alone to have held its own in the general dilapidation and decay which marks the Business quarter of Snohomish, altogether a woebegone, run down town.”

Van Buskirk goes on to give the “Residence Quarter” a better review, mentioning the many fine homes and well-kept yards; two very fine, large and elegant school buildings; and “quite a sprinkling also of very presentable churches….” From his diary, we learn that the cost of the largest, front room in the Penobscot Hotel was 75 cents. And a full dinner at the hotel costs a third of that.

The new year of 1897 began with four inches of snow that was gone in two days, thanks to a warm chinook wind from the south. And from the southwest, under cover of darkness, 37 horse-drawn wagons arrived to carry away the county records from Snohomish’s ten-year old courthouse to an up-to-date Romanesque-style brick structure in Everett. The Eye published the obituary on January 28 under the head: “Good Bye County Seat.”

“The undue haste in making the transfer,” the account theorized, “arose from the fear that Snohomish ‘conspirators’ were hatching another plot to frustrate a removal.” It had been a bitter, three-year contest of civic wills fought in smoky backrooms, voting booths, and the state’s Supreme Court. The Eye-man penned the iconic analogy of the wagons pulling out of town as “a huge funeral train laden with their dead hopes and blasted ambitions….” In Everett, the caravan was “hailed with the same degree of delight and quality of joy as the ancient Romans were wont to exhibit on the triumphal return of conquering heroes laden with the spoils of foreign conquest.”

Following years of discussions, a group of Snohomish residents finally filed a petition with the city council for reducing the city’s boundaries. Attorney W.P. Bell provided the small audience with the details of the reduction, as reported in The Eye, January 14, and noted that most businessmen of the city were in favor of the proposition, which would shrink the city to exclude the expensive bridges. “The Tribune has raised its voice from the beginning in favor of this change,” boasted the second voice in town on December 8, unable to dampen its mocking tone when observing that in 1890 “the town was looked upon as a future Chicago….”

On March 31, John S. White and his wife, Delia, signed a warranty deed selling the White Building at 924 First Street to the First National Bank of Snohomish for one dollar. And a bill of sale signed by John S. White enumerated the contents: “All of the counters shelving and other store furniture and fixtures connected with and containing in what is known as the ‘J.S. White Building,’” also for the amount of one dollar. A search of newspapers and court records revealed no details.

In the July 14, 1899, issue of the Tribune, Linnie and Elsie White were listed among the 250 bicycle riders in Snohomish who paid a dollar for their bicycle tags.

. . . .

NOTES: “Field Guide to American Houses,” Virginia and Lee McAlester, p263

Edited by Susan Geib

. . . .

A key consideration in photographing the J.S. White building at 924 First St. was to highlight the restored brickwork of the west elevation. The textural qualities of masonry can often best be expressed by oblique sunlight raking across its surface. In this case however, that approach would have been too harsh.

The primary exposure was made just before sunset, as the sun dipped behind low lying clouds. This softened the light but maintained its directional quality, lending some modeling to the upper and middle friezes, and helped to define the recessed windows.

Supplemental tungsten lighting was added to the interiors of each upper story room, the windows of which were composited into the primary exposure from a file made approximately 35 minutes after sunset.

Camera: Horseman Superwide Pro, Lens: Rodenstock 35mm ƒ1:4.5,
Back: Phase One P25+. Exposure: 1/2 second @ ƒ11, iso 50.

. . . .

OE Crossman House

9. Crossman House, 1890

Color Plate 9: Crossman House Photographed by Otto Greule ©2011. (See Otto’s Notes Below)

Published in the Sun, 1891.

Published in the Sun, 1891.

On Saturday, May 31, 1890, The Eye published this local news item at the top of page 3: “O. E. Crossman removed his family into his new residence on Avenue B on Monday.” The Sun had come out a day earlier with no mention of the Crossman family.

Snohomish was a two-paper town in 1890 with one uniting issue: incorporation. Adding to the confusion was that the town has been incorporated since 1888, but under the laws of Washington Territory, which were thrown out by the newly formed Supreme Court of Washington State.

Residents were divided over whether to reincorporate as a town of the fourth class with the same boundaries as the territorial incorporation, which was favored by town founder E. C. Ferguson, or to incorporate with expanded boundaries as a third-class city. Each faction found a voice in one of the two weekly newspapers: The Sun, which saw things Ferguson’s way; or The Eye, which spoke for expansion.

Describing the 1890 incorporation proceedings some 30 years later, William Whitfield wrote: “Then for the first time in its history Snohomish enjoyed all the thrills of city politics.” We imagine that full enjoyment depended on taking a side between the dueling editors.

Both papers do cover the delivery of bricks to the site of John Burns’ brick block on 1st Street. The Sun takes the opportunity to remind readers of the larger issue: “As soon as the town becomes incorporated no doubt many fine buildings will be erected.”

A week later, on June 7, 1890, The Eye publishes an editorial urging the construction of brick business buildings, citing the great Seattle fire of the previous year that destroyed some 64 acres of wood frame buildings. (Even a hosecart team from Snohomish was shipped by rail to join in on the losing fight.) The editor, C. H. Packard, goes on to praise the efforts of Mr. Pearsall, who with limited means starts a brickyard in town and calls for a dozen business leaders to follow John Burns’ example and build with brick made in Snohomish.

Published in a Supplement to the
Snohomish County Tribune, March 7, 1902.

The Crossman Family Moves In.

O. E. Crossman moved into his new home with a family numbering three. He had married Bertha L. Elwell, the 22-year-old daughter of Tam and Sara Elwell (Essay #4), on April 26, 1887, at the Methodist Church (Essay #1). At the time of the move, the couple had a 2-month-old daughter, Gladys Fay.

Oscar E. Crossman was born 37 years earlier in Illinois. His parents moved with their three children to Wisconsin, where their father was a wagon builder and sometime merchant. He died young in Dell Rapids, Dakota Territory, where his two sons, Oscar and Walter, were living and working as merchants.

The Eye man was agreeably surprised on Thursday to see, among the Nellie’s passengers, the face of Mr. O.Crossman, one of our old-time River Falls (Wis.) friends. Mr. C. will make Snohomish his future home, have been engaged as salesman in the store of Blackman Bro’s.” —The Eye, May 16, 1885.

Crossman Ad

Once settled however, Crossman revived his former firm, O.E. Crossman & Co., with his, brother, Walter. For two years they carried a full line of groceries, crockery, and dry goods, according to an account in the March-April 1891 issue of The Northwestern Real Estate Building Review, published in Seattle. The article detailed Crossman’s decision to sell only dry goods, clothing, boots, and shoes. “Their large store, twenty-two by sixty feet, is literally packed from floor to ceiling with a full and varied assortment of everything to be found in their line,” the account explained. Their business model of “quick sales and small profits, and the excellence of their goods,” resulted in “extended patronage for twenty miles around,” claimed the journal.

It was surprising to read, then, in the May 20, 1895, issue of The Eye: “O.E. Crossman returned last Thursday from California to dispose of his stock of dry goods and all his property here, having decided to become a permanent resident of San Jose.” According to census records, it appears that his brother, Walter, left the Snohomish business and took up real estate sales in San Jose, California, 1891.

The following week, we read in The Eye: “My house and two lots for sale, also my safe, and all store fixtures for sale and must be sold within 60 days. O.E. Crossman.” In the neighboring column, we read: “If you want a nice profitable job, go to O.E. Crossman & Co’s. and assist them in converting their $15,000 stock of dry goods, boots and shoes, etc. into cash. They are going out of business and are giving their patrons the benefit of the greatest bargains ever offered in Snohomish.”

However, in the October 10 issue of the same year, Crossman ran an ad that mimicked a news story–then a common practice–with the headline: “Here’s A Hummer.” Then a subhead: “O.E. Crossman & Co., Make a Very Sensational Announcement.” The first paragraph begins, “We have not as yet disposed of our home, hence we have concluded to stock up our store ….” The news-style advertisement continues for several inches and ends with the promise, “as long as I remain in Snohomish we will sell [to] you cheaper than any other firm.”

This ad was repeated for several weeks in 1895, even with the same example of prices: “Outing flannels at 5-6-7-10 and 12c. per yard: ginghams, sheeting and calico in profusion at 5c per yard.” A mysterious one-line mention appears in the February 2, 1897, issue of The Eye: “O.E. Crossman & Co. handle the San Jose Clothing.” The Eye’s final edition was published four months later on June 10, 1897.

Turning to census records, in 1905, Oscar’s mother Amelia, now a widow, was listed as living with the family in the Avenue B home. In 1920, the Crossmans were still living in Ward 2 and Oscar was still running his dry goods store at 1104 1st Street, in the Blackman Building which is still standing. He died five years later survived by his wife, Bertha, who was listed as living alone at 329 Avenue B in 1930. Her telephone number was 81. Bertha died four years later at the age of 69, survived by her daughter, Fay, who was living in Seattle near the beauty school where she worked.

GD Horton photoDancing on a Cedar Stump, c.1885. An iconic Snohomish photograph by Gilbert Horton.
L to R: William and Delia Deering, Oscar and Bertha Crossman, George and Laura England, Ruth Elwell and Omar Moore; above on the fiddle, W.P. Bell, and Harvey Horton, playing banjo.

O.E. Crossman House Today.

The three-bedroom Crossman home over 2,000 square feet of interior space on two floors–was converted into a rooming house during the Depression. It remained in that condition until purchased in 2000 by the current owners’ who are diligently returning the handsome structure to a single-family home.

With the Crossman House, White returns to the Queen Anne style: “Steeply pitched roof of irregular shape, usually with a dominant front-facing gable; patterned shingles, cutaway bay windows, and other devices used to avoid a smooth-walled appearance, asymmetrical facade with partial or full-width porch.”*

The exterior is excellent shape, as shown in Otto Greule’s late- afternoon portrait. Unfortunately, Crossman’s second lot, to the south, was eventually purchased, and a dwelling was added in 1941. This structure, along with the foliage that has grown up over the years, completely blocks the southern exposure of the Crossman home, which features a two-story window bay topped with a gable shown in the 1902 photo illustration.

Many of the homes in the neighborhood of the Crossman House carry the Queen Anne label–perhaps leading you to think you’ve spotted another home by J. S. White – and you may have! But without construction records, of which there are none, it’s impossible to know. For this account, we have depended entirely upon a process of connecting circumstantial dots between 19th century news items.

. . . .

NOTES: “Field Guide to American Houses,” Virginia and Lee McAlester, p263

Edited by Susan Geib

. . . .

The Crossman House is situated in close proximity to three deciduous trees along its west elevation, and a neighboring house to the south. This perspective view showing the north and west sides of the house, was chosen to reveal the scale of the house, and to best distinguish it from adjoining structures.

Photographing in late march ensured that the gables and chimney were visible behind the leafless branches of the trees, and added some color to the foreground foliage. The tree trunk at left helps to frame the house, and conceal the visually competing shape of a background church steeple. A forty inch silvered reflector was employed to bounce some fill light back into the shadowed porch. The wicker love seat was repositioned.

Camera: Horseman Superwide Pro, Lens: Rodenstock 35mm ƒ1:4.5,
Back: Phase One P25+. Exposure: 1/15 second @ ƒ11, iso 100.

. . . .

AM Blackman House

8. A.M. Blackman House, 1889

Color Plate 8: A.M. Blackman House Photographed by Otto Greule ©2010. (See Otto’s Notes Below)

Following the opening of A. M. Blackman’s Grocery Store in the summer of 1889, J.S. White must have turned his full attention to the construction of Wilbur’s Drug Store. As The Eye reported on August 28: “The brick on Wilbur’s new store was completed this week.”

Yet we learn in the September 7 issue: “Work upon the foundation of E.C. Ferguson’s new residence is underway.”

Three weeks later we read: “The handsome new residence of Adam [sic] Blackman is fast nearing completion.” No wonder the typesetter confused “Adam” for “A.M.” – White turned over three buildings (that we know about) to their owners in 1889.
blackman house 1908
“The beautiful home of Postmaster A.M. Blackman, Snohomish, Washington. — Photo by Blackman.”
Published in “The Coast,” November 1908, for an article about Snohomish written by A.M. Blackman.

The Blackman Family Moves In.

Blackman’s home was most likely the second structure to rise up on Ferguson’s 2nd Addition, the plat of lots between Avenues D and G to the west. The first was the Elwell home, also designed by White.

Built only a year later, yet chapters apart in historical style, the Blackman House design tells a story of White’s temporary abandonment of architectural restraint.

Once upon a time, as all unsourced stories begin, Arthur’s home was intended to be a vision located on the highest point of the settlement, four blocks from Front Street, and up against the woods–the structure would be a promotional vision of red cedar shingles.

Arthur’s cousins, the Blackman brothers, built the largest mill in the young county alongside the Snohomish River in 1884, at the western end of Front Street. There they introduced the tripper machine that, using a ratchet mechanism, could cut a shingle from a block of wood with each pass of the circular blade. By the time the train arrived four years later, the Blackmans were ready to ship kiln dried shingles to the east coast by the boxcar load.

This abundance of product leads us to wonder if the storybook tale of promotion connected through the years to the Blackman House might be instead a prosaic reality of overproduction? An example of contractor White’s nose for a bargain, perhaps? We know only that the unique home was built.

All four facades of the structure are individual compositions that share in common second-floor dormers of various depths, where the side walls slope up to meet the moderate pitched roof. To this writer’s eye, the slightly pitched walls become the second pitch of a gambrel roof. Moreover, the dormers do not project vertically from a sloping roof, as in the usual definition; rather, the large, full story dormers project from a sloping wall that reaches to the multi pitched roof. From there, two towers with conical roofs project opposite each other of the hybrid gambrel roof.

The face of each dormer features a variety of window combinations, the set of three, as shown in Otto Greule’s house portrait, is the most elaborate. A second set of three windows is repeated in the tower on the left, which faces southeast, toward town. This tower marks the corner of the structure, along with the wide porch below that wraps halfway around the north facade, out of sight in the portrait.

The tower on the right is actually built into the sloping walls of the second floor. It features a whimsical arrangement of a long, narrow window paired with smaller rectangular windows with diamond-patterned mullions on either side. What room lies behind this playful exterior treatment must be left to the reader’s imagination.

It would have taken heroic effort for White to have the house ready for the Blackman’s second wedding anniversary on October 6, the date recorded in Whitfield’s biographical sketch of Arthur. But there is another source for the Blackman’s wedding date. Arthur’s niece, Frances, his sister, Nina’s, daughter, writes in an undated account that Arthur was married in “November to Adeliza (Budd) Elwell.” This date would have given White another month to finish the home.

It’s a healthy six-block walk to the Blackman Grocery Store from the home on Avenue D and 4th, but we imagine the distance seemed longer as the debts increased. After closing the grocery store in 1894, Arthur turned to logging work, but only for a couple of years. Arthur was appointed postmaster in 1896 and, by all accounts, served with distinction until 1913.

Shortly after Arthur’s appointment, the childless Blackmans adopted Kathryn, a child born in 1905. She died only 14 years later and is laid to rest alongside her adopted mother, whose red marble marker reads “BUDD” across the top. Adeliza died in 1925, and Arthur followed four years later.

Blackman Bros millBlackman Bros. Mill, c.1885. Photo by Gilbert Horton. Courtesy Northwest Room, EPL.

“THE FIERY DEMON, not content with his ravages in many other towns of the territory has at last paid us a visit”–so begins The Eye’s September 21, 1889, account of the fire that totally destroyed the Blackman Bros. sawmill.

The “continuous shrieking of a whistle” eventually stopped the speaker inside Cathcart Hall (also referred to as the Atheneum) at the corner of Avenue D and Front Street, just a block west of the mill. “Fortunately the hall was quickly emptied without accident,” continues the account.

Outside, the growing crowd milling about in the central intersection of town “quickly surmised the truth – that the largest enterprise upon which Snohomish is dependent for her prosperity and well-being was to go up in smoke.” Illuminated by the rapidly spreading flames, most watched as the hosemen pulled back from the heat, while others joined a bucket brigade – “150 or more men formed two lines to the river and worked like ‘Turks,’” wrote the Eye-man.

Work to prevent the fire from spreading continued for three hours until all danger had passed, especially on the west side of the mill, where the workers’ tenements were located. Two cabins that had caught fire were pushed over the bank into the river to save the rest.

One eye witness account reads: “Al Wilson worked like a hero, and led on the crowd which saved the tenements in the rear of the mill. Overcome by the heat at last he fell into the arms of one of the men, and was taken home insensible.”

The mill, capable of producing 50,ooo feet of lumber and 125,000 shingles, was a total loss estimated at $100,000, which included new machinery, along with customer orders ready to ship. Blackman Bros. carried no insurance due the high rates.

In closing, the account reminds the reader of the community’s loss: “About 130 men are thus temporarily thrown out of employment just at a time when all they can rake and scrape is needed in preparation for the winter season.”

blackman brothersLithograph, Blackman Brothers, 1889. Courtesy Northwest Room, EPL.

Seven Months Later.

By the time White turned over the O.E. Crossman House to the family, the Blackman Bros. Mill was rebuilt.

“A Gigantic Industry of Vast Importance to Snohomish,” read the subhead in the June 6, 1890, issue of The Sun.

“It Gives Employment to Hundreds of Workingmen, and Will Run Night and Day,” read the second subhead.

And yet a third: “To be Lit up by Electric Light, and Run to Its Fullest Capacity. For Completeness and Practicality it Excels Anything in the State of Washington.”

The lead paragraph sets the scene: “But to be upon the grounds when the whistle blows for work to begin, and to see the wheels begin to turn, and the saws commence to whirl strikes one with a kind of awe….” Then the three “monster engines” are described, “one at 15×20 feet upright, one 18×24 feet upright and the other a horizontal one 24×30 feet.”

All the sawing was done in the nearly 60,000 square-foot main building. The mill had one double circular saw that could divide a log into lumber twice as fast as a single one, and more accurately than “gang saws” that used reciprocating blades. The 340-foot-long building also had a “re-saw,” or bandsaw for cutting veneers, and “gang edgers” for milling the Puget Sound country’s ubiquitous tongue-and-groove fir sliding.

Reading on down the full front-page story, we learn that the Blackman brothers “are no fine-haired theoretical machinists, or adventurers in the lumbering business, but they have been raised in the woods […] with coats off and sleeves rolled up […] one of the Blackmans will always be at the front.”

Finally, the reader is reminded of the great fire that consumed the brothers’ mill less than a year before: “but through the most indefatigable perseverance, and by the indomitable will power which they only possess, they have surmounted every obstacle, and have arisen from the ashes in a manner that seems almost miraculous,” says The Sun on June 6, 1890.

. . . .


Edited by Susan Geib

. . . .

For the Blackman House, a perspective view from the southeast was considered, but was deemed unacceptable due to the close proximity of mature foliage (and an ill-placed telephone pole) which obscured the home. The alternative view of the east entry, required that the camera be elevated high enough to see over the hedge. This viewpoint also best expressed the relationship between the twin hexagonal towers, and allowed the foliage to both frame and soften the geometry of the house.

The direction of the slightly diffused, early morning light helped to emphasize the double columns against the recessed shadow area of the porch.

Camera: Canon 5D Mark II, Lens: TS-24mm ƒ1:3.5,
Exposure: 1/20 second @ ƒ14, iso 100.

. . . .

lot wilbur drug store

7. Wilbur Block, 1889

The Only Two-Story Brick Building in Snohomish County.

“In the spring of 1875, Lot Wilbur, the pioneer druggist, came from Minnesota, and on Thanksgiving day of that year located in Snohomish, then a small place containing less than a score of buildings. He immediately commenced business with a stock of druggists sundries, in the building from which he removed this week to the handsome quarters in his new brick block, which occupies the original site of the old building.

His brick block is the first ever erected in Snohomish county for mercantile purposes. It is a handsome structure having a frontage of 24 feet; is 65 feet deep, two stories with a basement nine feet in the clear under the entire building. The store room in the first story is 14 feet in the clear, and the second story 12 feet. The latter is divided into six commodious rooms; W.P. Bell occupying the two in front as a law office and Dr. Starr and family the remaining rooms for office and residence.

The brick work on the building was done by E. Bast & Son in their usually substantial and permanent manner. The carpenter work was done by J.S. White, the well known contractor, who fitted up everything in a skillful and elegant manner. The store room front is of galvanized iron, with plate glass doors and windows. The two larger windows are each composed of one piece of solid plate glass 146 inches by 64 inches in size; the glass alone for the front costing $340.

The store room is not excelled in convenience or in its style of finish by any drug store of the northwest. It has shelves and counters along each side, with prescription case of ample dimensions across the back end. The shelves, counters and case have an oil finish, done on native woods, and present a fresh, neat and attractive appearance. The painting, varnishing, gilding and oil finish was done for the whole building in first class style by Bunsow & Martill. The total cost of the building, including shelving, counters etc., for the drug store, will exceed $7,000. Mr. Wilbur is putting in some $600 besides that in new shelf bottles and other fixtures needed in his store. He is now opening up in his new quarters, with at least twice that carried in the old building, and has conveniences for carrying a stock many times greater than that formerly carried by him.

Mr. Wilbur is to be congratulated in having earned and secured such splendid quarters for business. He has not only well earned but amply deserves them by his skill as a druggist and his many good qualities as a business man and public spirited citizen of this community. His many friends rejoice with us over his good fortune.”
Published in The Eye, November 16, 1889.


lot wilburJennie and Lot Wilbur were married in 1868 in Michigan and found their way to Snohomish selling insurance. Instead, they were sold on Snohomish and opened their first drugstore on December 18, 1875, recording $2.50 in receipts. Their union produced no children; but 13 years later they commissioned White to build the first two story brick building in the county as home to Wilbur’s Remedies, which were known throughout the area. Around the turn of the century, the Wilburs built a new building at the corner of 1st and Union and joined the Rexall chain of drugstores. Jennie died in 1919 and Lot followed 11 years later.

Right. A prescription written by Dr. Folsom for Geo. Blackman, Arthur’s father, on January 8, 1879.

milwaukee road depotGoodwill Tour, 1912. “You can’t miss Snohomish if you come over the Milwaukee,” read the white ribbons worn by members of the Commercial Club inaugurating passenger service.

Wilbur Block’s Second Life as a Depot.

It was supposed to be a temporary depot until the Milwaukee Road could build its own. That was in 1911, and the Wilbur Block was still the depot in 1930, when railroad passenger service to Everett was replaced by an eight-cylinder Studebaker bus. Milwaukee Road moved its freight operations to the Great Northern tracks on the other side of the river. The steel rails were removed from the wooden trestle and sold for scrap to Japan, so the railroad lore goes — but the brisk American scrap metal business with Japan continued until Roosevelt declared an embargo late in 1940.

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Then and Now Views behind the Wilbur Block.

The Wilbur Block Today.

“No one connected with the Post today remembers when it was purchased,” American Legion Post Commander Pat Guyot told us in 2010 during a tour of the second floor with Milwaukee Road historian, Allen Miller. In the room that was once the the kitchen of the station agent’s residence hangs wallpaper that was probably installed by Kent Gill, , the last Milwaukee Railroad station agent, said Miller. Most of the second floor is empty today, with just a few boxes of supplies. The first floor, all 1,500 square feet, is a members-only bar, while the basement serves as the meeting room. The 700-square-foot cinder block addition on the east side was added in the 1950s without concern of how it looked from the street.

In 2006, the Snohomish Riverside Trail was dedicated. It was created thanks to a grant from the Department of Transportation to memorialize the route of the railroad that once ran along the rear of the former drugstore-turned-depot. Not only did it serve passengers, but a spur was added, where the parking lot is today, for servicing box cars.

wilbur block 1973
The Wilbur Block, 1973, American Legion Post #96.

It was around this time that we were invited to met with the Post’s membership in their basement meeting room, to make the case for the restoration of their historic treasure, the oldest brick building still standing in the county, in addition to its history as the first drugstore.

First on the list would be to bring back the storefront glass windows as shown in the historic photo. “That would be against the law,” a member said. Assuming he was referring to Washington State Blue Laws, we reminded him that Oxford Saloon once had storefront windows similar to theirs and were still in business with a restored storefront of full height windows. “They are violating the law,” the same man said with the certainty of a storyteller.

It wasn’t until writing these words, a decade later, that we wondered if there was a law at one time that regulated the size of tavern windows. After all, a full storefront of glass, revealing a tavern full of people drinking, could be considered by some in the Temperance Movement as “drinking in public,” and would push for regulations of the Washington State Liquor Control Board to specify the exposure to drinking in a tavern.

But no law was found, either state or local; instead, only a ruse by the membership to avoid doing the right thing. This writer has joined the American Legion in order to advocate from the inside for the importance of historic restoration.

. . . .


Edited by Susan Geib

Blackman Store, Snohomish

6. Blackman Store, 1889

Color Plate 6: Blackman Store Photographed by Otto Greule ©2010. (See Otto’s Notes Below)

On December 3, 1885, the week before young Arthur M. Blackman arrived in town, The Eye ran a front page story suggesting that an “enterprising individual start a white laundry at this place. We believe the laundry would be made the best paying business in town, and that one mouth [sic] after its establishment there would not be a pagan rat-eater here.” The diatribe continues, winding up for the final pitch: “An excellent opportunity for investment awaits someone.”

AM Blackman

Published in The Sun, 1891

Wonder if Arthur saw it?

He was an ambitious young man, only 20 years old, who had worked for four years in a hardware store before leaving the family home in Oakland, California, to take a job in his cousin’s new general store; and three years later, he is building his own two-story building on 1st Street.

Arthur was born in Penobscot County, Maine, to George and Francis Blackman on November 23, 1865. His father was in the lumber business, as was his uncle Adam, and we imagine that his grandfather Bradley was as well. Arthur’s biographical sketch in An Illustrated History of Skagit and Snohomish Counties reads in part: “The elder Blackman sprang from an old line Dutch pioneer family of the Pine Tree State.”

Evidently, by the early 1870s, the pine forests of Maine were thinning out and logging operations were going belly-up, including those of the extended Blackman family. Uncle Adam’s boys, Alanson, Elhanan, and Hyrcanus, along with their wives and one baby, left for the Pacific Coast in 1872; George, with his wife and their children, Nina and Arthur, landed first in Michigan before migrating on to California where the family settled in Oakland around 1876.

Following a start in Port Gamble at the Pope and Talbot Mill on the Kitsap Peninsula, Hyrcanus and his brothers settled in Snohomish, where they bloomed, eventually leading the development of the lumber industry, and more, in Snohomish County.

Blackman Store, Front and Avenue C, 1885. Courtesy UW Special Collections #21898

For example, the Blackman Bros. opened a two-story general store that our contemporaneous historian, Whitfield, referred to as a “major event of 1885.” Arthur was the acting manager. His older sister, Nina, who has no biographical sketch, was most likely already living in Snohomish, since she had also been called upon by the Snohomish cousins to serve in the town’s new two-room school house as a primary teacher. Both siblings were married in 1887, Nina to Charles Bakeman, furniture maker and undertaker, on June 20th; and on October 6th, Arthur married into the Elwell family with his marriage to Adeliza, who went by the nickname “Buddie.”

Local Eye-tems.

In addition to the siblings’ marriages, 1887 was marked by the opening of the first bank in Snohomish County in August. Originally a private institution owned by J. Furth, a prominent Seattle banker, within a year it was reorganized as the First National Bank of Snohomish. Moreover, it built its own building, the first brick structure in the county, two doors west of the second brick building–in progress at the time–Lot Wilbur’s Drugstore, which has survived and is included in this account.

In April 1888, “W. P. Bell, as attorney for the citizens, returned from Seattle with an order from Judge Jones authorizing the incorporation of Snohomish,” writes Whitfield in his History of Snohomish County. The trustees met to appoint officers and set salaries. Marshal C.M. Jordan, for example, was to receive $20 per month, with $2 for each arrest. Most important, liquor licenses were fixed at $500, which netted $2,500 for the city coffers in its first year of incorporation. A spending spree seems to have followed: new sidewalks were ordered* and grading contracts were let, along with a contract for the First Street bridge replacement, and there was talk of an expensive wagon bridge over the Snohomish River.

And that summer, a second newspaper was established, bearing the masthead “The Sun,” owned by a man named Head. While the dawn of a second newspaper marked the growth of the city, noted Whitfield, it did not make for “harmonious action by its citizens.” Our man on the scene is most likely referring to the bitter re-incorporation face-off a couple of years later, following the establishment of Washington’s statehood in 1889.

Blackman Store
A.M.Blackman’s Store. Published in The Northwest Magazine, August 1890.

A. M. BLACKMAN’S NEW BUILDING, into which he is moving and will open the largest stock of groceries north of Seattle, is acknowledged to be one of the handsomest and most commodious grocery stores in the northwest.” The Eye, June 6, 1889

Blackman store

Blackman’s Store, date unknown

Only the name of the building has changed over the years. The original footprint remains to this day: 36 feet wide by 61 feet long. The false-front facade’s architectural details are all in place, just as architect J.S. White specified over 125 years ago. Photographer Otto Greule has captured the high summer light of the rising sun as it paints the facade with descriptive shadows, especially of the top cornice brackets.

It’s worth the short walk to view the rear of the building, which is down a steep alley that ends in a gulley, referred to in the early newspapers as “Union Avenue Gulch.” On this site in 1893, two men dug a tunnel through the hill between the gulch and the river – referred to as a “hogback” in this account: “Work began yesterday on the tunnel from the gulley to the river under Avenue A. Two men are at work with shovels and seem to find the digging easy. They are on the riverside of the hogback and from the direction in which the tunnel is started, it would be judged that they will come out in the rear of Blackman’s grocery store.”

The finished tunnel was 200 feet long, 4-and-a-half feet in diameter, and while the digging was easy, “an immense amount of timber would be required, and they put in 41,796 feet of it,” The Eye reported in the same account on October 5, 1893. Consequently, the estimated cost of $700 ballooned to nearly double–$1,300–when the tunnel was declared finished.

The emergency need for the tunnel was created in response to a cave-in on 1st Street. “Blackman Lake broke loose and sent a flood of water down the ravine which has its terminus at Avenue A and First street,” reported The Eye, May 11, 1893. A narrow culvert, designed to carry the water to the river, got choked up and the water flowed under 1st Street, undermining the planking and making the street impassable for horse drawn wagons. The water also backed up in the gulch, “which was turned into a lake deep enough to float a man-of-war,” the colorful report continued.

The Northwest Magazine’s illustration of the structure shows a porch on the rear, but there is no evidence today that there ever was one. Blackman probably had second thoughts of how often he would use a porch overlooking an open stormwater sewer.

The Ravine’s Imaginative History.

The geology that separates the east and western claims establishing Snohomish features 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. It’s sometimes referred to as “Blackman Creek,” or “Ferguson Creek,” but officially today, it’s “Swifty Creek” – a name of hope and promise. Much of the runoff from Blackman Lake has been diverted to the Pilchuck River at 6th Street, but the remaining stormwater still occasionally backs up at blocked culverts buried years ago, but which are now under private property improved with homes.

In 1906, a couple of investors from the East inquired if they could be given permission “to dig a canal, connecting Blackman’s lake with the Snohomish River, using a system of locks, build bathhouses, provide them with hot and cold water service, have a resort for the entertainment of pleasure seekers,” continued the pitch in the December 14, 1906, issue of the Tribune. The Union Avenue Gulch must have been an impressive site just one month following a flood that “Reaches the Highest Stage Known to White Man,” as the paper’s headlines screamed on November 16th. Yet the Tribune supported the investor’s dream with this existential argument: “Make the city more beautiful and attractive, enjoy the comforts that this good old world offers now, for you may be a long time dead.”

The resort never came to pass, but that didn’t dampen residents’ imagination. A couple of decades later, The Lions Club, 29 members strong, “appointed Pat Crane chairman of a committee to investigate the feasibility of a plan to establish a swim tank in the Union Ave. gulch,” reported the Tribune, May 2, 1929. A week later, it was announced that $1,200 had been raised for the swim tank, but the following week an estimate was reported to be $15,000, and that was the last mention of locating a swim tank in the gulch.

oxford tavern 1950s
Oxford Tavern, 1950s. Courtesy Snohomish Historical Society.

From Grocery Store to Pool Hall to Tavern.

Change on the inside is a different story. Blackman’s establishment didn’t remain a grocery store for long. Referring again to Arthur’s biographical sketch, “His business was the largest in the city and he was prosperous until the financial distress of 1894 forced him to the wall by reason of his extension of credit to men who were unable to meet their obligations with him.” He closed the store quietly, however–no oversize ads announcing going-out-of-business sales have been found. Just this item from the July 5, 1894, issue of The Eye: “The guessing contest inaugurated by A.M. Blackman, the grocer, who awarded a handsome dinner set to the person making the closest guess as to the number of grains of wheat contained in the big tin kettle which has been hung from the end of his sign in front of store, was participated in by 985 guessers. A committee of four counted the grains, and the number was found to be 1,610,512. The dinner set was awarded to Mrs. Elhanan Blackman, whose guess was 1,609,340.”

According to David Dilgard in his walking tour, the building was used to sell furniture, then shoes, until it was renamed the Oxford Pool Hall during Prohibition, and apparently began its career as tavern during the Second World War. It still takes 26 steps to reach the second floor of this wooden building constructed of 8×8 inch posts. The extraordinarily high ceiling gives the 2000-square-foot-space a grandness that seems more fitting to its current use as a saloon than to its original role as the largest grocery store in 19th-century Snohomish. The layout of the second floor–five small offices and a bathroom–is original except for the two front units overlooking 1st Street, which have been merged into one building-wide space that is currently home to a beauty salon. The basement is where the pool tables ended up, accessed from inside the first floor, but it’s often closed these days for lack of patrons.

The Snohomish County Assessor’s field notes reach back only to 1971, when Elma Snow is listed as the owner of the Oxford Tavern. The notes contain repeated observations of leaning walls and uneven ceilings due to a sinking foundation in the soft soil. Local second-generation entrepreneur Scott Swoboda purchased the failing structure, and by 1992 the assessor’s field notes read: “Revalue bldg, been gutted out, major foundations problems being worked on.” Swoboda, who was using the interior for his furniture business, sold the renovated building in 2005 to an owner who brought back the food and alcohol but was required to change “tavern” to “saloon” if he wanted family members of all ages to eat together. The “blue laws” of Washington State dipped into architectural design by prohibiting full storefront glass windows with a direct view of people drinking, which explains the 1950s look of White’s building today.

The law has since been repealed, returning the essential function of glass storefronts to that of reflecting the community back to itself as people walk by – the historical roots of our contemporary selfie craze, perhaps? One more act would make the restoration of the A.M. Blackman’s Grocery Store building complete – bringing back its original name.

. . . .

NOTES: “A sidewalk to connect the Clay addition with the rest civilization is being built on Second Street.” The Eye, January 12, 1889

Edited by Susan Geib

. . . .

The north face of The Oxford receives direct sunlight from about mid March to late September. This photograph was made in July, with the sun at an oblique angle on the azimuth, and at 12 degrees declination. The angle of the light was critical in accentuating the qualities of the venerable storefront, including the oxen yoke above the entry, an important decorative feature.

Preliminary scouting photos revealed that the oxen yoke becomes indiscernible when lit by the open shade of afternoon light, as it visually merges into the similarly toned window behind it. By shooting at a time of day when direct sunlight grazes the yoke but not the window, its shape is clearly defined.

The oblique early morning light also helped to reveal the lead work in the windows, and define the brackets along the cornice, whose shapes are otherwise diminished due to the axial viewpoint. The repetition of shadows lends a hint to their design.

A large white promotional banner was removed from above the red door, and the positioning of the flower barrels and benches were adjusted for balance. The parking spaces were temporarily restricted.

Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark II, Lens: Canon 45mm Tilt/Shift, Exposure: 1/15 second @ ƒ11, iso 100.

. . . .

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Prologue: February 1884

Above: Stern-wheeler Nellie at Ferguson’s Wharf, 1877.
The building behind Ferguson’s is Cathcart’s Exchange Hotel; and, the dirt path to the right is Avenue D — much improved by the the time the White family arrived seven years later.

“Carpenter’s are scarce.” The Eye, May 11, 1883

John S. White arrives in Snohomish aboard a paddle wheel steamship followed by a weak wake of records going back to his birth in 1845 in Tamworth, New Hampshire.

Census, 1870: Age 25, single, house carpenter, living in Walnut, Kansas, in a hotel kept by his future wife’s brother, Charles Lamb.

Marriage, 1871: To Delia R. Lamb, in Kansas.

Census, 1880: Age 35, carpenter, wife Delia, daughters Linnie and Alice, living in Topeka, Kansas.

White, age 39, is standing on the wharf with his family, now including a third daughter, Elise, along with trunks of household goods. Standing, watching, and being watched — for an instant, the family serves as evidence that there is life outside Snohomish.

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Village of Snohomish, Photo by Gilbert Horton c.1885.
Looking east up Front Street from Avenue D. Atheneum Hall on the left, and Plaskett’s Hotel on the right. Note the 100 foot tall flag pole center right.

The White’s new home town is a small, self-sustaining settlement of only four blocks, surrounded on three sides by thick forests. It’s sited in the sunshine on the gentle slope of the south-facing bank of the river that gave this place its name. Located some dozen miles upriver from its fast-growing rival, the port city of Everett on Port Gardner Bay. Snohomish has been the county seat since 1861, and it recently opened its second roller skating rink.

But there is only one church, Presbyterian. That church has a bell, reported the Seattle Herald in January 1884, as told by William Whitfield in his History of Snohomish County. The Seattle paper describes Snohomish as an old town, of about 700 inhabitants, with a two-story courthouse, several new buildings including the Blackman Brothers’ sawmill, which produced 20,000 feet of lumber daily. Other products are listed — fruits, hay — and of course the skating rinks are mentioned — “there being two rinks, three lawyers, two doctors and The Eye.” We would add a literary society that built a grand, two-story building called Atheneum Hall, housing a museum and library; a hotel across the street; a baseball team; a two-room school house meant for 60 students, but serving 80; and six saloons.

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John and Christina Harvey, Co-Founders of the Union Presbyterian Church, 1877.
The Harvey’s and a dozen other charter members were successful in establishing and building the first church of Snohomish on 2nd Street at Avenue A.

John and Christina Harvey were charter members of the first church built in Snohomish in 1877. John, a Brit and refugee from the Seattle Indian wars of 1855, found his way up the Snohomish River in 1860 to purchase the claim of rich bottom land on the south side of the river, across from town, where he built a farm. When it came time to marry the local midwife, Christina Noble, the couple made the two-day journey by boat to Seattle for a ceremony in the Presbyterian church there. They returned with the goal of establishing and building the first church of Snohomish. In 1887, with the help of several other charter members, the Union Presbyterian Church opened for business on 2nd Street at Avenue A.

Darius Kinsey, 1892

Logger’s Bunkhouse by Darius Kinsey, 1892

Seven years passed before there was documented talk of another church in Snohomish. The riverfront town was essentially a men’s club, a drifting population of strangers, largely indifferent to moral and religious codes, in and out of town with only the overcrowded logging camp bunkhouse to call home. Finally, in the spring of 1883, the presiding elder of the Methodist Episcopal Church, Puget Sound Region, traveled upriver by hired Indian canoe to Snohomish, where he met with several families eager to build a Methodist church.

“The Methodists of this place have purchased the vacant lot on the corner of C and Third streets and will shortly erect a church thereon.” The Eye, April 12, 1884.

We have no record of the case made to the elder. Perhaps he was told that the experienced carpenter J. S. White was on his way to design and build the structure? In any event, the elder left impressed. Come August, the small congregation was notified that Reverend W. H. Johnson was assigned as their pastor.

Among the 20 or so members of the new church were Isaac N. Mudgett and his wife. Mudgett was a bootmaker by trade, but soon added his own shingle mill to the cluster of small operations around Snohomish. And in 1885 the Mudgetts built a home on the corner of Avenue H and 4th Street, just three doors north of where White would eventually build his own. Mudgett and White were born in the same New Hampshire town, and White arrived with his family a couple of months before the new congregation purchased land for their church. Let’s assume that J. S. White brought his family from Kansas, most likely by train to Seattle, then a two-day trip by steamer to the edge of America’s frontier, to build the Methodists a church.

. . . .

John S. and Delia (Lamb) White, Genealogy by Ann Tuohy, Snohomish Historical Society Archives;
History of Snohomish County ed. by William Whitfield (Seattle: Pioneer Historical Publishing Company, 1926);
Harvey, John (1828-1886): An Account of His Life by By Eldon Harvey (1984) and Donna Harvey (2004)

Edited by Susan Geib