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.

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Edited by Susan Geib