Discovering the White Building Hidden in Plain Sight

snohomish stories

We are marking the anniversary month of J. S. White’s death on October 22, 1920, with a slideshow telling the story of his masterpiece structure located at 924 First Street that was misidentified for over 40 years.

This event will be held at Snohomish’s historic Bauer Funeral Chapel, located at 701 First Street, on Saturday, October 21st from 4:30 to 5:30p.  It’s Free, thanks to the generosity of the chapel manager Brian Halbeisen.

This presentation was presented first at the 66th Pacific Northwest History Conference: “Hidden Histories, Diverse Publics” to be held in Spokane, October 12-14th.

Of course, this story of the White Building is told in our fine art book J. S. White: Our First Architect, available here online and at the Uppercase Bookshop on 2nd Street and Avenue B. Copies of the book will be available for purchase and signing at the Bauer Chapel event.

. . . .

Calling Members of SHS 1942

June Gregory

June Gregory is certain she has found all of the members of Snohomish High graduating class of 1942, that are still among the living. “Our group is getting smaller every year,” she tells me, when I finally accept her invitation to join the 73rd Annual Reunion at Hill Park Picnic Shelter around noon on September 9th.

Of course, the class of 1942 has held reunions on the conventional schedule through the years, but 11 years ago, June, proposed to the dwindling numbers that they meet every year for a picnic lunch. “At first some still wanted go to a restaurant,” claims June, “but all seem to agree now that this is much less fuss.”

Five women and eight men of the class showed up this year, and just like high school, most of the men gathered at one end of the table and the women at the other. The group was joined by spouses, family members, even some who graduated in different years.

All were welcomed, including me with my movie camera.



. . . .

Let’s Go Down-to-Camp Again!

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While the 2014 Oso mudside got all the attention, a smaller slide destroyed one, maybe two, historic beachfront cabins on Brighton Beach, Whidbey Island, which shares historic roots with the city of Snohomish reaching back to the 1890s. The photo above is from the Ferguson family album documenting their summer days at the beach. Let’s revisit a story I wrote in August 2009, about going down-to-camp.

. . . .

Just as the leading families of Early Snohomish would do, we are going “down-to-camp” for the month of August.

Perhaps beginning as early as 1890, all three Blackman families would board a steamer at Snohomish and head down river loaded with tents, cots, and 30 days worth of supplies. The boat would head out into Possession Sound, past Hat Island, and aim for the sunniest beach on Whidbey Island. The overdressed passengers joyfully set up a row of tents along a narrow beach hemmed in by an unscaleable bluff of thick green woods.

The name “Camper’s Row” remains to this day. Even though a very steep road now allows the contemporary camper to park closer to the beach, it’s still necessary to walk-in, past several cabins to reach your destination.

I am looking for the cabin called “Drift-Inn” where I am to meet co-owner and author Frances Wood. We became acquainted several years ago when she visited the Blackman House Museum and introduced me to her book, “Down to Camp: A History of Summer Folk on Whidbey Island.” The story begins when Nina Blackman arrives in Snohomish to begin teaching school and she stays with her cousin Hyrcanus Blackman’s family in the home that is now our museum. But her stay was short, for within the year, she married Charles Bakeman, an early Snohomish furniture maker who responded to the demand for coffins by becoming an undertaker. Saving that story for another time, the union gave birth to Inez who is Frances’s grandmother.

Frances’s story reveals another wonderful fact about our famous Blackman brothers: they had an older sister, Mary Ursula. With her husband Eugene and their son Elmer, the family arrived in Snohomish around the same time as Nina. Trained as a civil engineer, Elmer landed a job immediately as the city and county surveyor. Next, Elmer met and married Sylvia Ferguson, Emory and Lucetta’s eldest. With the birth of their only child, Norman, the Lenfest family eventually out grew tent camping and built a cabin on the beach around the time their son turned eight.

snohomish stories
Brighton Beach at Clinton, Whidbey Island, 1914.
Several tents are visible in this image, which is how the habitation of this summer place began. Off the left hand frame are the cabins of the Blackman Families, still in use though expanded and updated over the years. The first structure in view on the left is the Lenfest Cabin, built in the early 1900s by Elmer and Sylvia. Elmer was the son of the Blackman sister, Mary and Eugene Lenfest; while Sylvia was the first daughter born to Emory and Lucetta Ferguson. In the center, is the cabin built by the Morgans, Lucetta’s parents, currently owned by descendants of the Bakeman family. The image documents a dramatic slide of the hillside behind the cabins, one of many through the years.

Online: “Clinton landside claims another Brighton Beach cabin.” Includes close-up image of the Wood family cabin.

. . . .

More Decorated Bikes and Less Boom! Boom! Booms!

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This month’s historic photo from the Ferguson Family Album leaves me wondering when the decorated bike parades celebrating the Fourth of July ended in Snohomish, and the shopping mall parking lots began, spawning tents selling “small explosive devices primarily designed to produce a large amount of noise, especially in the form of a loud bang; any visual effect is incidental to this goal?” (Wikipedia).

“I remember well the first Fourth of July celebration in Snohomish,” begins city founder, E.C. Ferguson’s remembrance, as recorded in the Everett Daily Herald, February 6, 1902. “It was in 1861 and on the day, without following any preliminary or elaborate program, I took the old Yeger musket that the government furnished in those days to its frontier army — and going outside, blazed away, volley after volley til I thought the day had been suitably observed, and then returned the musket to its accustomed corner. It was a patriotic observance of the day, though there was no one present or within hearing but myself to participate.”

One or two high-wheel bicycles, nicknamed “penny-farthing,” may have been in town on July 2, 1887, but certainly not enough for a parade, when The Eye, published this somber Fourth of July Program:

  • National Salute at sunrise.
  • Music by the Pacific band at 9:30 a.m. on Front street.
  • Exercises on the ground will commence at 10:20:
    Music by the band.
    Prayer by Rev. A. Marcellus.
    Vocal music by the quartette.
    Reading of the Declaration of Independence by J. L. Griffth.
    Vocal music by the quartette.
    Oration by Hon. O. Jacobs.
    Music by the band.
  • Dinner.
  • Races and other sports.
  • Fireworks, Balloon ascension and grand ball in the evening.
  • Sweet cider at Crossman’s.
  •  

    snohomish StoriesA decorated bike parade in 1907 looked promising with the discovery of this half page ad in the June 28 issue of the Snohomish County Tribune.
    (Click thumbnail to enlarge.)
    A column above the ad with the subhead “Decorated for the Celebration” boosted this promise, but alas, no mention of a bike parade. Instead, the copy reads in part: “All arrangements have been completed for the track meet and other sports, such as log rolling, bucking contest, amateur contests, and all other sports. Most of the business houses on First street have signified their willingness and intention of decorating and what would make a better impression on visitors than to see all the stores and offices, as well as private residences, decorated with evergreens and national colors.”
     

    Snohomish Fourth Celebration Quiet as a Quaker Meeting,” reads a subhead in 1910. This is the year Snohomish dedicated its Carnegie Library, seems the town went suddenly studious. In Everett, on the other hand, the celebration got out of hand, according to the story in the Tribune:

    “Thirty thousand people pushed and mauled one another on Hewitt Avenue. The air was full of talcum powder and flour which the unmindful people threw on one another without thought of clothes, or danger to eyes. The fire department drenched the mad joy seekers with a three inch stream. One offensive fellow was locked up and two thousand madcaps rushed to his rescue, overpowering the police and breaking the windows of the station house.”

    Reading this, it seems selling fireworks from a tent in the parking lot shows a slow evolution over the years toward a more composed celebration.

    Along with the newspaper ads and our photograph from the Ferguson Family Album, are the only records we have that decorated bicycle parades were once-upon-a-time a big deal in Snohomish. No less an authority on all things decorated than Martha Stewart reports online that tricked-out bikes have been parading down Main Street on the Fourth in Telluride, Colorado, for 130 years. (You may enjoy the slide show.)

    In any event, may all your Booms! be safe ones this year.

    . . . .

    The Liberty Pole of 1892

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    The liberty pole is visible in Gilbert Horton’s photograph above just right of center. The Masonic Lodge is on the left, across Avenue C from the Odd Fellows Hall. Joe Getchell’s home is on the other side of Knapp & Hinkley Livery whose roof appears on the right.

    Joseph E. Getchell managed to keep his name out of the newspaper — since building “one of the finest residences in Snohomish” — until this item appeared in The Eye, February 10, 1892:

    “The old liberty pole near Masonic hall was cut down this morning. It has for some time leaned toward the Getchell residence, and as the wood had begun to decay at the foot, it was felled as a measure of safety.”

    According to a story in the first volume of River Reflections, published by the Snohomish Historical Society in 1976, the liberty pole was installed July 4, 1884. The Blackman Brothers, members of the Mason’s Centennial Lodge No. 25, donated the pole, a log really, which was 110 feet long, straight as an arrow with a golden ball 12 inches in diameter attached to the top. A two foot thick post was buried several feet into the ground directly in front of the entrance to the hall on 2nd Street, with 10 feet exposed above ground to which the pole was to be attached with heavy iron bands.

    The raising ceremony of the liberty pole began at 10 o’clock in the morning. At 45 degrees, on its way to 90, the rigging jammed and it took the hero logger and former sailor Bill Foss climbing the rigging hand-over-hand to clear the jam-up, which he did safely, and up went the flagpole, raising to its 110 foot, highly varnished glory. At noon, the largest flag in Washington Territory was hoisted into place accompanied by the traditional gunpowder salute by the local Anvil Battery.

    At some point over the eight year life of the flagpole, the Morton Post No. 10 of the Grand Army of the Republic assumed ownership and the Post demanded payment of $100 from Getchell to replace its flagpole. Getchell refused, said the pole was dangerous to his family and that he cut it down by authority of the City Council.

    The Post raised another flagpole in July, several blocks up 2nd Street to Avenue A at the cost of only $20.00.

    . . . .

    What’s with the Goat?

    snohomish stories

    When the Odd Fellows took over the town of Snohomish to mark the 73rd Anniversary of its organization in America, it was front page news in the April 30, 1892, issue of The Eye.
    snohomish stories
    The procession began at the lodge hall on Second and Avenue C, led by a 16 member band and the “historical Goat, which on this occasion wore a Past Grand collar and attracted much attention.” The route took them down Avenue D to First Street, (referred to as “Front Street” in those days), turning left at Cedar, again at Second, then Maple and back down to First, coming to a stop facing the opera house, (Athenaeum or Cathcart Hall), where our local photographer, Frank Perry captured the impressive gathering pictured below.

    snohomish storiesTHEN: 73rd Anniversary of Odd Fellows in America, photographed by F.Perry in Snohomish on April 26, 1892.

    snohomish stories
    NOW: First Street, between Avenues C and D. Only the Wilbur Drug Store building remains, home to the American Legion Post 96, who also owns the parking lot and the former gas station building leased by Andy’s Fish House.

    Inside the opera house, every chair was taken facing the huge American flag covering the entire wall behind the stage. Following the musical opening, W. W. Hewitt’s three raps with the gavel brought the large audience to its feet, when Rev. Mr. Feese offered the prayer. With the audience seated, he followed with some lively remarks, including a “deserved tribute to the Goat who had borne himself so majestically through the parade.”

    Following another song by the choir, Past Grand Representative Kelly of Minnesota spoke of the origin of the order going all the way back to the middle ages, but that it was a “modern organization.” To illustrate his point to the overflowing crowd, he told of more recent beginnings with English working men holding meetings for “social intercourse and hilarity,” but they always came to the aid of a fellow in distress. “From this nucleus Odd Fellowship spread, and was introduced in America 73 years ago by Thomas Wilde,” The Eye’s report continues.

    Seventy-three years later, the American order has more than 700,000 members, and it expends $3,000,000 annually in charity. “Odd Fellowship, said the speaker, closes its doors to atheists, and no man can join unless he is white and believes in God.” However, Odd Fellows was the first national fraternity to accept women when it formed the Daughters of Rebekah in 1851.

    “The ball in the evening was one of the finest ever given in this latitude,” reported The Eye, with its entertaining style: “When it came to dancing the first quadrille, twenty-five sets took the floor. The goat, however was not there.”

    . . . .

    J. S. White’s Family Home, 1888

    Above: J.S. White’s Family Home.
    Built in 1888 at 310 Avenue H, John S. White, and his wife Delia (Lamb), raised their family of three daughters in this modest home. White died here on October 17, 1920, following a long illness. Seattle photographer Otto Greule captured this storybook image early one morning in 2011.

    . . . .

    Looking at the 1890 bird’s-eye illustration below, it could be said that all of Snohomish was built without permits. There are no construction records from this time. Only the sale and purchase of property was recorded in General Indexes maintained by the County Auditor.

    A researcher has to turn to the gossip pages of the early newspapers to learn who was building what for whom. Fortunately for this researcher, my historic person of interest, J.S. White, was a busy architect/builder of businesses and homes for the leaders of early Snohomish, and his doings were noted in The Eye and later in the Snohomish County Tribune.

    A favorite example is from the January 1, 1892, issue of The Eye where the arrival of council members is reported: “Councilman-at-Large White arrived next. He lives in Claytown and carries a lantern.”

    A little background is required to appreciate the editor’s jibe.

    js white story image
    Bird’s Eye View of Snohomish, 1888.

    Legally known as the Clay Addition, Claytown shows up in the bird’s-eye view above as the cluster of homes on the left-hand side. The undeveloped eight-block area between Avenues H and D is Ferguson’s 2nd Addition – lots that he was planing on selling at higher prices, it seems, once railroad travel was established in Snohomish. The “Eye Man” as the editor of The Eye referred to himself, rarely missed an opportunity to remind readers of the workings inside Ferguson’s Snohomish Land Company.

    But it’s the picture created of White walking through Ferguson’s empty lots, on a moonless night, (some council meetings stretched to midnight), enclosed by a flickering aura of bobbing lantern light, that captures the imagination.



    And it’s on this note that the printed version of this column will end. “Snohomish Then and Now” began publishing in the Tribune, January 2007. I appreciate the publisher and editor’s support for sharing the photos and stories of Snohomish’s then-and-now over the past seven years.

    Snohomish Stories will continue here with excerpts from the book I will be writing about J. S. White. My goal is for the words to match the quality of Otto Greule’s portraits of White’s surviving structures from 19th Century Snohomish.

    Otto’s work will be featured in an exhibition at our library for the month of October, 2014. Please save the Thursday evenings of October 2nd and 23rd for presentations by David Dilgard and Otto Greule respectfully.

    David is our favorite carpetbagger, as he refers to himself, from the Everett Public Library’s Northwest Room, who travels frequently upriver with his magic lantern, showing and telling stories of our city’s beginnings. And on the 23rd, also at 7p., Otto will give a presentation about his process of photographing White’s structures.

    Wrapping up the month long exhibition, I will led a 90 minute walking tour of J.S. White’s 19th Century Snohomish, on Sunday, October 26, leaving from the Snohomish Library Branch on Maple Avenue at 2p. sharp.

    . . . .

    Published in the Snohomish County Tribune, September 17, 2014

    The Building That Stopped a Fire!

    snohomish stories

    Meticulously captured by photographer Otto Greule for our project documenting architect White’s surviving structures from 19th-century Snohomish, the Burns Block (1118 First Street) bears the historic name of its eccentric owner, Samuel John Burns.

    “A Man Who Loves Money More than Comfort,” announced The Eye’s sub-head in a report of his paralysis in 1892. “John Burns, the long-haired old fellow, with unkempt beard and a small dog,” the report begins, “has lived in the low wooden shack that stands in the shadow of the brick block bearing his name.”

    Knowing this, you have to wonder about Burns’ relationship with his architect/contractor J. S. White … a little gossip would help my story just about now. In any event, their collaboration resulted in Snohomish’s grandest building, and a hero, as well, if a building can play that role.

    It was the great Snohomish fire of 1911, when in the middle of night, the wooden buildings on both sides of First Street, starting near Avenue B, were fully engaged in flames and smoke. On the south side of First, the fire burned the wooden buildings built on pilings until it ran out of fuel at the intersection of Avenue C.

    Across the street, however, the fire’s raging westward movement was stopped by the three story tall Burns Block acting as a firewall.

    This story was one of the favorites told on our tour with Emerson third graders this past May, judging by their thank you notes.

    snohomish storiesThank You note from an Emerson third grader for leading a walking tour in May 2014.

    The building is related to fire from another direction, as well. In 1889, the older, waterfront part of Seattle burned to the ground started by the infamous glue pot. The lesson taken from that disaster, which the Snohomish Fire Department helped fight, was that all commercial building would be built of brick. And the Burns Block is built of home made bricks.

    Today, our grandest building wears its red bricks as many badges of courage, standing tall in the afternoon sun.

    As for the miser Burns, who listed himself as a “capitalist” in the 1888 Polk Directory, he died at age 66. A single man, his body was returned to New Brunswick, Canada for burial in the family plot. His extensive real-estate holdings in Snohomish were divided among his six siblings.

    . . . .

    Published in the Snohomish County Tribune, July 16, 2014

    2. The Ferguson Family

    ferguson family

    ABOVE: Ferguson Family Portrait, c.1890.
    From the left: Ivy Maude, born 1875, Lucetta, Sylvia M., born 1869, Emory Canda, with son Cecil, born 1881, on his lap. Taken around the time the family moved into their new home, a mansion, located on the site of Snohomish Aquatic Center.

    All images courtesy Ferguson Family | Snohomish Historical Society Archives.

    Our story about the founding family of Snohomish began last month with a photograph taken by Ivy Ferguson of her family home. It was under construction in 1889, and it’s possible that this month’s studio portrait of the Ferguson family was taken to celebrate the move into their grand new residence .

    Let’s imagine we are going to call on the family to pay our respects and offer our congratulations on their new home.

    20100104-fergusoncardFirst, we need to check Mrs. E. C. Ferguson’s calling card to confirm that “Wednesday” is in the lower left hand corner – this is the day the lady of the house receives visitors. Next, we will need to rent a horse and carriage, assuming we don’t own our own rig, since the home is too far out of town to walk with any dignity remaining once we arrived.

    The oldest livery in town is Knapp and Hinkley’s on 2nd, but who among us knows how to a handle a horse and buggy? Chris Gee, president of the our historical society has the equestrian skills required, and with a little faith in time travel, we arrive at the Ferguson Mansion, north of town where the Snohomish Aquatic Center will be built in a 118 years.

    Eldest daughter, Sylvia, greets us at the door. She is quite tall, with piercing eyes and a slow, knowing smile lights up her face as she scans our strange clothes. Sylvia thinks a lot about the future. The gossip around town is that her father is footing the bill for her journey to Hawaii, a destination made popular by Mark Twain’s book “Roughing It in the Sandwich Islands, Hawaii in the 1860’s.” Sylvia attended the Territorial University in Seattle, studying the Classics, and is comfortably self-possessed.

    ferguson family

    Her mother, Lucetta, is playing the piano, loudly, a tune we don’t recognize of course, but she stops immediately and stands to greet us, making us feel very welcome. Seated in the front room, we try to follow her plans for more furnishings, since the room seemed stuffed to our modern eyes, but we are fortunately interrupted by Ivy who has entered with a tray of tea cups, pot and a plate of really tiny cakes.

    Lucetta was born in Iowa to Mary Jane (Trout) and Hiram D. Morgan. By the time Lucetta Gertrude Morgan turned 11, the family was living in Olympia Washington Territory. Eight years later, she met Emory Ferguson during his service as a legislator. What a lucky break for both seasoned pioneers. An eligible woman from hardy stock meets the founder of his own town who now wants to found a family. They were joined in marriage, July 11, 1868, at the home of her parents in Thurston County.

    “And I was born 13 months later,” announces Sylvia, stopping the conversation cold.

    To be continued….

    . . . .

    Published in the Snohomish County Tribune, February 19, 2014