Historic Chandelier Discovered Above Drop-ceiling

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Last month I invited readers to checkout our second essay, Odd Fellows Hall, 1886, written for a book project with photographer Otto Greule documenting pioneer architect J. S. White’s surviving structures from 19th-Century Snohomish.

It needs a new ending.

Just this weekend I’ve had the opportunity, along with Snohomish City’s Planning Manager Owen Dennison and my partner Mayor Karen, to checkout the historic lighting fixtures discovered above the acoustical drop ceiling system installed on the second floor of the historic hall.

The Eye described the interior of the hall in its April 24, 1886, issue in part:

“The floor is covered with a three-ply Brussels carpet of a very pretty figure, while a handsome burnished brass chandelier ornaments the center.”

For sure, no trace of the carpet remains, but above the drop ceiling, owners Nicole and Matt, discovered still hanging lamp fixtures — one in the center of the large open room, used for the lodge’s ceremonies, and two in the corners at the east end of the room. More research is required to date exactly the existing fixtures which are now electrically wired of course. During the era when the hall was built, 1885, it was uncertain if electric lighting would really displace gas.

With access to the attic, above the original ceiling, we would look for evidence of gas pipe installation. But one item that requires no more investigation is the floral themed chandelier medallion — it has to be original. A longer ladder will be needed to reach the medallion in order to determine what it’s made of, either wood or plaster.

My essay’s current ending, under the heading: “Building for Lease,” reads:

“The ponytailed man who renovated the historic structure in the late 1990s died, and ownership passed to his daughter in 2006. Lease negotiations with the realty company, once an owner and then a tenant for over 40 years, broke down. In 2013, both the realty company and the daycare center moved to new locations, while White’s Odd Fellows Hall sits empty and silent.

Since meeting Nicole, the “daughter” in the story above, I am happy to report that she is in negotiations with a party interested in the renting the building; and even happier to learn, that Nicole is exploring her options for historic restoration. It’s a brave intention.

We wish Nicole our best and look forward to following this story to its happy ending.

. . . .

Bids Wanted, circa 1885

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The call for bids appeared in the October 17, 1885, issue of The Eye on page three.

Wish we knew how many contractors answered the call. For all the good the Odd Fellows organization did and are doing, saving records is not one of them. In 2012, I tried to track down any records from the Snohomish Lodge and I came up empty handed except for meeting the wonderful couple of Frank and Betty Green.

From reading the accounts of circa 1885 Snohomish, I can remember coming across the names of only one contractor, A. H. Eddy; and one architect, P. Boyce — but J. S. White got the job.

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The Odd Fellows Hall, to the right of the Masonic Hall, was dedicated April 20, 1886. This scan of a newsprint photo by Gilbert Horton of the fraternal hall “face-off” across Avenue C was widely published. The Masonic Hall was built in 1879 and destroyed in 1958 by the members who sold the property as the parking lot it is today when the organization moved to it’s new building at 6th and Avenue B. Take note of the 100 foot plus flag pole, a very straight, long log, a little right of center — it has it’s own story.

. . . .

Christmas Greetings, 1901

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A newsprint copy of this rare historic photograph of a church service in progress was found in the Methodist church folder on file in the Snohomish Historical Society Archives, with the caption: “1901 was a good year to hold a Christmas pageant. This one at the First Methodist Church in Snohomish came complete with all the trimmings including ten angels on front stage. Photo, courtesy Everett Library Historical Collection.”

I contacted the always helpful David Dilgard, History Specialist with the Northwest Room at the Everett Public Library, and he sent along a digital scan of the 4×5 inch negative of an original contact print in the Snohomish County Museum collection, now the Everett History Museum. The only information listed with the negative was the same as indicated above.

As to the service captured, evidently by a hobbyist, a proud parent most likely, it’s an intriguing mystery. Something to do with Advent, I guessed, and found a service called “Hanging of the Greens” that’s celebrated on the first Sunday of the four week Advent observance. Reader’s are invited to contribute their thoughts in the comments below.

A draft of the first essay of the J. S. White: Our First Architect, The Methodist Church, 1885 is available online

. . . .

When the Methodists Moved to be Higher Than the Catholics

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Working on the first essay of the J.S. White Story this past month, it appears that John and his wife Delia, along with their three daughters, Linnie, Alice and Elise, moved to Snohomish specifically to build the newly formed Methodist Congregation its own church.

Two newspapers reported that the White arrived in February 1884. Two months later, the April 12th issue of The Eye reports: “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.” Then in November we read: “About all of the lumber for the new Methodist church, which is to be built on the corner of D. and Third streets, is on the ground, and carpenters will commence work in a few days. Its dimensions are 28×50 feet.”

Further digging revealed that joining the Whites as Trustees of the new church, were Mr. and Mrs. Mudgett; and, Isaac Mudgett was born in the same New Hampshire town as John White. The Mudgetts arrived in town in 1883 and within two years they had a home in the Clay Addition on Avenue H, just a few doors North from where the White’s would build their family home. Isaac was a bootmaker by trade, but once settled in the Snohomish Valley, he added his own saw mill to the cluster of small, family run operations around Snohomish.

Without the exchange of letters between Isaac and John, we are left with our imagination to make the connection. But it’s also a matter of common sense to think that White had a promise of work before moving his family and household goods to this remote river front town.

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THEN: The Methodist and Catholic churches along Third Street photographed by Index resident Lee Pickett in 1910, just before the Methodists moved their church higher on the hill to its current location. The Methodist’s built the second church in Snohomish in 1885; and the Catholic Church was the third, dedicated in 1889.

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NOW: (Above) Looking west down Third with the Methodist Church on the corner of Avenue B. Architectural photographer Otto Greule is capturing the structure for our book project: J. S. White: Our First Architect, in 2009.

Karen and I renovated the former St Michael Catholic Church between the years of 1994 and 2000, when we moved to Snohomish. Several times we were told the story that the Methodists’ moved their church from Avenue C, up the hill, to B because they wanted to be higher than the Catholics. We laughed and got back to work.

Can you imagine that being the reason given in the church’s history, published in 1983, celebrating 100 years?

Of course not. It was because more room was needed to add a Sunday School and three lots on the southeast corner of Avenue B and Third were purchased in 1908. Two years later, White’s gentle structure was indeed moved uphill and placed on top of a full, concrete basement, that eventually included a kitchen. Church membership numbered around 200 at the time.

It served well until the 1980s, when it was clear that the historic structure was too small and five acres were purchased northwest of Blackman Lake. The 1983 account ends with completion of architectural plans for the new church — their current home.

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Captured from the internet in a search for “moving structures with horses.” Note the dirt path that was 3rd Street in the historic photo above — it was labeled “not fit for teams” on the Sanborn Insurance maps — meaning that it would be a tough go for the Fire Department horses pulling the pump and hoses!

. . . .

White Family Arrives, 1884

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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.

. . . .

John S. White arrived in Snohomish aboard a slow steamer followed by a weak wake of records going back to his birth on July 13, 1845, in the small town of Tamworth, New Hampshire.

The 1870 Census recorded White living in Walnut, Butler County, Kansas, age 25, single, working as a house carpenter and living in a hotel kept by his future wife’s brother, Charles Lamb.

January 1871, John S. White married Delia R. Lamb, daughter of Galand Lamb and Lucy Weston, in Kansas. Delia was born about 1853 in Fort Wayne, Allen County, Indiana.

The 1880 Census listed John, his wife Delia and daughters Linnie and Alice living in Topeka, Shawnee County, Kansas, where he was a carpenter.

White’s young family, now including a third daughter, Elise, disembarks from the steamer by way of a precarious plank connecting the ship to the wharf. There, Delia huddles with her daughters, watching, as the picturesque tableau of people who were waiting for the steamer is now animated and it’s chaos. People shouting, dogs barking, horse-drawn buggies and carts jockeying for a position to load, and operators of a dozen Indian canoes jockey for a job hauling the Boston’s cargo. The stack of household trunks and packages that John has assembled behind his family is beyond our imagination. Still, they stand, watching, frozen — for an instant, they are a living monument to evidence that there is life outside Snohomish.

The White’s new home town is a self-sustaining settlement sited in the sunshine on 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 to the west; but in February, 1884, Snohomish is not only the county seat, but it’s also home to two roller skating rinks.

. . . .

Photographer Otto Greule

otto greule

Exhibition of Photographs: Ten Surviving Structures by
J. S. White from 19th-Century Snohomish by Otto Greule

Along with the following programs at the Snohomish Library
311 Maple Avenue

Thursday, 10/23 at 7p —
“Making the Photographs”
with Seattle Architectural Photographer Otto Greule
Free including refreshments
Checkout the story in the Herald!

snohomish stories Snohomish History Buffs Rewarded with Sunshine!
Thanks to all for showing up and helping me with the expenses of this month-long event.

Sunday, 10/26 at 2p —
Guided Walking Tour of J.S. White’s 19th Century Snohomish
with yours truly — suggested donation $10, space is limited —

J. S. White’s Family Home, 1888

jswhite story image

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 the 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 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.

snohomish stories imageBird’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 planning 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 lead 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

Blackman Grocery Store, 1889

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In the late 1940s, an automobile dealership on the south side of First Street collapsed toward the Snohomish River, its foundation compromised by continued flooding. A block-long row of connected, one-story storefront buildings, built of local brick, was condemned and sat empty for nearly twenty years.

During this time, Snohomish’s main drag moved to Second Street, which was extended to reach the new U.S. Route 2, north of town — splitting the old cemetery in two. By the 1960s, however, the question on business leader’s minds was how to bring people back into our empty downtown? Urban renewal funds supported a study that recommended tearing down all of the old buildings on the river side of First Street, along with those condemned two decades before, then update the remaining buildings to give Snohomish the look of a Riverside Shopping Mall!

snohomish storiesArtist rendering of a First Street urban renewal proposal in 1965. Implementing this plan would have prevented Snohomish’s downtown from being listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.

An editorial on October 28, 1965, summed it up this way: “Snohomish hasn’t sunk that low, yet.”

Two buildings designed by J. S. White would have been lost with that scheme: the A. M. Blackman Grocery Store (913 First) and Wilbur’s Drugstore Building (1201 First). Gone, too, would have been at least two stories about the flourishing of frontier Snohomish. The Lot Wilbur story is told here. It’s Arthur M. Blackman’s turn this month.

snohomish storiesBorn in the State of Maine in 1865, Arthur’s family settled in Oakland, California when he was only 11 years old. At age 20, Arthur set out for Snohomish arriving on Christmas day, 1885.

Since the California Blackman’s had grocery store business experience in their background, we suspect that the Snohomish cousins requested Arthur’s help in opening Blackman’s first grocery store at the northeast corner of Avenue C and First.

Within in a couple of years, however, Arthur was ready to open his own store and commissioned the contractor J.S. White to build the handsome building that is currently home to the Oxford Saloon.

Arthur’s grocery store ​ ​failed in 1894, as did a lot of businesses, victims of the 1893 nationwide depression.

“Then it was a furniture store, a shoe store, and became the Oxford Pool Room during the Prohibition,” reported David Dilgard, History Specialist with the Everett Public Library on his 2006 walking tour, “and apparently began its career as a tavern during the Second World War.”

It was on David’s tour that I first heard the name “J. S. White.”

Arthur turned to logging work on the river until appointed Snohomish Postmaster in 1896, serving with distinction until his retirement in 1913. He died in 1929, but records are not clear if he is buried in Everett or in our local GAR Cemetery where a simple stone marker with his name is holding a spot alongside his wife Adeliza, who preferred to be called “Buddy.”

. . . .

Published in the Snohomish County Tribune, August 20, 2014

The Building That Stopped a Fire!

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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

J. S. White’s Building, 1893

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The graceful red brick building at 924 First Street was called the Princess Theater Building when I led my first walking tour of historic downtown Snohomish in 2005. Six years later I went digging for more news about the Princess Theater for a HistoryLink.org Cybertour, and came up surprisingly empty handed. Surprising because who ever heard of a theater that didn’t advertise?

snohomish storiesThe Princess Theater. This fuzzy image included on page 46 of the Snohomish Historical Society’s “River Reflections, Volume One,” published in 1975, evidently gave the building at 924 First Street its name over the years although no record has been found of the theater’s life in Snohomish; nor a better photograph.

Reaching a dead-end and a deadline, I wrote what I had about the building which you can read today on the HistoryLink.org website; but do it soon, because the entry will be changed to reflect its new name, “The White Building.”

The story begins with a four line report in The Weekly Eye, December 29, 1888:
“E. C. Ferguson this week sold a portion of the lot at the corner of First and A streets, with 25 feet frontage to J.S. White, the architect and builder; for $40 a front foot.”

But no follow up and no building appears on the Sanborn Insurance maps? Three years later, in the December 22, 1892 issue, a news item jumps out announcing that White’s corner lot is being graded for a shooting gallery! The plot thickens whenever guns are involved.

Fast forward to a mention in the April 27, 1893, issue:
“A scowload of stone for the foundation of J. S. White’s building at First street and Avenue A has arrived from the Chuckanut quarry.”

Picture a barge floating low, loaded down with stone coming upriver.

The following month, an issue over property lines was raised in the City Council Chambers by White’s attorney Hart who claimed that the Palace Saloon, next door, was four inches over its property line and asked the council to have it removed.
“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 report concluded. A subsequent meeting recorded the numbers without determination if the saloon was over the line.

White finished his two-story building and welcomed his first tenant, The City of Paris boutique occupying the first floor. The same issue, August 10, 1893, reported this tidbit about the odd layout of the second floor:
“People who have observed the arrangement of the rooms in the second floor of White’s new building have wondered what they were intended for. The plumbing is unusually elaborate, there are two bathrooms, a kitchen with a place for a range, a dining room, ample closets, and all necessary accommodations for housekeeping on a large scale. Yesterday Mr. White disclosed the fact that he put up the building and arranged the upper story as described at the instance of a city physician who desired to occupy it as a hospital. Mr. White added that the physician had changed his mind and that any responsible party who wants to rent a hospital is invited to call and inspect the premises.”

In a plot twist from the pages of a mystery, the new Bakeman Furniture Building, just down the street on the southeast corner of Avenue B, burns to the ground on September 15, 1893, following an unsuccessful incendiary incident in July.

SONY DSC

The Weekly Eye, September 21, 1893
No loss of life reported, but the city council lost its meeting place. The editor showed restraint with no mention of how fitting it was for our council members to be meeting in a hospital.

. . . .

Published in the Snohomish County Tribune, June 18, 2014