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 were 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.
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, in January 2007. I appreciate the publisher and editor’s support in sharing the photos and stories of Snohomish 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.
About the photographs: The modest home was built in 1888 at 310 Avenue H, John S. White, and his wife Delia (Lamb), raised their family of three daughters in this cozy home. White died here on October 17, 1920, following a long illness. Seattle photographer Otto Greule captured this storybook image early one morning in 2009.
The story of how the Bird’s Eye illustration came to be is told in J. S. White, Our First Architect on pages 42-43.
Published in the Snohomish County Tribune, September 17, 2014.