A large number of different Indian tribes and bands inhabited the
Pacific Northwest region with varied life-styles and different
languages, dress, ceremonies, and adornments. Tribal characteristics are
generally distinguished between the coastal tribes of western Washington
and those of the interior. In general, the coastal tribes depended on
the rivers and tidal waters for staple foods whereas the interior tribes
relied more heavily upon plants and berries, as well as game and other
The Snohomish and Snoqualmie River valleys were the traditional and
current homeland for a number of Indian tribes of the Coast Salish
groups including the Tulalips, Pilchucks, Snohomish, and Snoqualmie (Snuqualmi)
Indian Tribes. Archaeologists and historians have verified tribal
village sites throughout the Puget Lowlands including some reported
sites that date 2,000 to 8,000 years before the Christian era.
In historic times, large permanent winter villages flourished along
the Snohomish, Pilchuck, and Snoqualmie Rivers. The early tribes had no
form of agriculture and no domesticated animals, except the dog. The
tribes lived by hunting, fishing, and gathering. The people who lived in
the Puget Lowlands depended largely on seafood - salmon and
shellfish, supplemented by berries and roots. The tribes built
substantial wooden houses, often big enough to house a number of
families, clustered into small villages.
The Indian population before the Europeans first came into the
Pacific Northwest is estimated to have numbered 75,000 or possibly twice
that number, divided into about 125 tribal groups. Early records
indicate there may have been up to 1,000 Tulalip, Snohomish, Pilchuck,
and Snoqualmie Indians within the local area in the early 1800s. Tribal
numbers were subsequently reduced by small pox and tuberculosis
epidemics to about 600 to 700 by 1858.
Today, many descendants of the Snohomish and Pilchuck Tribes live on
the Tulalip Indian Reservation on Tulalip Bay north of Everett. The
Tribes maintain tribal identity and individual members are also active
members of the larger community.
Early Snohomish River Valley
The earliest white settlers arrived in the Snohomish River valley in
1858 from Seattle. The early settlers were drawn to the area because the
flat land and deep soils of the valley were suitable for agriculture
pursuits. The lumber industry arrived in the valley in the 1880s
following the development of the railroads.
During the 1880s and 1890's, a number of embryonic railroad lines
were established across Washington State including the Seattle,
Lakeshore & Eastern (SL&E). The SL&E constructed and
operated the first railroad line from Tacoma through Seattle around Lake
Washington and through the Bothell-Snohomish area to the Skagit River
and Mount Vernon. The line was eventually absorbed into the Burlington
Northern Railroad system until the line was abandoned by the railroad
and converted into the Burke Gilman/Sammamish River Trail.
Numerous mills were built during this time, although fires and the
economic panic of 1893 abandoned many original sites. Logging resumed on
a large scale in 1902 reaching a peak in 1908. Early town sites were
platted during this time coinciding with the continued development of
Farming and timber production dominated land use activities from
about 1900 to mid-century. The towns that survived the earlier hard
times, like Snohomish, developed into service and cultural centers for
agriculture and logging populations. As logging activities subsided,
dairy and truck farming businesses claimed the valley floors and
sustained the early towns’ economic base.
Cadyville - named after E. T.
Cady, one of the original homesteaders, began in 1859 as a scheme to
capitalize on a military road which, however, never materialized. E. C.
Ferguson and several other men planned to build a town and operate a
ferry where the proposed road would cross the Snohomish River. Congress
abandoned plans for the road, but Ferguson continued with the town
scheme, changing the name from Cadyville to Snohomish.
In 1861 - Snohomish was established as the county seat. The city
flourished as a port along the steamboat line over the following 30-year
period. Hotels, stores, churches and at one time as many as 42 saloons
were constructed in the town. The Athenaeum Society provided a forum for
the cultivation of culture and the examination of life; and a newspaper,
the Northern Star, was founded in 1876.
In 1884, the local sawmill was producing 20,000 board feet of lumber
per day. The Seattle, Lakeshore, and Eastern Railroad (SL&E) started
rail service in 1888 between Snohomish and Seattle. In 1890, the City of
Snohomish was incorporated.
In 1895 - the city lost the county seat to Everett - the result of a
controversial and contested countywide vote. Snohomish' s early glory
faded as a result of losing the county seat contest.
Major catastrophes - befell the
town in years following. Major fires in 1893 and 1911 disrupted business
- 35 were destroyed in the 1911 fire alone. The region flooded during
the winter of 1921 illustrating the problem created by developing the
city in the low-lying floodplains. However, business continued to
develop and the population increased, with logging-related industries
including a sawmill and a lumber-finishing plant, being major employers.
Industrial development –
occurred in town including agricultural processing plants, creameries, a
milk condenser, canneries, and meatpacking. The Milwaukee Road Railroad,
Great Northern, and Northern Pacific all developed rail service through
Everett, Seattle, and other regional centers. An interurban railway was
also built between Snohomish and Everett. By 1920, the population grew
to a little over 3,000 - a number that would remain relatively stable
for the next 40 years.
The Depression - the "great
depression" into which the country had fallen in the 1930s was not
acutely felt in Snohomish, partly because the local economy was largely
agricultural and family-farm based. Snohomish General Hospital was
closed in the 1940s. Snohomish Airfield (Harvey Field) was started in
1945 with a government- sponsored flight program.
Area flood control measures were funded in the 1950s and the city's
Centennial was celebrated in 1959. During the 1960s, an addition was
constructed on to the Carnegie Library and the Everett Boeing plant was
built at Paine Field providing jobs for local populations and an
increased demand for local housing.
In 1974 - the Seattle-Snohomish Mill was totally destroyed by fire. A
sawmill had operated on the property since 1900. Bob Waltz chose to
rebuild the mill and help maintain the economy of Snohomish.
In 1975 - the worst flood in Snohomish history occurred. Over 300
homes were damaged and 3,500 head of cattle and other livestock died –
despite rescue efforts.
In the 1980s - Snohomish became a bedroom community for Everett and
King County area workers. Although the city continued to maintain an
agricultural base, the Snohomish School District became the major
employer as enrollment in the public school system swelled as a result
of surrounding area residential growth. The majority of the population
shifted outside city limits, with farmlands under development into small
acreage homesteads and rural plats. Major land value areas
shifted from within the city to the outlying areas. The population
climbed dramatically, topping 6,000 in incorporated areas. City
government had to deal with major infrastructure improvements.
In the 1990s - the city continued significant growth and planned for
additional expansion. Vacant lots within the city have almost completely
built-out, increasingly for multifamily housing projects. Infrastructure
upgrades, particularly sewer, storm, and transportation
are required to support the growing population - estimated at 7,850 in
1997. Overcrowding in the schools has become a serious problem. Twice in
1997, school building bond measures failed in the elections. A 2-year
maintenance and operation levy failed in March 1998, but after revision,
barely passed in an April 1998 election.
Historic Business District
In 1973, the city adopted a Historic District Ordinance protecting
historic buildings and structures from inappropriate alterations and
demolitions – and encouraging the design of
new constructions in keeping with the historic character of the
district. In 1974, the Historic Business District, a 36-block area, was
placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Historic Business District is located on a gentle south-facing
slope overlooking the Snohomish River. Ferguson Park, Hill Park, and the
public library preserve stands of large trees that define the horizon of
many local views. Mature street trees, alleys and sidewalks are defining
features of the district, in addition to the buildings. Pedestrian
activity is an important feature of the district.
The Historic Business District is laid out on a modified north-south
oriented grid system. Standard right-of-ways are 80-feet with a 40-foot
wide paved street. Historic residential areas are located generally to
the north of the district with mixed use in the Maple/Pine Avenue area
and to the east of the district. The area includes multifamily,
single-family, retail and light industrial uses, and a number of older
Commercial Architecture – the
1880-1930 period is the defining era of the commercial buildings in the
Historic Business District. District commercial buildings range from 1
to 3 stories with brick, wood siding and stucco exteriors. Most
buildings provide first floor
storefronts and retail with upper floor retail, restaurant, lodging,
office and residential uses.
Buildings are located at the front property line with front door
on-street parking and service access from rear alleys. Windows are
vertical and repeated across the facade on both bottom and upper
stories. First floors typically have large storefront windows with glass
store doors and taller ceilings than upper floors. Awnings and recessed
entries are common features. Skylights were used to some extent in
commercial buildings. Building ornamentation commonly includes cornice
and window detailing. The most prominent buildings in the Historic
Business District have well-defined cornices. Hipped tile roofs and flat
'western' front facades are typical. Flowerpots and corner street trees
are commonly provided on First Street, and lawn planter strips on
Buildings on the south side of First Street are 1-2 story,
night-oriented activities like taverns and movie theaters. Buildings on
the north side of First Street are 2-3 story with day-oriented uses like
retail shops, bakery, and ice cream with some upper floor residential
flats. The lower height of buildings on the south side of the street
provides winter solar access improving the microclimate and supporting
year-round economic viability of the outdoor shopping street.
Residential Architecture - homes
in the Historic Business District date from the 1860s to the present,
with an emphasis on the years prior to 1920. Residential buildings
display a range of turn-of-the-century styles including Craftsman
Bungalow, Queen Anne Victorian, Shingle, Beaux Arts, Gothic Revival,
Italianate, Cottage, Colonial Revival and
Wood is the predominant material, but brick, stone and stucco are
Historic home roofs were either cedar shingle or composition. Cedar
shakes were not typically used. Roof pitches were steep, often 10:12 or
12:12, with substantial eaves. The steep pitch provided an otherwise
1-story home with a usable upstairs for bedrooms. Porches were common.
Windows were vertical and often grouped in twos and threes. Windows,
doors, and building corners were finished with wide wood trim sometimes
with wider trim and/or cornices at the top. Skylights were not used.
Houses were set back from the street a uniform distance, with garages or
sheds located behind the main structure with access from an alley. Yards
were large in relation to the building’s footprint with lawns and
substantial space between structures. Houses varied in size throughout
the district, but generally were approximately the same size within a
neighborhood. Picket fences were widely used.
Other Buildings - the visual
character of the city is also influenced by other buildings including
churches, the old Armory at Second Street and Union Avenue, Carnegie
Library, government buildings (including the former Post Office), and
public schools. Also visually significant are the garages, woodsheds,
utility buildings, and shacks that occur with
houses on building lots (120 Avenue C, for example), and generally
located along alleyways.
The Snohomish Historical Society
- was established to acquire, preserve, and perpetuate the artifacts and
history of the greater Snohomish area as well as to educate and
distribute historical information to those interested in the area’s
history. The Society currently owns and operates the following