Looking Back: Gertie Perrin’s Perrinville

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Perrinville as it looks today.
Perrinville as it looks today.

When Carl Perrin returned to their comfortable home in downtown Edmonds and told his wife Gertie they had just become owners of a few acres of land a few miles northeast and they were moving. Gertie’s comeback to him was “If I am moving to the sticks, then I am starting me a town.”

True or not—we will never know. Gertie was quite the story teller. However, one thing we can be sure of, Gertie did head for the Snohomish County Courthouse in Everett, paid 10 cents and registered their land as a future town site in the year 1939 — and Perrinville was born.

Born in Nind, Adair County, Missouri Aug. 11, 1893, Jennie Gertrude “Gertie” Osborn grew up in a large family. This was a family that for many years seemed to always be on the move. Gertie was 8 years old when travel-minded Mr. Osborn, a carpenter, had the urge to move to California. Mr. and Mrs. Osborn packed up their belongings and their four children and headed west. Another child joined the family — born in Colorado during their travels. Three more came along while they lived in California.

The Osborns settled in Redwood in Santa Cruz County. This is where they lived when the disastrous earthquake hit San Francisco in 1906. From their yard, Gertie and her family watched as the flames and smoke rose from the stricken town. During an interview with Gertie featured in Centennial Profile published in “Edmonds, 100 years for the Gem of Puget Sound” (1990), she told of her remembrances of their house shaking a great deal, but luckily there was no damage.

At the age of 16, Gertie ventured into marriage. It was to be a very short one. When Gertie was 17, and single again, her father decided it was time to move on. This time the family headed north and in 1910, the Osborns reached the shores of Puget Sound and the young town of Edmonds. Mr. Osborn seemed satisfied with the little lumber town and the family settled down.

Gerti Perrin (Photo courtesy of Edmonds Museum)
Gerti Perrin (Photo courtesy of Edmonds Museum)

At the age of 20 years old in 1913, Gertie met a young man and she tried marriage again.  Her new husband Andrew Henson was from Illinois; 25 years old, he was working as a sawyer along the waterfront in Edmonds at one of the sawmills. It was another short marriage; ending in 1918.

In 1922, Gertie’s father had one more trip to make — his final one. The family lost their breadwinner to death that year. Now known as Gertie Henson, Gertie stepped up to help her mother support the family. She waited tables and she cooked at the town’s hotels. Working at a restaurant she met the manager, tall, good-looking Carl Perrin, a transplant from Arkansas and Eastern Washington. They married in 1931. In 1932 their only child, Carl O. “Skip” Perrin, was born.

Gertie once said she had been cooking since she was 9 years old. She must have been good at it, as through the years Gertie operated or managed at least five restaurants in Edmonds. She also opened the first antique shop in town at Third and Main. She then owned and managed a doll shop which she called “Gertie’s Doll Hospital.” That business in the Kuzmoff Building was destroyed by a fire in 1945. While Gertie was busy with her businesses, Carl Perrin was equally busy with his roofing work.

Gertie was feisty, she was a go-getter, and everyone in town knew Gertie. In 1946, Gertie encouraged her good friend Helen Reynolds to open a photography studio on Main Street in Edmonds. A very striking photograph of Carl Perrin was a long-time display in the front window of the photo shop.

Carl Perrin
Carl Perrin

Carl Perrin

By the 1940s, the Perrins had established their home in Perrinville.  Eventually, they would own 35 acres of the land around the intersection of Olympic View Drive and 76th Avenue West. A village rather than a town, Perrinville became an eclectic assortment of businesses. One of those was Carl’s Perrinville Roofing Company.  Carl did not live to see the complete development of their “town.”  After 34 years of marriage to Gertie, Carl died on June 9, 1965. Gertie continued to promote the merits of settling in Perrinville.

The settlement at Perrinville Crossroads, just like Gertie, drew the attention of the public. In the 1970s, on the southwest corner, a car wash business opened — its claim to fame was the good-looking scantily clad young women hired to wash the cars. With the opening of this car wash there was a rise in the number of fender benders at the intersection.

In 1987, a talented artist by the name of Noonan painted a large picture of a colorful clown on the door of the garage located on the southwest corner. The clown looked as if he was breaking through the door. This was another eye-catcher for the corner. Still remembered, numerous Innternet sites feature the painting of the Perrinville Clown.

Perrinville Clown (Photo by Bob Sears)
Perrinville Clown (Photo by Bob Sears)

Later when the building was painted and a new garage door installed, someone must have thought the door looked empty and they hung a crudely rendered cutout of a paper clown to replace the painting. Today the door is bare and the corner looks rather unremarkable; the village of Perrinville seems to have lost some of its ambience.

Paper Clow (Photo by Bob Sears)
Paper Clown (Photo by Bob Sears)

As the years passed, all of Gertie’s Perrinville property was sold, except the house where she lived. She died Oct. 4, 1991 at the age of 98. Gertie sleeps at Restlawn Memorial Park in Edmonds, where her gravestone reads “Jennie Gertrude Perrin, Founder of Perrinville.”  Gertie and Carl’s only child “Skip” Perrin, was in the 1950 class at Edmonds High School when he enlisted in the Army that year to serve in the Korean conflict. He died in 2010 in Las Vegas, Nevada. He left no offspring.

Now shared by the cities of Edmonds and Lynnwood, Gertie’s Perrinville never was an official town. However, its name appears on maps, and it is recognized by our federal government as the site of the U.S. Postal Service, Perrinville Carrier Facility, Edmonds, WA 98026.

By Betty Lou Gaeng

A long-time resident of Lynnwood, Betty Lou Gaeng is a genealogist, historian, researcher and writer who is active in volunteer work for Lynnwood’s Heritage Park Partners Advisory Committee and the Alderwood Manor Heritage Association at Heritage Park. She is also a member of the League of Snohomish County Heritage Organizations (LOSCHO) and the South County Historical Society and Museum. Gaeng is the author of two books: “Etched in Stone,” which is the history of the Edmonds Museum memorial monument, and “Chirouse” about a Catholic missionary priest who came from France to Washington Territory in 1847 and became a father figure and friend to the Puget Sound area’s Native people.

16 COMMENTS

  1. Thanks for this great piece! I’ve always wondered while rolling through the strange little town of Perrinville how it came about.

  2. We bought our house north of Perrinville in ’83 and have been driving through Perrinville almost daily. We have always wondered, “Why?”. Good to know the back story. Slight correction….I remember the car wash (who wouldn’t?!) but it was more like late ’80’s. Thanks!

    • Mike is correct. That gal was washing the cars right about the same time that clown was painted. It was right after I returned from going to school in Maine, so that would have been the summer of ’87. She might have still been there in the summer of ’88 as well.

    • I lived near Perrinville in the 80s and the “car wash/lawn mower repair” shop was there at that time. As an adult, I have been told that it was a front for prostitution.

  3. Many thanks Betty Lou, for sharing your talents through the history of Perrinville!
    Beautfully written story of a “pioneer”…
    Eve Wellington

  4. Still look for that clown…really miss him as I drive through there almost daily. Now I often wonder if a “Pot Shop” might be a nice addition – for the Edmonds/Lynnwood coffers if nothing else.There are no daycares, schools, etc. nearby to prevent one from opening, but then I don’t know all the rules. It just feels like Perrinville’s potential has never been realized and that seems like such a waste. Hey, I know❗ A pot smoking clown: “Cannabis Clem Cadiddlehopper”, “Bozo’s Bongs”…(actually serious)

  5. As an Edmonds Public Works Employee through the 70’s and 80’s we would occasionally see Gertie walking along the roads near her “village”. Spunky gal would step into the road waving a cane if she saw our work truck coming along and insist on a ride up or down the hill to or from 196th St. Maybe we shouldn’t have, but just couldn’t deny her a lift the half dozen or so times she flagged us down. Colorful and memorable lady.
    Another couple of mention were Charles (Klondike) and Mrs. Stone from up on the Union Oil hill. She was an Edmonds elementary school teacher and he was a retired railroad telegraph operator from the far north. Klondike was a major character to cross paths with too on his weekly trips to “Downtown”, Edmonds that is.

    • Wow, I remember Mrs. Stone as a substitute teacher in my 4th grade class in 1964 at (the original) Edmonds Elementary. She scared the bejeebers out of us! That’s why I never forgot her name!

  6. Great Piece, History is so fascinating to me, especially when its been a part of you.. Awesomely strange liitle town is a perfect description.. Always played a little role in my life from the days of little league as a kid,to the shenanigans of my adolescence up til now when i pass through… Glad I heard this story, if only starting a town was that simple now… Good Job Gertie!!!!

  7. I too grew up living off of 76th on 171st. We would walk or ride our bikes to 196th and the stores up there. There were story’s of the old lady that lived in the house with all the strange bottles in the windows. It was said that she was a witch. We always went very quickly past that intersection! My dad also gave Gertie a few rides up the road.

  8. I grew up on the hill above Perrinville with Lyndale Park as my back yard. Our back deck viewed the intersection. We used to build forts in the woods where the shopping center is now on the NW corner. Great to hear the history of Perrinville. Great memories of playing in the sand fields.

  9. Thanks for providing this great article on Girtie’s life. We moved to Perrinville in the early 70’s with our two young boys. We only lived down the street from Girtie and visited her often. I actually have a few items that she gave to my boys that were family memorabilia. A couple of Christmas ornaments and an old doll. Those were back in the days when the lamas and the horses still roamed the area. Girtie was a wonderful old lady and was always very kind to our two young boys. The one thing that was not mentioned in the great article was the reclining stature of the naked lady across the street from Girtie’s home. It was there for several years and then disappeared when new construction in the area began. We always waved at the naked lady as we went by on our way home. I also miss the pottery shop. We spent time there as well. Those were great days.

  10. The artist, Jim Noonan still lives in Perrinville. I was hoping there might be some info out there on the goat lady’s place and the subsequent “swine at large” controversy back when the local pig farmer (North west of the vet clinic) was charged when his pigs got out.

  11. I just had a few other memories of the area. Someone mentioned the llamas – a white one and a black one and then the horse riding arena where the post office parking lot now stands.

    Where is/was Gerdie’s house?

  12. I too knew Gertie Perrin. My parents Ed and Fern Tusty were friends with the Osborn family which was her maiden name. I was looking for a rocking chair and mentioned it to Gertie. She soon arrived at the drive up window of now Bank of America, with a chair in her car. I still have that antique rocker. She was a lovable and interesting lady. Happy to have known her.

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