Looking Back: A picture from the past inspires a story

In 1911, during a discussion regarding journalism and publicity, Arthur Brisbane, a respected New York newspaper editor, made this observation.  “Use a picture.  It’s worth a thousand words.”

While writing about Edmonds and its history, I find Mr. Brisbane’s words to be especially relevant.  In Fact, many of my Looking Back columns have actually been inspired by certain historical photographs. It was a picture of Main Street in downtown Edmonds in the late 1920s that gave me the idea for this column about change and moving forward with three local businessmen from the past.

Thisappeared with an article in a June 5, 1953, edition of the Edmonds Tribune-Review. According to the news article, the car in the middle of Main Street dates the photo from around 1928 or 1929.

Changes to the downtown infastructure as Edmonds moves forward  

In this historic photograph, the small building on the left was located on the south side of Main Street, just east of 5th Avenue, and was the former real estate and insurance office of long-time Edmonds businessman James “Jim” Everton Wilson.

Directly to the right, facing 5th Avenue, is the Fourtner Building on the southeast corner of the intersection of 5th and Main. The Fourtner Building was later restructured and enlarged, and in 1946, Dewey Leyda became its owner. Having experienced many years of change, the building remains an important one at the busy intersection.

The small building occupied by Jim Wilson’s real estate and insurance business was demolished in the 1930s, and in 1938, a much larger, two-story brick structure replaced it. Located at 514 Main Street, the new building became the home for the Edmonds Tribune-Review, with Ray Cloud as its owner, publisher and editor until his retirement in 1952 

The Tribune office at 514 Main Street (Photo courtesy Edmonds Tribune-Review 1938)

In 1961, the newspaper relocated to larger quarters at 130 2nd Ave. South, and 514 Main Street became the site for Mode O’Day, a women’s dress shop; with the Sears store next to it.

Early 1960s—Looking east up Main Street when it was a one-way street. (Photo courtesy Edmonds Historical Museum)

Moving forward with three businessmen from the past

James “Jim” Everton Wilson (1863-1928)  

James “Jim” Wilson was born in Ontario, Canada on May 14, 1863. The son of John H. Wilson (1835-1912) and Emaline Scott Wilson (1845-1897), he was the eldest of a family of nine boys and one girl.

On July 3, 1883, he married Sarah Elizabeth Womer (1868-1935), the daughter of Henry Womer and ElizaCotterman. Two children were born to them: Lala Wilson (Mrs. Ernest Hubbard) and Flossie Wilson (Mrs. Harry DeLand).

Jim Wilson and his family moved from their home in Cadillac, Michigan to Edmonds in February of 1901. He first engaged in contract work for a painting and decorating company, and later purchased a grocery store in Seattle, which he shortly sold.

In 1907 he opened the Crescent Grocery Company in Edmonds, and for six years operated his grocery store at the Odd Fellows Hall between 5th and 6th Avenues on the south side of Main Street. He later moved his grocery business to the Beeson Building between 4th and 5th Avenues (also on the south side of Main Street).

Leaving the grocery field in 1917, Jim Wilson purchased the real estate and insurance agency first established in 1901 by Civil War veteran, Edmonds’ pioneer and former mayor Col. Samuel Street. Local news reported that Jim Wilson’s real estate and insurance clients came from “far and wide.”

Although he was physically disabled, Jim Wilson was also active in city affairs. For 18 years, he served as police judge, as well as Justice of the Peace for a number of years. It was reported that “no person in the community was better known than James E. Wilson—a man devoted to his family and always ready to render assistance when needed.”

In addition, he was a member of the Edmonds Odd Fellows Lodge No. 96, and the Kiwanis Club.

After many years of suffering from a neurological disorder, at times confined to his bed, Jim Wilson died at his Edmonds’ home on Saturday morning, Jan. 21, 1928, at the age of 64. His obituary was published in the Edmonds Tribune-Review:

“Funeral services for James ‘Jim’ Everton Wilson were held from the Hughes Memorial Church on Monday afternoon at two o’clock. Family and friends filled the church to capacity to pay tribute to one of Edmonds most highly respected citizens. Following graveside services conducted by IOOF Lodge No. 96 at the Odd Fellows’ Cemetery north of town, he was laid to rest. Jim Wilson was survived by his wife Sarah, his two daughters and their husbands, two brothers, and three grandchildren.”

His widow Sarah Elizabeth Wilson died in 1935, and she is also buried at the IOOF Cemetery (today’s Edmonds Memorial Cemetery).

One of Jim Wilson’s two surviving brothers was Lester W. Wilson of Edmonds. A one-time partner in the grocery business with his brother, Lester Wilson was formerly a Seattle and a nationally-known professional baseball player. Lester Wilson’s biography noted that in 1911, he was an outfielder with the Boston Red Sox.

Ernest “Ernie” Birdsley Hubbard (son-in-law of Jim Wilson)

In 1897, when 11-year-old Ernest “Ernie” Hubbard first settled in the small lumber town of Edmonds with his parents, Charles J. and Katherine Hubbard, and his two sisters Lillian and Florence, the family made their home on George Street (Main Street). Before finally making their permanent home in Edmonds, the family had lived in Centralia, Washington, having come west from Bismarck, North Dakota, where Ernie Hubbard was born May 31, 1886.

As a young man, Ernie Hubbard gained a favorable reputation while working in the shingle mills that lined the waterfront of Edmonds. It wasn’t long until he worked his way up the ladder to become an operator and owner in the shingle industry.

In 1909, he married a local young lady, Lala E. Wilson, the daughter of James Emerson Wilson and Sarah Elizabeth Womer, and in 1924, Ernie Hubbard began working at the real estate and insurance agency owned by his father-in-law. When Jim Wilson died in 1928, Ernie Hubbard became the owner of the agency.

Changing the company’s name to Hubbard Real Estate & Insurance, Ernie Hubbard soon moved his business to Katherine (Timberline Kate) Knowlton’s former building located at the northwest corner of the intersection of 5th and Main. Well known about town, Kate Knowlton operated her own real estate business in the building.

At the busy downtown intersection, Ernie Hubbard was a familiar figure. He seemed to enjoy telling the stories of Edmonds in its heyday as a shingle mill town—back when there were still forests of cedar trees surrounding the town. He noted that the streets were unpaved, and George Street (now Main Street) was still a puncheon (log) road, mainly used to skid the logs down the hill, through town, to the plethora of mills located along the waterfront. As Ernie Hubbard told the story, “There were 85 teams of horses, and the landmark of the town was a big watering trough at the southeast corner of what is now 5th and Main.”

Ernie Hubbard at Hubbard Real Estate. (Photo courtesy Edmonds Historical Museum)

In March of 1955, the Edmonds Tribune-Review reported on the demolition and replacement of the former Hubbard Real Estate & Insurance office, which is shown here on the right. Pictured next door was Beinz Confectionary, a favorite spot for teenagers to hang out and enjoy a drink of the well-advertised Coca-Cola, or perhaps a root beer or Green River float. A small section of the Princess Theater can be seen on the far left in this photo:

In 1956, the Edmonds Tribune-Review published an article entitled: “Hubbard Agency Traces its Origins Back to Edmonds Earliest Day as Shingle Mill Town.” According to the article, Ernest and Larry Hubbard announced they were holding an open house at the agency’s new office in the Fourtner Building.  Larry Hubbard, who was becoming the major voice in the management of the agency, issued an invitation for people to join them for a cup of coffee—the Hubbards’ way of showing thanks to those who had supported them through the years.

This was a time when Edmonds and the surrounding communities were experiencing the post-war era of the baby boomers, and the real estate market was experiencing its own boom right along with the increasing influx of young families. At that time, to keep up with the hot real estate market, the Hubbard Agency employed a staff of seven, and was insuring everything from automobiles to school houses. This photo of Ernie Hubbard and son Larry is from the Edmonds Historical Museum archives:

Ernie and Larry Hubbard

Ernie Hubbard died at Lynnwood Manor on Sept. 11, 1963 at the age of 77. His widow, Lala Wilson Hubbard followed her husband in death on Feb. 1, 1967, also at the age of 77. They are both buried at the Edmonds Memorial Cemetery & Columbarium. Ernest and Lala Hubbard were survived by their only child—Lawrence “Larry” Emerson Hubbard.

Lawrence “Larry” Emerson Hubbard  

Much has previously been written about Larry Hubbard and his involvement in the development of Edmonds, as well as his generosity. However, this story tells of his ancestral roots, and offers a better understanding of the deep love and respect he had for his family, and his hometown.

Born in Edmonds on Dec. 17, 1910, Larry Hubbard was the son, grandson and great grandson of Edmonds’ pioneers.

He graduated from Edmonds Graded School when it was an impressive, Victorian-style, wood-sided building located between Main and Dayton Streets, overlooking what is today’s Durbin Drive—between 6th and 7th Avenues South—about where the Edmonds Library is located in our time.  If you have ever visited the Edmonds Historical Museum, you have probably seen the school bell from the old graded school

Larry Hubbard’s 1929 Edmonds High School graduation picture is shown here and is from the Edmonds Historical Museum’s EHS yearbook collection:

Larry Hubbard

After graduation from Edmonds High School, Larry Hubbard attended the University of Washington—graduating from the UW Law School in 1936. Completing his education, Larry Hubbard joined his father in the real estate and insurance business.

With the encroaching possibility of war, Larry Hubbard’s business career was put on hold, along with the careeres of many other local young men. In October 1940, at the age of 29, he registered for the military draft, and later was drafted into service. The notice with Corporal Larry Hubbard’s photo in the Edmonds Tribune-Review shows he served in the U.S. Army’s Armored Division:

However, except for miscellaneous information, official records of his service years are not to be found. Unfortunately, his records were very likely among those destroyed in the disastrous July 12, 1973 fire at the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) in St. Louis, Missouri. For U.S. Army personnel discharged between Nov. 1, 1912 and Jan. 1, 1960, the total loss of military records has been estimated as high as 80%. To add to the disaster, duplicate copies of these valuable records were never made.

After discharge from WWII service, Larry Hubbard returned to his parents’ home in Edmonds and rejoined his father in the real estate and insurance business.  When his father died in 1963, Larry Hubbard became owner and proprietor of the family business.

Although Larry Hubbard seemed to be a quiet and unassuming man, he became an influential figure in the city’s business community. In addition to his noted business success, he served as Edmonds’ city attorney and as a member of the first city planning commission.

His lovely home was located at the foot of Caspers Street—overlooking Puget Sound.

Larry Hubbard died at the age of 71 on Feb. 19, 1982, at Stevens Memorial Hospital in Edmonds. Lawrence “Larry” Emerson Hubbard’s cremains are buried at Edmonds Memorial Cemetery.

Continuing a family tradition of giving back to the city and its people

Never married, with neither children nor siblings, Larry Hubbard chose to make the City of Edmonds an heir of his estate. In 1982, when he became ill and death was imminent, his last act was a very thoughtful one. With the assistance of his long-time friend Ruth Sater, and that of his legal advisor and close friend, attorney Chester (Chet) Bennett, Larry Hubbard purchased the long-neglected Odd Fellows/Swedberg Cemetery located south of town in the Westgate area, and then willed it to the City of Edmonds along with a trust fund, with Chet Bennett as the administrator.

Because of the forward-looking generosity of Larry Hubbard, Edmonds has a lovely pioneer cemetery—one to be justly proud of.  Renamed Edmonds Memorial Cemetery & Columbarium, it is under the ownership of the city and is maintained by the Edmonds Parks Department. To this day, this beautiful and restful “Place of Tradition” continues as an active cemetery, with a mayor-appointed volunteer cemetery board overseeing its operation and maintenance.

Prior to his death, Larry Hubbard also made arrangements to establish the Hubbard Family Foundation. The foundation was established in 1983 “to enhance the quality of life for the citizens of the City of Edmonds and South Snohomish County.”  The Edmonds School District continues as the geographical boundary to qualify for grant requests.

A successful conclusion

As the shingle-mill town of Edmonds matured and moved forward, there can be no doubt that these three men each played an important role in the city’s development.

Summertime 2019 at Edmonds Memorial Cemetery & Columbarium. (Photo courtesy Betty Gaeng)

— By Betty Lou Gaeng

Betty Gaeng is a former long-time resident of Lynnwood and Edmonds, coming to the area in 1933. Although now living in Anchorage, she occasionally writes about the history and the people of early-day Lynnwood, Edmonds and Mountlake Terrace. She is also an honorary member of the Edmonds Cemetery Board.

  1. Thank you, Betty, for another interesting “look back in time” article. If we fast forward to 2042, just 20 years away, what would a “look back in time” article” say? Other than the cemetery, what will we say about the downtown area within one or two blocks in each direction from the fountain. Which of the current buildings will still be there? Which ones will have been remodeled with or without a “face lift”. How will the ownership of DT be changed? Individuals, families, LLC’s or others? In our Strategic Action Plan several items were discussed. Some of those items have been implemented, some are now moot, and others may still be in play but in need of an update.

    Here is what we seem to do today. When an owner’s plan goes through the process of getting a building permit it becomes public knowledge and those who have issues with the proposed permit jump into action. We trot out all sorts of things to protest the proposed permit. Often we see “holes” in our code, or code that is not clearly written or understood. Often it is a “collision” of what folks see as their view of what should or should not be changed. Council as a political body react in whatever way they see as appropriate based on the political pressures of the moment. Such action can result in referring it to staff with questions, a board or commission, or placing a moratorium in place. These often look like the carnival game “Wack of Mole”!

    Your Economic Development Commission suggested an idea to Council of “discussing” a “Preservation Plan”.

    What several folks have suggested is that it may well be time to sort out “What is our vision for Edmonds”. This was done for the first SAP and it may well be time to do it again. If we do this we may well chart a “public engaged” process to avoid our current model of “Wack a Mole”

    If we do nothing, we will look back 20 years from now and say ????? It is up to us.

  2. Having arrived on the scene here in 1960 as a young teenager, I’m happy I got to experience Edmonds of that time when it was truly an enchanted place to get to live – a real small fishing sea port, boating and small business (manufacturing as well as the usual type town business’) village as well as a bedroom community for Seattle. I got to study at the Carnagie Library (now town museum), cut driftwood on the beach and go clamming at what is now Marina Beach, swim off the float at the ferry dock, have cherry cokes at Bienz Confectionery (see article) pick up our High School newspapers printed at the Tribune-Review when I went to the then real Edmonds High School up on the hill. In my view we have foolishly given up much of our town tradition and heritage to become some sort of artsy entertainment mecca for the region. The Edmonds Tigers and our fire department are gone for good. How easily we have just laid over and accepted what might not have been particularly great ideas. I think the Save our Beach rally was, perhaps, the last best thing we can be really proud of as Edmond’s citizens. Just an old man’s humble opinion, which obviously isn’t worth much.

    1. I think it’s all in the eyes of the beholder. We came to Edmonds in the early 1990s and it wasn’t a very friendly place for young families. It seemed that the prevailing opinion was that growth was inherently bad and change was the devil’s work. Fast forward 30 years later, and I can say my family still lives in Edmonds and we love just about everything about the place. It is now the kind of thriving little downtown that people love to visit and spend time in. So while I totally respect those who pine for the simplicity and attractions of yesteryear, I think it is also good to put ourselves in others’ shoes. There is good and bad in everything. But I’m proud to call Edmonds home in 2022.

  3. Present day life is so much more complicated than what I look back at. Of course, my looking back started decades ago. When I was a kid in Edmonds, we knew everyone and felt safe. My mother sent me to the grocery store, without any money, and the storekeeper just wrote down our name in a little book along with the amount owed for the purchase. At the first of the month, my parents settled the total monthly billing–little paperwork was involved. Try that now.

    I remember the shingle mills and the men heading for work with their lunch boxes. I loved the sounds of Edmonds long ago. The whistles that blew announcing lunchtime and shift changes at the mills were somehow comforting. There was the special sound of the foghorn at the ferry dock, and that of the few remaining steam trains as they passed through town. Also, I will always remember Sunday mornings and the ringing of all the church bells.

    I especially remember WWII and looking out the school window at Puget Sound and seeing our damaged war ships slowly make their way to Bremerton for repair.

    We did have a lot of problems, but life did seem simpler, and even though we had less in worldly possessions, people seemed happier, and more satisfied. Certainly, there was a lot less government interference. Somehow problems seemed to have an ending.

    Often when I stop and think about it, maybe, times just seemed better because we weren’t bombarded with news from all over the world–especially all the bad news.

    1. Betty, I always enjoy reading your articles and enjoy your comments and perspective. Born in 1951 , my wife in 1953, and growing up in Edmonds, we have fond simpler memories. The siren at the fire station going off at noon telling us it was time to go home for lunch and church bells. We would be gone all day at the beach, exploring, fishing, with little regard for time. Boats launched on rails from Andy’s Boat House watching them splash into the water. Haines Wharf with the state of art medal grid that would lower kicker fishing boats straight down. Trying to sneak onto the dock at Haines to fish and avoid paying 25 cents and getting caught every time. Fishing in Perrinville Creek and letting the small native rainbows go.

      I agree with all your comments that times were simpler and in many ways better. We return to this simple memories often these days and feel very lucky to have grown up here. Thank you for writing.

  4. I’m with Darrell on this point: “What is our vision for Edmonds?” My wife and I moved here from New England about 17 years ago. We chose Edmonds because it was a town similar to New England and European small towns. There was a real downtown; it was not cookie-cutter suburban architecture; it was walkable; and has a strong sense of ‘community’.

    Reading Betty’s story, one notices that the history revolves around the *people* who came to Edmonds to create their homes and start businesses (grocery stores, newspapers, insurance business offices). Those people became an integral part of the community. We might look at those people in her story and ask ourselves, how the people who are driving change in our community today different from those of the past?
    Who are the movers and shakers coming to Edmonds now? Developers with lots of money. I wonder how many of the developers who are coming to Edmonds to make money on our real estate even live in this town, or even in fact this state?

    Sadly, given the extreme division in our country today (and even in this community), I seriously doubt that we as a community would be able to come even close to agreeing on a vision for Edmond’s future. Perhaps the City Council could hire some consultants to create a vision for us? Maybe do some surveys? Sorry for the sarcasm.

    I am OK with change, but the type of change makes a difference. Creating a vision for the future would be really helpful, but I suspect in our current environment, a challenge.

    Thank-you Betty for your articles. It is important for us to look backwards now and again and see if we can learn and gain perspective.

    1. Chris, sorting out ideas for our future may be a lot simpler than folks think. The last Strategic Action Plan cost us $100,000. It used all sorts of input methods to gather opinions and then conducted a statistically valid poll to test the ideas submitted. That is how we generated around 90 ideas. Council approved the SAP initially and again when some modifications were offered a few years later. Conducting surveys are much easier today than at the time of the first SAP. When we did the DT parking survey a few yes back we got over 700 responses. Reading what folks actually said clearly showed folks gave us some good thoughts. That survey was not very costly and did a good job of asking for a wide variety of inputs.

      Surveys that have leading questions or omitted questions about the issue being studied are often self-serving and raise doubts in the eyes of the public as to the intent of the survey.

      We did some really great work with Massive public input when we sorted out how we might increase public safety for emergency access to the west side of the single-track rail line. Years of work to explore the alternatives sorted out cost and funding and location alternatives. The plan presented did not go forward as a result of citizen “input”. Funding dollars and commitments were returned. The public was engaged, and our political leadership followed that public input.

      Now looking ahead, we have added complexity to the emergency access issue for our waterfront area. The second BNSF track will be build in the near future. The Ferry system will be adding a 3rd boat to serve Edmonds, and Sound Transit will be working with the Ferry System to dramatically add parking in the WF area. We are doing many things to get more folks to come to the west side of the tracks and we should probably revisit the issues of emergency access. When council voted to stop the Connector project it did not do anything to reduce the emergency access issue. Time to discuss?

  5. Being one of the “Baby Boomers” moving to Edmonds in 1955, I remember many of the people and places mentioned in your wonderful article. Thank you, Betty, for another g;impse back to the Edmonds I grew up in.

  6. Betty Lou, I think maybe you have hit the nail right on the head in relation to our lives just being too complicated now. It’s like we just have to fix things that aren’t really broken and be sure to cater to all our neighbor’s needs who chose not to be officially a part of us while pretending to be a town or chose to be an unincorporated spot in the County.

    The old Edmonds was far from perfect, which was just part of it’s charm. The “new” High School was a dump from day one (not nearly as good as the old one that’s now the ECA), but it was my dump, and could have been rebuilt as “Edmonds High School, Home of the Tigers for ever.” But we let the District roll us on that one to “fix the problem” for everyone.

    We used to operate on the principal of the city getting whats needed to be done, done. Someone tried to build a sky scraper on the beach that would forever change the nature of the entire town and our city council voted to put a stop to it. Simple solution, to a simple problem. Not perfection, just a little common sense legislation to hold onto some of the traditional way of life for everyone.

    I suspect our well meaning mayors and council people will continue to come up with codes and ordinances that make it all just a little more perfect and save lots of money. A few brave C.P.s will try to push back and give everyone a voice, but development money talks and we will most likely continue on the path we are going down.

    People have to have a place to live and make a living so my view just might be wrong on things and maybe we are making some kind of progress. In the meantime, I choose to miss the real Edmonds High, Merry Tiller Manufacturing, Jim’s Boathouse, and even the smelly Fur Breeders plant of yesteryear.

  7. I always enjoy Betty’s very informative articles on the history of Edmonds. For an additional take on Edmonds past and present, readers might consult A How Pretty Town, my recently published novel, available in paperback and as an e-book.

  8. Does anyone have old pictures of the ferry dock and edmonds beach as it was in the 1960 to now era of changes as a lifetime resident 65 years of Edmonds the beach was always a fun place to hang out, I love these articles of the way Edmonds use to be, it was a great place to grow up where the kids knew each other thru many generations of familys.

  9. Bill, remember the old San Mateo real steam ferry often used as backup? How about the evening a regular ferry failed to reverse and the dock was mangled? When I rushed down to see it next day, I heard a guy say, “I bet someone loses their buttons over this.” Fun times for sure.

  10. And in July 1963 when the freighter Tai Chung collided with the ferry Nisqually in the fog near Kingston. No injuries, but a shock when we heard about it.

  11. I remember a couple ships colliding and one beached down by the oil dock beach in the late 60’s and we would go down there to look at it before it was towed away

  12. Darrell, thank-you for your reply. I am not going to respond to your thoughts. I now regret that I made my previous comments. Betty wrote a wonderful article that many people enjoyed and shared wonderful experiences. I made the mistake of rising to the bait of someone else’s comment about our future, rather than just enjoying the delightful story Betty shared. I feel bad because I myself get very upset when someone takes a simple story that is really nicely written, and lighthearted, and turns it into something else. Shame on me.
    Again, thank-you Betty for the wonderful articles you write. You are a treasure!
    Let’s find another place to debate the politics of our town, and again, I apologize for taking us down this path. There is just way too much negativity in our stories these days, and I don’t wish to contribute.

  13. Chris, thank you for your comment. If you have noticed, in my writing, I stay away from politics as much as possible. Except when I wrote about the Blue Laws. No longer living in Edmonds, I feel that is the correct route for me to take, but even when I was living locally, politics was a subject I left to others. My father was in the Snohomish County sheriff’s office, later a voice for veterans of Washington state and he lobbied on their behalf before Congress in Washington, D.C. and also in Olympia for many years, so I am well versed in the ins and outs of politics. I worked in my father’s office for four years, so I got to understand how the system works and now, I prefer to stay uninvolved–at my age, I don’t need the stress.

  14. I’m not sure there is any big political point trying to be made here. I certainly understand that Betty doesn’t intend or want any of her work made political in nature.

    As for Darrol’s comment, he’s about the least political nonsense oriented and most fact based person I’ve ever had the great pleasure of knowing. I don’t think any of us should feel obliged to “apologize” for our comments around Betty’s article. None of our comments take away from the beauty or intent of her writing.

    It seems a little obvious to me that a history of the past, might just conger up some thoughts about where we are at today and where we might be when looking back twenty years from now. Enough virtue signaling please.

    It’s okay to be wrong about things at times, look at all sides of various issues past and present, and not always be right on the point, so to speak. Edmonds wasn’t perfect in the past, is far from perfect now, and will not be perfect in the future. Unobtainable perfection always seems to be the enemy of pretty darn good, and that just shouldn’t be the case.

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