Part one of a two-part series.
As a longtime resident of Edmonds, I admittedly wasn’t aware of the name L.C. Engel. But when I dug into historical records, I was amazed by his accomplishments.
L.C. Engel is credited with opening the first meat market in Edmonds (1894-95) as well as being a city councilmember (1896). He was part owner of a shingle mill (1902) and successfully ran a dry goods and grocery store (1904-16). L.C. was also a decorated volunteer firefighter (1915) and managed the newly formed Edmonds Cooperative Association’s grocery/meat departments (1918). He served as Edmonds’ City Treasurer (1908 and 1910), its justice of the peace (1914), and the water rent collector (1928). A large landowner and builder of multiple buildings, he owned a successful real estate and insurance business in the mid to late 1920s and was part owner of an eatery/tavern (1934).
Engel Family Lore: The Early Days
Some historical accounts suggest that Louis Christian (L.C.) Engel was a 17-year-old German immigrant when he arrived in Edmonds in 1884. But marriage and birth records indicate that he would have only been 14 years old, if he had appeared upon the Edmonds scene in 1884. It is more likely that he arrived around 1887 from Ohio. Regardless of his age, he was amazed by the beauty of Edmonds, and the opportunity for free enterprise.
Upon his arrival, he attempted to get a job as an ox team driver for Edmonds founder George Brackett’s logging operation. He was told they didn’t have any need for an ox team driver, but they were looking for a cook.
As Engel family lore relates, the previous cook had been run out of town due to the loggers’ distaste for his food. L.C. apparently had a working knowledge of butchery, and he took on the job of cook. Upon presenting his first meal of meat and potatoes in large pots to the loggers, he reportedly laid a gun on the table too. He told the loggers they could eat the food or not — that was their choice. But if anyone tried to run him out of town, he would shoot them. Apparently, his food was agreeable to the loggers as he served as their cook for several years.
He must have worked hard and been well thought of in the community. For in September 1893, at the age of 23, he married Mary Zetta Fourtner (Zetta), the 18-year-old daughter of Samuel Fourtner, one of the community’s best-known citizens. Fourtner was a business leader and the brother of future two-time Edmonds mayor and business owner Fred Fourtner.
One year later, L.C. is credited for being the first person to open a meat market in Edmonds. As the meat market flourished, L.C.‘s influence grew. He was elected a city councilmemember in 1896, and his company was one of only three that were allowed to lay their own water pipes to support their businesses after an 1899 Municipal Water District Bond levy failed.
In 1902, he expanded his business interests and investments by building and operating the Keystone Mill at the foot of Main Street, partnering with H. Ross and his father-in-law Samuel Fourtner.
By the beginning of the 20th century, L.C. had also become a major landowner. He owned the entire east side of 5th Street stretching south from Main Street to Dayton Street. His property extended eastward to what today is the location of Fire And The Feast restaurant on Main Street, and the Masonic Temple/Edmonds Old Opera House on Dayton Street.
The Engel Residence
In 1904, L.C. erected two major buildings on his property. The first was a two-story residence on Main Street, which would house his wife and three children — daughter Eathel (born 1895), son Ernest (born 1898) and daughter Jessye (born 1903).
The house was at the southeast end of the property with the parlor window looking out on Dayton Street. The house’s entrance fronted 5th Street with a long walkway leading up from the street to the house. Fishponds were aligned along each side of the walkway, and a large garden consisting of raspberries, gooseberries, vegetables and fruit trees was positioned north of the walkway. A small barn was also constructed just south of a small path/alley that ran east and west through the property.
Over the years, the original walkway and fishponds were replaced by a gas station, and later by Brusseau’s Cafe and today the Red Twig restaurant.
But the original foundation and structure of the residence still remain east of the Red Twig. The building’s entrance now faces Dayton Street at 509 Dayton. It has, of course, gone through modifications and updates over the years, and now functions as a duplex. But nearly 120 years later it speaks to the quality of L.C.’s construction and design.
The L.C. Engel Building
The second large building that L.C. Engel built in 1904 was a two-story commercial building at the corner of 5th and Main Street. The building’s entrance faced north onto Main Street and it had an interior stairway in the back of the building that led up to the second floor. The upstairs portion of the building was used initially for various meetings and an occasional dance.
L.C. operated a very successful dry goods store, L C. Engel’s Shoes and Dry Goods, on the lower floor for over a decade. This was despite the fact he loaned money to people who were having a difficult time, and often was not repaid. His wife Zetta often referred to him as “Easy Louie”
L.C.’s dry goods business was organized with groceries and household items on the store’s left side and dry goods and sundry items on the right. Exposed support posts for the second floor acted as visual dividers within the store.
These four advertisements from 1915 and 1916 issues of the Edmonds Tribune Review illustrate the variety of merchandise that L.C. Engel’s Dry Goods carried.
Copies of the advertisements were obtained from the Sno-Isle Genealogical Society
After operating the dry goods store for 12 years, L.C. sold the business to J. Harvitz of Seattle in December 1916, but he retained ownership of the building. Then as World War I was drawing to a close in 1918, Fred A. Fourtner bought out the dry goods business, and also purchased the building from L.C. The building’s name changed at that point to the Fourtner Building.
Fourtner initially opened a men’s furnishings store and dry goods business in the lower portion of the building and used the upstairs as his own apartment. After a five-year period, Fourtner decided to build a wall along the exposed support posts to divide the lower portion of the building, so that two businesses could be housed in the space. Given that there was only one entrance, a door was added to the interior wall so that you could enter into the building, and then choose which business you wanted to patronize.
In 1923, Fourtner consolidated his businesses into one side of the main floor, and E.S. Denslow moved his plumbing company from his store further east on Main Street into the adjoining space.
A year later, with Edmonds growing rapidly, Fred Fourtner decided to move the two-story building south, onto 5th Street. The new location was approximately 100 yards south of the corner of 5th and Main, just north of the alleyway. The building was rotated so that it faced west onto 5th. In the vacated space at the southeast corner, Fred Fourtner wanted to build a new two-story brick veneer building.
In July 1924, the original building was partially torn down and moved to the new location. It is believed that the original craftsmanship allowed the framing, roof trusses and other portions of the building to be moved in large sections to the 5th Street location, ensuring the project was completed in only four weeks. The two business spaces on the ground floor became 109 and 111 5th Street despite the fact that there was only one exterior door.
Upon the completion of the move, Fred Fourtner opened his men’s furnishings and dry goods business at the 109 5th Street address, and three months later E.S. Denslow moved his plumbing business back into the building, taking over the 111 5th Street space.
Fournter’s new brick building on the corner of 5th and Main was completed the following spring with an approximate 10-foot space left between the two buildings. Once the building was finished, Fourtner moved his dry goods business into it. The citizenry started calling the brick structure The New Fourtner Building and the original two-story wooden structure was known as The Old Fourtner Building.
In November 1926, attorney Claude Stevens opened a law office in the Old Fourtner Building, in the space next to Denslow Plumbing. Four months later, he purchased the entire building from Fred Fourtner, and made alterations to it, including the addition of a second front door so he had an office opening directly onto 109 5th Street.
He subsequently sold the building in November of 1927 to Katherine Knowlton, who was in the real estate business. At that juncture, Denslow’s Plumbing was at 111 and B & F. Café — which had changed hands several times, occupied the other side at 109 5th Street
Crow’s Hardware “nails” down a space.
At the end of the following year, in 1928, J.W. (Bill) Crow purchased the stock of the Edmonds Hardware Store, and moved it into the space vacated by Denslow Plumbing. Crow renamed the business Crow’s Hardware, and the business remained a tenant at 111 5th Street for the next 20 years. Crow’s Hardware finally vacated the space in 1949 when they built a new two-story building across the street (112 5th Street), which is now the home of Rogue Boutique.
During the two decades that Crow’s Hardware was a tenant, multiple small businesses came and went on the other side of the ground floor, including a beauty shop, a shoe repair business, a music store, an insurance and real estate office, a radio repair store and an optometrist.
It was also during this time that people began referring to the building as the L.C. Engel building again, rather than the Old Fourtner Building.
Although this photo was taken six years after Crow’s Hardware had moved across the street from the L.C. Engel building, Crow’s Hardware was one of the main meeting places that citizens gathered during the World War II era.
As Crow’s Hardware was exiting the Engel building, circa 1950, an exterior enclosed stairway, and doorway were built on the building’s north side. This provided access to the upstairs for the first time from the outside. The addition of the stairway also filled in the space between the two buildings.
Author’s Note: Based on conversations with Betty Gaeng (Edmonds Historian) we believe at some point in the mid 1950s, Edmonds’ downtown numbered “streets” were changed to “avenues” plus “south” and “north” descriptors were added to the avenues’ names to indicate their locations in relationship to Main Street
To be continued.
— Researched and written by Byron Wilkes
The research was made possible with the assistance of Betty Gaeng, Michelle Bear of the Edmonds Bookshop and its previous owners, The Sno-Isle Genealogy Society, Lisa at the Everett Library’s Northwest Room, the Lynnwood Library and their microfiche archives, the Edmonds Historical Museum, as well as recollections from several “old timers” within the Edmonds community.
So interesting! Thank you Byron
Great article! Thanks for doing the research!
Great article. Particularly interested in the streets changing to avenues. Do you know who was behind the naming of the individual streets? Nothing too original behind “Elm” , “Maple”, “Walnut” Sts, etc. but it would be interesting to find out who made those choices.
Looking forward to Part 2!
Such good. Memories
Just think, if he had been employed as an “ox team driver” who knows how the history of Edmonds would have changed. Happy to read that “Easy Louie’s” food was acceptable to the loggers and no one was shot or run out of town. Very cool article!
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