History: The ‘hatching’ of Alderwood Manor – part 2

Feeding of baby chicks at the Demonstration Farm. (Photo courtesy Museum of History and Industry)

Part 2 of two parts. You can read part 1 here.

With the formal opening of Alderwood Manor, there was a fanfare of advertising orchestrated out of each of the Puget Mill offices.

Advertising included pamphlets mailed directly to homes touting the scientific nature of the enterprise. (Photo courtesy Lynnwood-Alderwood Manor Heritage Museum)
Nearly full-page advertisements with return mailers were run in newspapers as far away as New York and Chicago.  (Photo courtesy Lynnwood-Alderwood Manor Heritage Museum)

Excursions ran daily from Seattle over the Seattle-Everett Interurban Railway, stopping at the Alderwood Manor station, where prospective visitors disembarked and walked two blocks to the Demonstration Farm.

The tour of the Demonstration Farm allowed the visitors to see the poultry houses, the large incubator/hatching facility that could produce 55,000 chicks every 21 days, a deluxe community center, the newly erected elementary school, as well as model homes. The tour then continued into the orchards and vegetable gardens, where visitors were able to converse with horticulturists.

Then prospects were taken around the property in horse and buggies to look at the 80-acre subdivisions, which had 16 of the 5-acre tracts platted out, so they could potentially pick out a property to purchase.

The road leading up to the superintendent’s cottage and water tower. (Photo courtesy Lynnwood -Alderwood Manor Heritage Museum)
The Demonstration Farm’s orchards and vegetable gardens. (Photo courtesy University of Washington’s Digital Collections)
The Alderwood Manor poultry houses. (Photo courtesy University of Washington Libraries,
Special Collections Division)

After the official tour, the prospective purchasers were also able to visit newly established farms and talk with owners as well as poultry and orchard experts.

An early farmhouse, shed, chicken coop and vegetable garden on 1 acre that had been cleared.  Note the stump farm that existed on the remaining 4 acres.(Photo courtesy Lynnwood-Alderwood Manor Heritage Museum)
A 5-acre property where a home had been built, the land cleared and strawberries planted.   Note the land that had not yet been cleared to the right and beyond the fence line. The original water tower with spiral stairway and superintendent cottage is in the distance. (Photo courtesy Lynnwood-Alderwood Manor Heritage Museum)

Once the tour had been completed, prospective purchasers enjoyed a meal and then were escorted to the community center/meeting hall where W. A. Irwin’s sales staff used all the techniques of high-pressure sales to close the contracts.

The initial sales program worked well. The number of new settlers was enough to warrant Puget Mill building a new schoolhouse in 1919, as well as a two-story Tudor grocery store to supply the community with necessary supplies.

The original schoolhouse built by the Puget Mill Company in 1917 is in the foreground. The new expanded brick school house, which was built in 1919 to accommodate the large number of new students, is in the background. The original school was later moved forward and converted into the Manor Hardware Store. (Photo courtesy of the Lynnwood-Alderwood Manor Heritage Museum)
The Wickers grocery store circa 1919. (Photo courtesy of the Lynnwood-Alderwood Manor Heritage Museum)

In addition to the Puget Mill Company’s continued investments in building infrastructure for the community, a large Masonic Hall was built in 1919-20. A blacksmith shop and a lumberyard were also built at about the same time.

Despite the fact that the Puget Mill Company advertised that it would provide all the necessary poultry and feed at below-market prices, it appears that the company might have not been able to meet the demand for new chicks at various times.

An article in the April edition of the Edmonds Tribune-Review recounts the fact that the local mailman, Dave Crockett, delivered 1,000 chicks that had arrived in the mail to farms in the Alderwood Manor area. However, the delivery was made only after some of the chicks got loose and had to be rounded up before they were delivered.

Courtesy of the Sno-Isle Genealogical Society.

By the end of 1919, the population of Alderwood Manor — less than 25 in 1917 — had grown to 609. The following year proved to be an even bigger banner year, according to Puget Mill Company’s growth records.

The statistics that Puget Mill Company provided prospective purchasers at the start of 1921 in regards to Alderwood Manor’s growth in 1920:

Families settled: 210

Population, Jan. 1, 1920: 609

Population, Jan.1, 1921: 1,463

Increase in population: 135%

Egg production: Jan. 1, 1920 — weekly 70,000

Egg production: Jan. 1, 1921 — weekly 172,800

Fruit trees, Jan. 1, 1920 — 780

Fruit trees, Jan. 1, 1921 — 5,604

Average wealth per family, January 1920: $2,150

Average wealth per family, January 1921 $4,500

Alderwood Manor’s poultry farmers joined the Washington Co-op and sold their eggs directly to the association on a daily basis. The eggs were in turn sold to Seattle’s and Everett’s marketplaces and also boxed up and shipped as far away as New York. The East Coast markets in the early 1920s appeared to have an endless appetite for the high-quality eggs being produced at the Alderwood Manor farms.

By the start of 1921, the price of a 5-acre tract in Alderwood Manor had risen to $1,850 from the original $1,000 price in 1917. Although Puget Mill Company discouraged “speculative” buyers from purchasing property in Alderwood Manor, properties were sold in late 1920 for $2,100.

1921-1930

In the early to mid 1920s, Puget Mill continued to improve the infrastructure and services to the Alderwood Manor community.  Major improvements were made to the roads within the property.

Early photo of a dirt road leading into the poultry sheds.
The Alderwood Road — or the North Trunk Road as it was known then — is now 196th Street Southwest today. The road was widened, graded and improved in the early 1920s. Notice telephone poles alongside the road. Electricity was provided to the properties via connections to the Seattle Everett Interurban Railway’s electrical system. Puget Mill also built and graded new roads throughout the property as additional subdivisions and tracts were opened to prospective “Little Landers.”

In August 1921, the Demonstration Farm hosted attendees from the American Poultry Association Convention. After attending an educational session and touring the farm, the delegates recognized the Demonstration Farm as one of the greatest poultry centers in the country, further enhancing the project’s mystique.

The American Poultry Association Convention delegates touring the Demonstration Farm in August 1921. (Photo courtesy University of Washington Special Collections)

By the end of 1922, residents enjoyed electricity, phone service and 154 miles of roads within the property. Egg production in Alderwood Manor was second only to Petaluma, California.

Daily egg gathering at Alderwood Manor in 1922. (Photo courtesy the University of Washington Digital Collection)

Puget Mill’s 1922 sales materials stated that the members of the Alderwood Manor community were living a bucolic life and raising chickens that earned them financial independence. It was stated that the average hen would result in a $2 profit per year ($37 today).

Author’s note: it was recommended that farmers with 5 acres have between 400 and 600 hens. Five hundred hens would have generated $18,500 today.

Puget Mill Company continued to be successful in selling “a dream” throughout the 1920s. As one new family of “Little Landers” wrote:

“We were first impressed with the fact that the sale of the land was secondary, it was the life of the open, the sweet contentment, the happiness of the great ownership of the out-of-doors that was most important. 

Secondly, that money was not the aim of living, but rather the production of that which besides giving money provides other comforts, chief among them one’s peace, the pleasure of one’s own home, and comfort of one’s own garden and little farm.

Third, the consciousness that in becoming a poultryman one was challenged by the requirements that might well arrest the interest, intellect of a thinking man, and the originality f one who loves to do.  To plan one’s home, to make plans for one’s future, to work those plans…this is a call worthwhile.

Fourth, the vision that lay before Alderwood – the prospect of a great dream realized – to become one in a chain of mighty producers with something that smacked of a positive assurance that in the days to come their’s would be something worthwhile and in its possession a feeling in which happiness and peace were akin.”

Despite all the hype and dream weaving there were definitely ups and downs. The federal government began subsidizing poultry farms in the eastern portion of the United States to help struggling veterans returning from World War I. The subsidies resulted in new competition for the larger East Xoast markets, and fluctuating prices that the co-op received for their eggs, and in turn pay for the farmers.

Furthermore, it proved difficult for many of the “Little Landers” to earn enough solely by raising chickens even in the best of times. Many of them diversified, growing fruits and vegetables for sale, growing nursery stock, dairying and/or holding down jobs in Seattle or Everett.

As one descendant of an early farmer said:

In looking back, I feel sorry for my parents. My father had to get up before dawn to clean the chicken sheds, feed the chickens and gather the eggs. Then he cleaned up and caught the interurban to work.

In the meantime, my mother fed us and got us off to school. While we were gone she had to clean and grade the eggs, package them up and take them to the co-op every day, while still tending to all her household chores.

When we got home from school, we helped pick greens from the garden to help feed the chickens and helped out in the garden and orchards as needed.”

Early 1930s and the Great Depression

When the Great Depression hit in the early 1930s, the price that the Washington Co-op was receiving for a dozen eggs dropped from around a dollar to a dime. Part of this steep drop was due to the fact that hundreds of thousands of eggs were found to be in cold storage and available for consumption and those eggs flooded the markets.

As a result, the farmers no longer could afford to purchase grain even at reduced prices from the Puget Mill’s granary to feed their flocks. Many of them abandoned their farms and moved elsewhere, forfeiting their work and investment. By 1933, Puget Mill Company said it also could no longer afford to keep the Demonstration Farm open, resulting in the abandonment of the community members.

Puget Mill late that year leased 5 of the central acres of the Demonstration Farm to Norm Collins, who established the Washington Breeders Association. Collins took over operations of the incubators and hatching facilities, upgrading them later. His lease also included the main poultry sheds plus the granary. Collins subsequently successfully operated the Washington Breeders Association until the early 1970s. The remaining 25 acres of the Demonstration Farm were subdivided into 1 acre parcels and eventually sold off by Puget Mill. Over the years the remaining stump farm properties were also sold by Puget Mill.

Norm Collins examining eggs soon after he leased facilities at once was the Alderwood Manor Demonstration Farm. (Photo Courtesy of the Enterprise Newspaper Dec. 21, 1994)

For those who had stayed through the Great Depression, the Alderwood Manor area in the mid 1930s appeared as if it might become a desirable suburban residential area. But when the Seattle-Everett Interurban Railway shut down in 1939 due to the advancement of automobiles and improved roads, Alderwood Manor’s easy accessibility and desirably faded.

As time passed, many of the Alderwood Manor-area businesses moved west into the emerging Lynnwood area centered at the crossroads of 196th Street Southwest and Highway 99, the latter of which had been completed in 1927.

Ultimately, with the expansion of Interstate 5, which cut through the heart of what was once the Demonstration Farm, the I-5 and 196th Street Southwest interchange became one of the most congested interchanges in Washington state. With it, the dream of a bucolic farm setting was gone forever.

The Remains of the Puget Mill Demonstration Farm today

Fortunately when the Environmental Impact Statement for the new interchange between I-5 and 196th was drafted in 1997, the original superintendent’s cottage, the water tower and the Wicker’s grocery store were able to be saved and moved to Heritage Park in Lynnwood.

Heritage Park (photo courtesy of the City of Lynnwood)

Today, the Demonstration Farm’s superintendent’s cottage is the home of Lynnwood-Alderwood Manor Historical Museum. The property’s water tower sits to the northeast of the cottage in Heritage Park, and Wicker’s two-story Tudor grocery store sits directly south within the park.

In addition to the three buildings, a refurnished electric train car from the Seattle-Everett Interurban Railway is on display within the park’s grounds. Heritage Park — located at 19921 Poplar Way in Lynnwood — is definitely worth the visit.

This article was researched and written by Byron Wilkes. Thanks go to the Sno-Isle Genealogical Society, the Museum of History and Industry, The University of Washington Digital Collections, the Edmonds Historical Museum and especially Cheri Ryan and the Lynnwood-Alderwood Manor Heritage Museum for their assistance in researching this two-part article.

 

  1. Byron Wilkes and his historical writings have rapidly become another Edmond’s area community treasure.

  2. I love these articles! Thank you so much for researching and writing about local history. I taught at Hilltop Elementary in the 1980s. It was still somewhat rural with horses in fields and wide open spaces.

  3. I certainly agree with Clinton Wright. Byron is an amazing man with many personal accomplishments to his credit. We are very fortunate to have him in our community.

    1. Thanks to everyone for their kind words and accomplishments. Everyone and every place has a story. I am happy that I can provide some information that is hopefully entertaining and educational.

  4. Byron – you are creating gem after gem and thank you! In the 1960s my mom took me and my sister from Crown Hill to the iconic Alderwood Manor to play with kids while our moms played bridge during the day. I can remember the back yards, the new style houses, and the stereo music. In the 70s, my sister had a horse she kept on a pasture that we figured was near the Alderwood Little League fields. Keep the hits coming!

  5. I agree with all of the comments. I really enjoy Byrons historical pieces of our areas. I read all of them and they are such a nice way to end an evening after reading and participating in all of our discussions that are not always pleasant, but they are necessary for sure. Thanks Byron. I am now turning off the computer for the evening.

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