Snohomish: Historic Downtown Tour

  • By Warner Blake
  • Posted 11/30/2011
  • Essay 9961

This is a tour of the historic downtown business district of Snohomish that guides the reader on a looped walk from the Visitor’s Center, up First Street and back via the Snohomish River Trail.   

The “Village of Snohomish” -- as it quantified itself when first incorporated in 1888 -- was sited in the sunshine, on the south-facing bank of the river that gave it its name.

Frontier entrepreneurial spirit and the rumor of government spending motivated the filing of claims on both sides of the Snohomish River in 1859 with the speculation that traffic on a new military road running south to north would pay handsomely for a ferry crossing service. It was not to be. Instead, a steady increase in steamship service brought loggers and supplies to camps up and down the river, then family farmers following talk of the rich bottom-land of the valley, and Snohomish grew to become the economic and cultural center of the county. With statehood, it re-incorporated in 1890 as the City of Snohomish with a census count of 2,012 people.

Also the birthplace of the county (1861) and its home for 36 years, Snohomish lost the county seat to the big spender Everett in 1897. The handsome courthouse found new life as the high school, and the structure of locally manufactured brick echoed with the unfamiliar sounds of bells and laughter.  

Since 1973, the historic downtown business district, along with several residential blocks, has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  The 2010 census counted 9,098 residents who are also residing within the Snohomish School District that numbers over 40,000 people.

And the Snohomish River continues to rise and fall with phases of the moon and drainage of the North Cascade Mountain Range 60 miles to the east, just as each new generation comes to understand the river as the gift of nature that created the City of Snohomish.

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