Lynnwood -- Thumbnail History

  • By David Wilma
  • Posted 7/13/2007
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 8200

Lynnwood and its neighborhoods grew up because of transportation, first around the Interurban rail system, then Highway 99, and finally Interstate 5. Each new mode generated a new kind of development and economic growth from Ranchettes and chicken farms to shopping malls. At the beginning of the twenty-first century, Lynnwood consisted of  7.7 square miles, 35,000 residents, a community college, a convention center, and plans for the future.

First Peoples

The tribe that called itself Snohomish used the upland area that would become Lynnwood in their summer wanderings to hunt, fish, gather berries, and dig roots. The Indians spent their winters in cedar longhouses built along the shores of Puget Sound and the Snohomish River at sites that would become the cites of Edmonds, Mukilteo, and Everett. During the summer months, when they were not catching salmon from the rivers, the wandering family groups lived in temporary structures woven from trees and reeds near the food sources.

In the Treaty of Point Elliott in 1854, the Snohomish and other tribes of the area ceded their rights to the land to the United States in exchange for a reservation and for the right to fish and hunt at their accustomed places. The Snohomish officially removed to the Tulalip reservation, but many members found employment as hands and laborers in mills and logging camps, on farms, and in cities.

Cedar Valley

Lynnwood's first non-Indian permanent resident was Scottish stonemason Duncan Hunter who filed a homestead claim on 80 acres of forest in 1889. His wife Jennie Stephenson and their two sons joined him from Wisconsin in the spring of 1891 and they moved into a cabin he had built along what became 36th Avenue W. Fellow Scot William Morrice purchased 100 acres just to the east of Hunter, property that became Alderwood Mall.

Hunter and Morrice worked on masonry projects and in logging camps and mills because the thick forest did not offer much in the way of agricultural opportunity. Eventually loggers cleared the trees and Hunter planted apple and cherry trees. Peter Schreiber claimed 160 acres around a small body of water and wetland that became Scriber Lake and Scriber Lake Park along SW 196th Street. Other settlers joined Schreiber and the neighborhood became Cedar Valley. The first community activity in the area was a school built by Duncan Hunter in 1895 under the auspices, but not the financial support of, the Edmonds School Board.

The dense stands of Doug-fir, cedar, hemlock, and spruce that blanketed so much of Puget Sound attracted loggers when mechanization made it possible for them to reach inland from the Sound and the rivers. Cacophonies of whistles from steam donkeys and locomotives competed with the rhythm of double-bitted axes and crosscut saws and forest giants crashed to the ground. Lumber mills wanted only the straightest-grain logs and the loggers left behind as much as 40 percent of every tree in vast piles of slash and stumps as tall as 30 feet. Mills grew up along lakes such as the one operated by the T. H. Williams Company on the south side of Hall's Lake where the water offered a means of storing and moving logs. With the mills came small communities for workers and their families. The Williams Company first used horses to skid logs to the lake, then graduated to steam.

The logging companies generally harvested their own lands purchased from settlers and the U.S. government. A stiff tax on standing timber and the demand for construction material encouraged aggressive logging. Once the trees were cut, the companies were left with stump ranches -- vast acreage of logging debris on which they still paid taxes.

The biggest landowner in south Snohomish County was the Puget Mill Company, an  enterprise of Pope & Talbot of San Francisco, which operated large mills at Port Ludlow, Port Gamble on Hood Canal, and Utsalady on Puget Sound. Between 1900 and 1920, most of what would become Lynnwood was transformed from forest to stump ranch.

The area remained decidedly rural. Travel to Seattle involving a trip over a rough trail to Edmonds, then by Mosquito steamer to the waterfront on Elliott Bay. North-south travel was usually over the crude military road which became the right-of-way for a telegraph line to New Westminster, British Columbia.

Ding Ding

In 1910, the Seattle-Everett Traction Company -- later Pacific Northwest Traction Company and Puget Sound Traction Light & Power -- completed the interurban rail line between Seattle and Everett with stops at Seattle Heights, Halls Lake, Beverly Park, Alderwood, Intermanor, Manordale, and Martha Lake. Commercial and residential communities sprang up around the stations. Seattle Heights boasted a boardwalk and eventually civic improvements such as a water district, a fire department, and a garbage dump.

With a run every hour, 70 minutes between Everett and Greenwood, the stump ranches became ripe for development. Entrepreneurs bought up homesteads and subdivided them into new communities for people who could hold down jobs in town and still raise stock and produce at home. The electric cars hauled passengers during the day and freight during the night.

Agricultural products replaced lumber as the main source of freight revenue. Farmers gained easy access to the newly opened Pike Place Market in Seattle where the producers sold directly to the consumers. Students found the Interurban trip to Ballard High School in Seattle faster than the walk to their own school in Edmonds. At its zenith, the interurban system stretched from Lakewood south of Tacoma to Bellingham.

Cluck Cluck

The Puget Mill Company fed the land rush by inventing Alderwood Manor as a way to market its logged-over land. In 1917, even before it had finished logging its 6,000 acres of South Snohomish County timber, Puget Mill subdivided the land into five- to 10-acre Ranchettes. The firm sold these small farms to city dwellers for $200 an acre.  If the buyer did not have the cash, the company carried the contract on 10 percent down. The idea for the Ranchettes came from California realtor W. A. Irwin, who had already made a fortune selling land to urbanites. It was Irwin who added "manor" to the name of the interurban station. His 1917 plat was the first of 27 subdivisions eventually filed with the county under the same name.

The company graded streets, many of them old logging roads, and as part of its marketing strategy named the rough roads after trees, i.e., Locust, Larch, and Poplar. The road to Edmonds became Filbert, but the locals always called it The Alderwood Road until the County designated it SW 196th Street. According to local lore, those roads with fruit trees were early logging trails where lumberjacks tossed apple cores and cherry pits into the slash.

Irwin hit on the idea of promoting the land as a source of income and he convinced Puget Mill to pour $250,000 into a 30-acre demonstration farm that taught newcomers how to raise crops and chickens for their eggs. The farm had brooder houses, poultry sheds, orchards, vegetable gardens, fields of kale, and Puget Mill gladly sold the seed, the fertile eggs, equipment, and cut lumber for sheds and homes. Port Townsend poultryman F. C. McClane took the job as hatcheryman and supervisor of the farm with its staff of 18. Buyers saw evidence of a bucolic country life where the only food they needed to buy was flour, sugar, and red meat. Irwin dubbed the aspiring settlers the Little Landers.

With the help of a national advertising campaign, a network of sales offices, and the Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific Railroad, Irwin pulled in thousands of people. At one time Puget Mill held $2 million in contracts in the Chicago area alone. A company newspaper, The Countryside, ran stories of successful Little Landers. It was homesteading without the hardship of pioneering. Between 1917 and 1922, the population of Alderwood Manor went from 22 people to 1,463 people and 200,000 hens. Residents enjoyed electricity, phone service, and 154 miles of roads. In the 1920s, Alderwood egg production was second only to that of Petaluma, California.

Alderwood Manor sold a dream, but the reality was different. A University of Washington graduate student conducted an analysis at the time and found that Alderwood buyers spent an average of $350 an acre for logged-off land, land that was available from Weyerhaeuser for $3 to $25 and acre. Many Little Landers and their families lived in one end of the chicken shed with their chickens occupying the other end. Most farmers did not make it without diversifying into orchards, nursery stock, or dairying, or by holding down day jobs in Seattle or Everett.

When the Great Depression hit in the 1930s, egg prices fell from $1 a dozen to a dime. Residents adapted or left. Puget Mill leased out the demonstration farm in 1933 to egg rancher Norman Collins who founded the Washington Breeder Association and a franchise system for chicken raising. Other breeders converted chicken ranches into mink farms with some success. A bad batch of feed in the late 1940s destroyed the mink industry in Alderwood.

The diversification by the Little Landers into other businesses and services led to the development of a real community at Alderwood Manor. The demonstration farm included a community center open to all. Puget Mill built a proper brick school (named after promoter Irwin) and residents opened stores, started churches, and founded community groups such as the Odd Fellows, Masons, and Ladies Aid Society. Cedar Valley had a grange. Diversification also meant that most locals weathered the Depression without much trouble since they raised much of their own food and bartered for other goods and services.

Beep Beep

While the fortunes of the Little Landers were rising and falling in the 1920s, the fortunes of the interurban were just falling. The exponential growth in automobiles resulted in road construction. The original road between Seattle and Everett ran through Bothell and Snohomish, but in 1924, the State drew Highway 99, part of the Pacific Highway, about a mile west of the interurban. When Highway 99 was dedicated in the fall of 1927, the whole commercial focus of south Snohomish County area shifted from the rail line to a ribbon of concrete 20 feet wide.

For the future Lynnwood, the nexus fell where Alderwood Road met the new highway. Locals called it Evergreen Crossroads or just The Crossroads. Businesses in Seattle Heights to the south were lucky since they were already close to the highway. Roadhouses such as The Willows and The Blakewood Inn sprang up along the highway and offered dining, dancing, overnight accommodations, and, rumor held, bootleg alcoholic beverages. The interurban ceased operation in 1939, but automobiles now connected the Little Landers and their neighbors to the outside world.

Lynnwood

At the end of 1937, Seattle realtor Karl O'Beirn platted some land along Highway 99 between SW 196th Street and SW 200th Street. Borrowing from the styles of other developers and from his wife Lynn, he named it Lynnwood and began selling lots. Within months, Clarence Fulton began selling wood next to O'Beirn's development and called it Lynnwood Lumber. Other capitalists grabbed the name and started Lynnwood Feeder Supply, Lynnwood Variety, Lynnwood Cleaners, and others. In 1946, the business owners organized the Lynnwood Commercial Club. The neighborhood grew and saw the erection of one of the first of a short-lived phenomenon of the automobile culture, The Sno-King drive-in movie theater.

After 1945, the nation and the region experienced unprecedented economic growth. During the 1940s, King County's population increased by some 225,000 -- a 50 percent increase -- and they all wanted a place to live. The suburbs out along Highway 99 exploded with subdivisions, and veterans and war workers with low-interest loans and cash drove new cars to the good life. Traffic along Highway 99 at the Crossroads reached critical -- and sometimes fatal -- levels until the County erected a stoplight at SW 196th Street in January 1948. Even the occasional hungry bear was not enough to keep people from moving to Lynnwood.

But housing construction lagged for want of a proper sewer system. And the County, up in Everett, gave the south county only second thought when it came to roads and police protection. The unincorporated communities of Alderwood Manor and Lynnwood cooperated in youth activities and a fire district. The Lynnwood Commercial Club sponsored a fundraiser for a park. But the next step for Lynnwood was obvious -- incorporation.

In late 1956, 18 citizens came together as an incorporation study committee and after a year proposed a City of Lynnwood, 6.7 square miles and more than 10,000 people. Alas, the committee proposed to incorporate part of Mountlake Terrace, already a city. And others, like those in Seattle Heights, found fault with the idea. When incorporation finally appeared on the ballot in 1958, it failed. A new, more modest, proposal of three square miles and 6,000 residents passed at the ballot box in April 1959. One factor in the success of this measure was the arrival on private lots of many dilapidated structures moved out of the way of Interstate 5. Only a municipal government could regulate housing construction. Within months, residents of six areas around the city petitioned for annexation and Lynnwood began to grow.

The voters opted for a mayor-council city government and the council hired Lynnwood's first policeman, Albert L. "Al" Glandt (1907-1985), a veteran of the Chicago Police Department and of semi-pro football. He supplied his own car, which he supplemented with a German Shepherd. Lynnwood historian Judith M. Broom writes, "Al Glandt was the kind of cop people either loved or hated -- and the sentiment was inevitably returned" (Broom, 134). Over the next 15 years, Police Chief Glandt was suspended by the mayor, reinstated by the city council, retired by the city council, then rehired. Under his tenure the department grew from a man and a dog to 26 sworn officers and a dog (this one a trained K-9 officer).

Other city departments grew to meet the demands of growth, traffic, zoning, pollution, education, recreation, and planning, particularly after the opening of Interstate 5 in 1967. Two interchanges (Lynnwood leaders argued strongly against the split interchange arrangement) were built along the freeway as it cut along Lynnwood's eastern boundary forming the Lynnwood triangle. The new traffic patterns pulled commercial development east along SW 196th Street and south along 44th Avenue SW.

The Boeing Company's transformation of Paine Field from abandoned air base into the 747 plant in 1968 brought more folks to Lynnwood. Pioneer Duncan Hunter's property remained in the hands of his son Basil until Basil's death in 1982 and Lynnwood's Pioneer Park honors the Hunter family.

Here Come the Malls

After 1945, the whole fabric of retailing shifted from the urban cores in Seattle and Everett to suburban shopping malls. In 1966, Alderwood Mall Corporation announced plans to build a shopping center on the old Morrice homestead east of Interstate 5. The plans lay on the drawing board for 10 years through the regional economic slump called the "Boeing Bust." In 1976, the Edward J. DeBartolo Company of Ohio took over the idea and picked up two-thirds of the $5.4 million worth of local improvements. Alderwood Mall opened for shoppers in September 1979. Development inundated the site of Puget Mill's demonstration farm and the Ranchettes of the Little Landers. Much of Alderwood Manor came into Lynnwood's city limits in 1984. The last holdout island of 100 acres in Maple Park submitted to annexation in 1988.

Commercial and residential development both blessed and beset Lynnwood. The explosive growth since the 1960s resulted in a confused mixed of strip malls, shopping centers, parking lots, restaurants, and hotels. By 1990, the old Crossroads, where SW 196th Street crossed the old Highway 99, was the second busiest intersection in the state. City planning and regional planning became synonymous as traffic and environmental issues demanded a wider response than possible by just one city. City planners managed to line out buffer zones between busy, crowded commercial areas and arterials, and lower-density residential neighborhoods.

On May 1, 2005, the City opened its new 55,000-square-foot, $34 million Convention Center, which proved to be an immediate success, attracting 208 events in its first seven months. In 2005, the Lynnwood City Council committed to a 20-year redevelopment plan to transform the city into another Bellevue with high-rise office towers and a pedestrian promenade. By 2007, Lynnwood's population was approximately 35,000 and the City Council was planning annexation measures to add 10,000 more residents to the community.


Sources: Lynnwood: The Land The People, The City ed. by Judith M. Broom and Randall M. Dodd (Seattle: Peanut Butter Publishing: 1990); HistoryLink.org the online encyclopedia of Washington State History, "Interurban rail service between Everett and Seattle begins on April 30, 1910" (by Walt Crowley), "1950 Census: Population of Seattle tops 465,000 and that of King County tops 730,000 in 1950" (by Greg Lange) http://www.HistoryLink.org (accessed June 26, 2007); Don Duncan, "Glandt, Former Police Chief, Dies," The Seattle Times, March 12, 1985, p. A-9; Carolyn Casey, "Lynnwood Studies Two Annexations," Ibid., May 6, 1988, p. E-3; Diane Brooks, "2007 Will Be a Big Year for Lynnwood Makeover," Ibid., January 6, 2007, p. B-4; Diane Brooks, "Lynnwood Succeeds With New 'Gateway' Convention Center," Ibid., December 21, 2005, p. H-18; Lisa Chiu, "Big-city Idea Comes to a Small Town," Ibid., August 31. 2005, p. B-4.

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