Seattle timber-baron brothers Frederick Spencer Stimson (1868-1921) and Charles Douglas "C. D." Stimson (1857-1929) acquired a rural parcel at Derby, near Woodinville, for use as a country retreat and hunting camp. C. D. built the Willows lodge on one portion and then in 1910 Frederick built his "Manor House" on another. It initially served as a weekend getaway, but the ambitious industrialist soon added a huge state-of-the art dairy operation and named the property Hollywood Farm. The village of Derby was renamed Hollywood, and next came the massive Hollywood Poultry Farm with its prizewinning breed of Hollywood chickens. The ever-visionary Stimson believed in direct-to-customer sales, resulting in the founding of the Hollywood Farm City Store in Seattle in 1916. Two years later his wife Nellie Stimson (1868-1946) expanded her horticultural interests and launched a long-lived florist shop, Hollywood Gardens, in downtown Seattle. While the larger Stimson family is best remembered for vast timber holdings, multiple sawmills around Puget Sound, and various Seattle mansions, Frederick and Nellie Stimson's magnificent Hollywood Farm also remains part of the family's legacy: Since 1975 the historic estate has been the site of the Chateau Ste. Michelle winery.
Settling Along the Slough
In 1859 coal was discovered east of Seattle in an area that the Sammamish people who had long lived there called, in their Southern Lushootseed language, "sqʷásxʷ." Newly arriving settlers and miners approximated that word in English as "Squak," using it to name both the mining area ("Squak Mountain") and, with further modification, the new town of Issaquah. Nearby Lake Sammamish's 14-mile outlet river to Lake Washington was called Squak Slough until the early 1900s, when it was was renamed the Sammamish Slough (or River).
The slough flows northward from the north end of Lake Sammamish through Redmond, then winds northwesterly through Woodinville and into Bothell, where it turns west and continues through Kenmore to enter Lake Washington near its north end. A bank along the northeastern-most bend of the slough became the site of a village founded by settlers Ira (1833-1908) and Susan (1848-1919) Woodin in 1871. That river community of Woodinville, approximately 20 miles northeast of Seattle, saw major changes in 1887 when the Seattle, Lake Shore and Eastern Railway arrived in the basin, en route to the coal mines in Issaquah, and the Woodinville Junction railroad depot then saw ever-greater numbers of newcomers arriving to homestead farms and/or work in the area's timber industry.
In time there were enough settlers in the area that another village arose along the slough, about two miles southeast of the original settlement of Woodinville, approximately where NE 145th Street now crosses the Sammamish River. Possibly named by a British family who had a nearby logging operation, Derby was a tiny timber-based crossroads town anchored by a store, a dancehall, and a rail depot. In 1892 the wooden Derby School was erected.
Derby was founded on rich bottomland, adjacent to a hillside just to the west. Built at the base of that hill were the tracks of the Northern Pacific Railroad's Belt Line, while the Northern Pacific's North Bend Branch ran fairly parallel to that, just a bit to the east. In between those two lines was a large parcel of logged-over stump-land (just south of today's NE 145th Street) owned by the pioneering Lund family. It was this parcel that would eventually catch the attention of a couple of newcomers named Stimson -- and lead in time to the area being renamed Hollywood.
The Stimson Family
Thomas Douglas "T. D." Stimson (1827-1898) had established himself as one of the leading lumbermen of the Great Lakes region, running an extensive business that included a sawmill in Chicago. As nearby sources of lumber began to dwindle, he made a scouting trip out west to explore the timber conditions there and was greatly impressed by the old-growth forests of the Pacific Northwest and by the deep-water port of the still-new city of Seattle.
T. D. sent his sons westward to begin buying timberland, start logging operations, and found a mill. C. D. and his wife Harriet and Fred and his bride Nellie arrived in Seattle in early 1889. The Stimsons "wasted little time reorganizing and establishing the business. Timberlands were acquired in Snohomish County, on Hood Canal and as far south as the Tillamook region in Oregon" ("Stimson History").
The Stimson Empire
The Northwest-based Stimson Land Company was incorporated soon after the brothers arrived in Seattle, and C. D. began looking for a possible site to set up a sawmill. With downtown waterfront land already expensive, he was intrigued by the availability of a sawmill owned by Captain William R. Ballard (1847-1929) and located a short distance north on Salmon Bay, and he bought it. Shortly after, on June 6, 1889, the Great Seattle Fire broke out and the mill suddenly faced a huge unforeseen demand. The Stimson Mill Company incorporated in January 1890, with C. D. heading the firm and Frederick in charge of shipping. Within a few years the mill was sawing all the lumber it could to supply the Klondike Gold Rush of 1896 to 1899, and it eventually became the world's largest producer of cedar roofing shingles.
The Stimson empire grew to include several mills and vast timber holdings in four states. It was reported that the mills could produce some 125,000 board feet per day and that the family's land holdings were "the largest of any on the Pacific Coast, it being estimated that they have enough timber in sight to keep their mills running for the next twenty-five years" ("E. T. Stimson"). The Stimsons worked hard, gained further wealth, and life was good. The brothers were among the first automobile owners in Seattle, and with their wives built two of the city's grandest mansions: C. D. and Harriet Stimson's Stimson-Green Mansion at 1204 Minor Avenue on First Hill, and Frederick and Nellie Stimson's Stimson-Griffiths Mansion at 405 W Highland Drive on Queen Anne Hill.
Among the numerous properties that C. D. and Frederick Stimson purchased was a large parcel in Derby. Acquired from the Lunds, it was logged-over stump-land along the Squak Slough that willow trees had begun to repopulate. The Stimson brothers initially envisioned it as a campsite for duck hunting and fishing expeditions with their pals, but C. D. eventually had a formal structure built there -- his lodge, the Willows, which by 1906 included a small poultry farm.
The Willows Shooting Club served C. D. and his young family as a fine weekend getaway spot, accessible by automobile over primitive backwoods roads after taking the ferry across Lake Washington from Madison Park to Kirkland. C. D. also hosted guests there -- including, in 1915, the famed illusionist/stunt performer Harry Houdini (1874-1926) who was in Seattle for some shows at the Orpheum Theatre. In 1916 King County bought the Willows property and until 1932 it housed a labor camp referred to as the "Lazy Husbands Farm" -- camp inmates were paid a small wage that was forwarded to their suffering families. In August 1939 the old lodge burned down and the property became a dairy.
Around 1910 Frederick and Nellie Stimson decided that they might prefer the country life to the growing metropolis of Seattle. They had also grown fond of the Squak Slough property and apparently reached an agreement with C. D. to take over the northern 206-acre portion of the property. Frederick envisioned a formal "Manor House" surrounded by a fully developed estate, but first the acreage needed major work. Stimson reportedly hired as many as 100 locals to help pull stumps from his fields, then began building a Craftsman-style house with six bedrooms, four river-rock fireplaces, a cozy south-facing sunroom, and four rooms for servants' quarters.
Completed in 1911, the estate eventually boasted beautifully designed gardens, a five-tier trout pond, roaming pet peacocks, a laundry, lighted tennis courts, Nellie's small greenhouse, a caretaker's cottage, and a massive four-car Carriage House (with chauffeur's apartment), to hold Fred's growing collection of automobiles, which included an early all-electric model. The entire perimeter, including the gated driveway named Stimson Lane, was lined with more than 1,000 holly trees and the Stimsons called the estate Hollywood.
The couple had it all, splitting their time between Seattle, where they had acquired a nice apartment in the Hamilton Arms at 553 Broadway N on Capitol Hill, and the new country house. As The Seattle Times put it, Fred Stimson had "picked a spot not far off a splendid automobile artery that reaches straight to the heart of Seattle and ... would make the city available at any minute he might wish to go. 'Forty-five minutes from Broadway' he calls it, because the distance from the end of Broadway in Seattle and Hollywood can be covered in just about that time with an automobile driven at a smart clip" ("Cows and Carnations").
Although the Stimsons had conceived Hollywood as a rural retreat, all that land -- they would eventually expand the property to 600 acres -- seemed begging to be used productively. Though a doctor friend, Fred Stimson had developed an interest in providing the public with superior sanitary milk and began to plan "a large-scale farm development intended to take full advantage of the most advanced scientific operating methods available. However, the farm was not just an expensive indulgence. As a business investment, it returned an increasing profit soon after the dairy began commercial production" (Keller and Thomas, 2).
In 1911 Stimson joined the "Holstein-Friesian Dairymen's Association which enabled him to personally promote improved operating methods and discuss innovations with other farmers" (Keller and Thomas, 3). Those included his friend James W. Clise (1855-1939) who in 1904 began developing his Willowmoore Farm (later Marymoor Farm and then Marymoor Park) in nearby Redmond. Before long Stimson had assembled 300 head of purebred Holstein cattle and later began shipping their offspring to other ranchers as another facet of the business.
Stimson spared no expense in making his farm a high-tech agricultural demonstration project, one that boasted its own laboratories, feed silos, carpenter shop, workers' bunkhouse and cookhouse, and a steam-power plant to heat gigantic new barns. He "created an innovative, modern dairy that employed scientific methods of management, stringent quality controls, and direct marketing techniques, allowing customers to afford the best, most pure milk" ("Pioneering Legacies"). The farm employed the most advanced sanitary practices then in existence. There were daily lab tests of the milk, the milking crewmen wore white uniforms and caps that were changed twice daily, bottles were washed in a mechanized plant, and each cow was given a hot scrub-bath before every milking session. Sales of the dairy products were made directly from the farm in the first few years.
Besides the dairy, Stimson took on raising swine -- at least 400 prized Duroc-Jersies -- and production and sale of pork sausage. In short, what had started out as the creation of an idyllic country getaway had morphed into an industrial complex. In 1911 the estate was formally named Hollywood Farm. Committed to the concept, Stimson -- the wealthiest individual for miles around -- then persuaded the railroad and postal service to approve changing the name "Derby" to "Hollywood." When Stimson in 1912 funded construction of a new brick building to replace the old wooden Derby School, it was called the Hollywood Schoolhouse.
Hollywood Farm generated considerable interest in the press and among the public. In 1912 The Seattle Times published a major feature titled "Cows and Carnations: F.S. Stimson's Wonderful Dairy-Greenhouse-Country Home-Ranch in Sammamish Valley. A Marvelous Toy and a Great Business of Real Economic Value." Famed Seattle photographer Asahel Curtis (1874-1941) stopped by several times between 1913 and 1916 to take photos of the enterprise. So did noted fine-art photographer Ella E. McBride (1862-1965), who was also shop manager for Curtis's even-more famous photographer brother, Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952).
With the increase in visitors, an ice cream parlor was built near the rail depot on the northern edge of the farm and cityfolk could then enjoy stopping by to purchase fresh milk, cream, ice cream, and sausages. And, before long, eggs as well.
Hollywood Poultry Farm
In 1913 Stimson forged a new partnership with an old schoolmate, Morton E. Atkinson, who had become an experienced, if cash-strapped, poultry farmer. Their deal placed Atkinson on a modest salary, with his additional 50 percent of any profits going to paying back Stimson for the capital costs of constructing a plant. Atkinson brought his equipment and stock of 800 pedigreed S.C. White Leghorn and 300 Orpington chickens along, and the hard work began.
Stimson provided the Hollywood Poultry Farm project 17 acres just to the west atop Hollywood Hill and constructed five laying houses, two incubator houses, and 15 brooder houses for the enterprise. An immediate success, the poultry business quickly grew to 47 acres, producing an annual income of more than $100,000, with Atkinson all the while paying off his debt to Stimson. Along the way, Atkinson proved his worth, eventually gaining national and then worldwide fame for breeding a unique strain of "Hollywood" hens that won egg-laying contests wherever they were entered into competition.
The Hollywood Poultry Farm flock soon grew to 12,000 birds, and in time some of the highly-sought-after Hollywood hens themselves were sold to other poultry farmers far and wide. But the farm's most prized individual hens -- like one famous champion, Lady Hollywood, who had set world egg-laying records -- were treasured as the resident stars that they were.
Hollywood Farm City Store
Although Hollywood Farm may have begun like others of the era -- "Farm estates were a fashionable diversion for wealthy capitalists in the early 20th century" (Keller and Thomas, 3) -- it had quickly captured Fred Stimson's imagination and evolved into his primary occupation. In 1914 Hollywood Farm began delivering milk by horse and wagon to Seattle customers via the Kirkland-to-Seattle ferry service across Lake Washington. Then in 1916 the Stimsons expanded on their practice of selling directly to consumers by opening a new retail shop in Seattle.
The Hollywood Farm City Store and manufacturing plant at 1609 Westlake Avenue on Lake Union received daily shipments of fresh products via wagon and became quite successful. On the advice of a doctor who informed him that country living might be better for his health conditions, in 1918 Stimson "abandoned most of his other business interests due to declining health and moved his permanent residence to the farm" (Keller and Thomas, 3).
The next year, Stimson published a history of the farm in which he wrote of the store, "the growing demand for Hollywood products has necessitated repeated enlargements. Today the business occupies more than four times its original space" (The Story of Hollywood Farm, 7). By then the store had relocated downtown to a building at Fourth Avenue and Pine Street, which boasted a lunch counter that sold "Hollywood ice cream, milk, buttermilk, sundaes, sodas, egg drinks, etc., at any hour of the day" (The Story of Hollywood Farm, 4). Beyond all that retail activity, the store also well served a public relations purpose -- from it the curious could board one of two daily (10 a.m. and 5 p.m.) round-trip "stage" rides out to take tours of the farm.
In 1918 Nellie Stimson launched yet another family side-business. She had been heavily involved in horticulture -- first in the conservatory at their Seattle mansion on Queen Anne Hill and then also in a little greenhouse at Hollywood where carnations were evidently her passion -- long before the Stimsons had an industrial-scale greenhouse operation built at the farm. It included nine glass-and-steel steam-heated greenhouses, a plant house, a seed house, an office, and a manager's cottage. Carnations, roses, chrysanthemums, poinsettias, and orchids cultivated by staff gardeners were soon being delivered as cut flowers on each day's milk-wagon run to Seattle.
The retail demand for flowers increased to such a level that in 1918 Nellie opened her own Hollywood Gardens floral shop at the corner of Second Avenue and Stewart Street in downtown Seattle. Before long the busy shop was offering home delivery service via bicycles, motorcycles, and a dedicated Cadillac car. In addition, Hollywood Gardens established a wholesale business shipping orders as far as Nome, Alaska, and Honolulu, Hawaii. The Seattle shop would remain active at least into the 1950s.
Busy Until the End
As Seattle and the surrounding area had continued to grow and develop, that accessing old-growth timber became a challenge for the Stimson lumber operations. Facing this reality, and eying the giant swath of property that they had purchased on Hood Canal, the Stimsons set up a major new mill there in 1912. But the old Ballard-based mill would carry on into 1956, when it was finally dismantled and sold off. (In its place the Salmon Bay Center was built, and in 1960 the Stimson Marina at 5265 Shilshole Avenue NW made its debut as the largest covered marina in Seattle.)
Frederick Stimson remained as busy as ever. In addition to serving as secretary (and acting attorney) to the family's lumber company, he was also a regent of Washington State College of Agriculture (later Washington State University), the vice president of the Washington Trust Company, vice president of the Globe Navigation Company, and founder of a small railroad and fish cannery in Alaska. He ran his myriad businesses from an office in the Globe Building at 310 First Avenue S in Seattle.
In 1917 Fred Stimson he built a home near Hollywood Farm as a wedding gift to his daughter Achsah Stimson and her husband, Dr. Thomas Moore. (The Stimson-Moore Cottage still stood at 15844 NE 145th Street, Woodinville, a century later.) Achsah Stimson Moore would become known in the small community for operating the Fresh Air Farm at 156th Place NE and 160th Place NE, Woodinville, which in the summer months, in conjunction with the Anti-Tuberculosis League, provided food (with plenty of milk) and outdoor activities for undernourished children.
In the fall of 1921 Nellie Stimson and her son Harold C. Stimson took the train to California for a few weeks of visiting. Around the same time, Frederick -- recently re-elected president of the Pacific International Livestock Association -- had caught a bad cold while attending the association's exposition in Portland. On Thanksgiving Day he felt well enough to begin preparing to attend a planned holiday feast at the farm. But, while at the Hamilton Arms apartment, "Mr. Stimson was dressing for dinner, which was to be given at his Hollywood farm when he was stricken with a heart attack" (New York Lumber Trade Journal). The widow and son were notified via telegraph, and they returned home where a funeral was held.
Sales and Subdivision
The Stimson family continued to keep Hollywood Farm running -- with the help of its day-to-day manager, a Mr. Peters -- and even added new components to the business. In 1924 they leased the unique Olde English-styled Northold Inn hotel and restaurant at 214-216 University Street in downtown Seattle. The Hollywood Tavern Apartments were at the top of the building and the Hollywood Tavern Dairy Store on the ground floor. In between was the Hollywood Tavern restaurant, which featured fresh goods from the farm and, located in Seattle's theater district, was very popular until the family sold the business.
By 1931 the Stimsons had had enough and Hollywood Farm was sold. Local legend holds that the Manor House became the home of the Wayward Robin Café, while the basement served as an illicit speakeasy during Prohibition. In time, various parts of the property were leased out, including the dairy, which was run until 1943 by Alex and Fanny Sender and their family. Following Mort Atkinson's death the chicken operation became the Heisdorf-Nelson Poultry Farm. Meanwhile, the Hollywood Gardens portion of the farm was taken over by the Nicholson family. Nellie Stimson remained an active Seattle socialite, but moved to Los Angeles in June 1938, although she was back in Seattle when she died on March 16, 1946.
By the early 1940s the Manor House had been effectively abandoned and eventually fell into serious disrepair -- the Senders' granddaughter, Bobbie Kosokoff Edelstein, remembered calling it the "haunted house" (Edelstein interview) -- with blackberry vines growing into the many broken windows and winding throughout the structure. In addition, the once-beautiful building suffered a significant fire at some point. In 1943 the Senders and Kosokoffs moved out, and Philip and Frances MacBride bought the bulk of the property and began years of restoring it. Frances MacBride took on the task of reworking the overgrown gardens and planted many new trees of at least 62 varieties, exotic specimens that visitors can still enjoy today. After her death in 1972 the property was subdivided into various smaller parcels.
Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery
The central 87-acre plot of land that held the Manor House, the gardens, many of the old barns, and large fields was the one that caught the eye of Wally Opdycke in 1973. He was the leader of a group of local investors who had purchased an old-time Seattle-based wine-producing firm, American Wine Growers, and then quickly flipped the company, selling it outright to Connecticut-based U.S. Tobacco (UST). Opdycke was retained by UST to help guide the firm as it stepped into the new realm of vineyard-ownership and wine production.
He had begun scouring Washington for the perfect spot to construct a new winery, and had been tempted by some options in the grape-growing areas on the sunny eastern side of the state. But while it made some sense to base the company there where the fruit originated, he had another thought: Why not build a winery closer to Seattle, where the main population base was? If plan was to create a new industry in the Northwest, why not build a facility that would attract visitors, converting them to loyal customers?
The pastoral setting of the old Hollywood Farm near the now-thriving town of Woodinville seemed perfect. In 1974 UST paid the MacBride estate $230,000 for the property and began planning construction of a brand-new Ste. Michelle Vintners winery complex that could be seen in the same league as the finest wineries in California or Europe. The plans included a name change, as Opdycke explained years later: "We wanted to build it to look like this old French chateau" and so, "We decided to change the name from Ste. Michelle Vintners to Chateau Ste. Michelle" (Kinssies).
A formal groundbreaking ceremony was held on September 24, 1975, and the eventual result of a $6 million construction effort was a stunning 150,000-square-foot French-style chateau. The Seattle Times, noting Opdycke's prediction that "the winery will be the most modern in America," described the plans:
"The 600-foot-long new building will have space for fermenting, aging, bottling, warehousing, crushing and pressing. Administrative offices and a visitor center and wine-tasting room will be near the main entrance to the two-story chateau" (Lane).
By 2017, when the Ste. Michelle Wine Estates company -- which had become one of America's premier producers of premium wine -- marked 50 years of creating award-winning wines, Chateau Ste. Michelle was one of the world's most-visited wineries. Its expansive grounds, by then totaling 105 acres, boasted scores of mature rare trees and several historic buildings. A large outdoor amphitheater just south of the Manor House remained, as it had been for decades, the site of a popular summer concert series. In 1983 the "Hollywood Farm and Residence" was honored with the installation of a brass Historic Landmark plaque. Two decades later, the winery again honored the site's history by naming its 2006 rosé "Nellie's Garden."