Town of Lake Stevens incorporates on November 21, 1960.

  • By Warner Blake
  • Posted 12/08/2017
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 20492

On November 21, 1960, Snohomish County's three-member Board of County Commissioners declares the Town of Lake Stevens incorporated in accordance with a vote held two days earlier. The commissioners' resolution, filed with the Washington Secretary of State's office eight days later, records the vote in favor of incorporating as 299 to 40; describes the boundaries of the new town and gives its estimated population as 900; and names the town officials chosen in the same election.

Lake Stevens Association of Incorporation

The Snohomish County community of Lake Stevens grew up around the lake of the same name, located about eight miles east of Everett. Charles A. Missimer (ca. 1858-1938) purchased lots on North Cove, at the northeast end of the lake, in 1889. The Rucker Brothers Timber Company acquired some of the land and built a large sawmill there in 1907. Downtown Lake Stevens grew and prospered in the shadow of the Ruckers Mill until it was destroyed by fire in 1925. The town continued to flourish as resorts grew up around the lake, drawing visitors and residents. But by the 1950s, commerce and development was shifting to the west side of Lake Stevens, where a major transportation corridor, State Route (SR) 9, commonly referred to as the Snohomish-Arlington highway, ran north-south past the lake.

Talk of incorporation among downtown Lake Stevens businessmen began in 1958. Alarmed by the number of business owners planning to relocate to a new shopping center named Frontier Village, which was under construction at the intersection of SR 9 and SR 204 just west of the lake, the concerned owners formed the Lake Stevens Association of Incorporation. Under the leadership of business owner Addison Shoudy (1900-1993), the campaign for incorporation began immediately, running into 1960, promising local police protection, street lights, and a new library. It was the appeal of local control along with the promise of no increase in taxes that led a majority of voters in the small village at the north end of Lake Stevens to vote for incorporation as the Town of Lake Stevens.

Opposition

Not all downtown business owners favored the plan. Jim Mitchell (1924-2012), who succeeded his father as owner of Mitchell's Pharmacy, a Lake Stevens institution established in the 1920s, wrote in his 2004 memoir that he opposed incorporation. Mitchell based his position on a 1956-1957 study by the University of Washington that, he said, "could not recommend the formation of a city because of its low tax base," adding that "the study projected that it would be at least twenty years before the tax base would support a city" (Mitchell, 34).

The large shopping center, located on the west side of the lake across from downtown, was created by the economic opportunity presented when SR 204 coming from the west terminated just before the lake at SR 9. And then when SR 92 coming from the northeast intersected SR 9 few miles north of the lake, Mitchell called it the "final blow" (Mitchell, 33). No longer would drivers traveling to and from the neighboring town of Granite Falls have to pass through downtown Lake Stevens.

Mitchell's fear was that incorporating a town at the northeast end of the lake would divide the various neighborhoods around the lake and delay unification of downtown Lake Stevens and Frontier Village. (As it turned out, the incorporated town, later city, would eventually annex most of the land around the lake, including the area of Frontier Village.) Mitchell relocated the family pharmacy to Frontier Village on September 1, 1960, two months before the vote for incorporation.

Special Election

Eleven days following the general election of November 8, 1960, a special election was held on November 19 so that the registered voters among the estimated 900 residents living within the prescribed boundaries of the proposed new Town of Lake Stevens could vote on the incorporation proposition. The town boundaries at the north end of Lake Stevens included the historic site of the lots purchased by C. A. Missimer in 1889 (which would later become North Cove Park) and the downtown area that grew up around the Ruckers Mill.

A total of 339 residents voted on whether to incorporate the Town of Lake Stevens, with 299 voting for incorporation and 40 against. William H. (Bill) Hawkins (d. 1997) was elected mayor with 192 votes and Keith Tidyman received all 294 votes for town treasurer. Elected to form the first council were Donald W. Silcox, Walter S. Stringer, William I. Taylor, Peter O. Thaanum, and Gayle D. Whitsell (d. 1997).

Two days after the special election, on November 21, 1960, the three county commissioners passed a resolution declaring that the incorporation proposition had passed and that the above-named had been elected as town officers. The final step in formalizing the incorporation of Lake Stevens came on November 29, when a certified copy of the resolution was filed, as required by law, with the Secretary of State's office in Olympia. The new town's first council meeting was held on Tuesday, December 13, 1960, at 8 p.m. at the Mt. Pilchuck Elementary School.

City Building, Historic Home

The first major purchase by the new government in its first year was the old brick post-office building for $8,000, to use as city offices including the new police department. While a jail was built it was never used because of a state law requiring at least one uniformed officer on duty whenever a person was housed in the jail. Mayor Bill Hawkins resigned in 1964 to manage his new business, the Town Pharmacy on Main Street. (The Lake Stevens Library was later housed in the former Town Pharmacy building.) Gayle Whitsell took over as the second mayor of the new town in 1965.

Hawkins and Whitsell later were both instrumental in the restoration of the Grimm House, a modest home built around 1905 for Rucker Mill middle-management personnel and their families. Paul Grimm was a master mechanic/millwright superintendent at the mill. He and his wife Bertha raised four children in the home. The restored structure is located just steps from the Lake Stevens Historical Society Museum off Main Street and is open for tours along with the museum on weekends. The historic home was listed with National Register of Historic Places in 1995, two years before the town's first two mayors died.


Sources:

Town of Lake Stevens incorporation papers, filed November 29, 1960, with the Office of the Secretary of State, Washington State Archives, Olympia, Washington; Jim Mitchell, Lake Stevens, My Town: Recollections of a Native Son (Lake Stevens: Jim Mitchell, 2004); Reminiscing ... Lake Stevens, the Early Years (Lake Stevens: Lake Stevens Historical Committee, 2nd printing 2017); Cyndi Fraser, emails to Warner Blake, November 29, 2017, in possession of Warner Blake, Snohomish, Washington; Cathy Logg, "Restoring History in Lake Stevens," The Herald, April 30, 2004 (http://www.heraldnet.com/news/restoring-history-in-lake-stevens/); HistoryLink.org Online Encyclopedia of Washington State History, "Lake Stevens -- Thumbnail History" (by Warner Blake), http://www.historylink.org/ (accessed December 8, 2017).


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