Remarkable Journey: Century-old homes moved across Snoqualmie River to create new neighborhood steeped in history

Snoqualmie has been a fast growing city for nearly two decades now. It was orchestrated growth, though, spurred by a deal reached in the late 1990’s to build the master-planned development of Snoqualmie Ridge. By 2010, Snoqualmie was the fastest growing city in the State of Washington, seeing its population more that triple from just under 2,000 residents in 1990 to 10,700 in 2010.

Today, Snoqualmie has roughly 14,000 residents (estimate) – and with the majority of homes within the city built after 1998 – sometimes the logging/lumber history of our small town can get lost.

As the final subdivisions of Snoqualmie Ridge are completed, if you look back one century you can discover another point in time when Snoqualmie was also experiencing rapid growth – a time when small subdivisions were springing up to house workers and their families moving to the area for employment with the Snoqualmie Falls Lumber Company.

Snoqualmie Falls: Town built on the Back of Lumber Industry

In 1917, when Weyerhaeuser-owned Snoqualmie Falls Lumber Company completed and opened its Snoqualmie mill, it was one of only two all-electric mills in America. According to Snoqualmie Valley Historian Dave Battey, the company created a state-of-the-art community to provide most services required by its employees – including homes, a general store, post office, barber shop, railroad depot, hospital grade school, boarding house and Community Hall/YMCA.

What Weyerhaeuser created was a whole bustling town called Snoqualmie Falls, which surrounded the mill on the opposite side of the river from modern-day downtown Snoqualmie. A century ago, small homes – many of them Craftsman bungalows constructed of strong, straight-grained fir planks – were built to house employees and placed in small neighborhoods, peppered in different areas around the mill.

Those neighborhoods included Riverside, where the historic sycamore trees that line Reinig Road began as small front yard trees for mill homes; Stringtown, behind the mill to the north; The Point built on the hill above the mill’s stack; Orchard, which was built as an experiment to attract stable loggers with families.

Snoqualmie Falls mill town neighborhood of Riverside. Photo: Snoqualmie Valley Historical Museum.

Orchard community of Snoqualmie Falls mill town. Photo: Snoqualmie Valley Historical Museum

 

In total, about 250 mill town homes made up the various neighborhoods surrounding the company’s two mills. But after the Great Depression, Dave said it became less acceptable for a large corporation to be openly paternalistic toward employees – and with maintenance costs and property taxes growing on the homes, Weyerhaeuser began selling them off for $100 – $150, with first rights given to tenants and with the requirement that they be moved to private property.

This how many of these small homes landed on the opposite side of the Snoqualmie River. About 32 of these former mill town homes now make up the Williams Addition neighborhood in downtown Snoqualmie, which was established in the late 1950’s with a clear plan.

Mill Homes moved to Create New Snoqualmie Neighborhood

In 1958, local Banker C. Beadon Hall and contractor Tom Williams announced to Weyerhaeuser mill employees that a 26-acre section of ‘Grandpa Williams’ farm (located off SE 384th in downtown Snoqualmie) would be available to place up to 62 mill homes. Hall bought the property, put in streets and improvements, and divided it into lots for homes that varied in size from 24′ x 30′ to 24′ x 50′.

Williams would move the houses to their new land (formerly part his grandfather’s farm), connect them to Puget Power and the city’s water system, build new porches and install a cement walkway from the porch to the street.

The average cost to move a home was $3,500. Hall also arranged loan terms for employees who could not afford the up-front cash payment. The move took less than 24 hours to complete – and furniture (dishes included) could be left in place.

In order to move the homes, during the summer of 1958 a temporary bridge was built across the Snoqualmie River. The bridge connected Millpond Road to the foot of River Street and was a ‘build-as-you-go’ endeavor, with pilings driven into this shallow part of the river by a 30-ton pile driver as it progressed across the waterway.

The bridge was completed in mid August at total cost of $5,000. The first home was moved on August 19th. Homes from the Orchard, Riverside and Railroad Ave mill town communities were moved to the new Williams Addition neighborhood.

Mill town home being moved across the Snoqualmie River to its new home in the Williams Addition neighborhood in 1958. Photo: Snoqualmie Valley Historical Museum.

Tricky to Determine Exact Age of Williams Addition Homes

King County property tax records currently list all the Williams Addition homes as being built in 1917, but Historian Dave Battey said it’s difficult to know the exact age of each former mill town home unless current owners know which community the house was moved from.

Battey said most mill homes were constructed between 1916 – 1924, with most built in the late teens and early twenties. He said many of the homes moved to Williams Addition came from the Riverside neighborhood, which was built in 1918 on land originally owned by Captain George W. Gove, one of the founders of the Snoqualmie Hop Ranch and whose mansion sat on the hill above the historic Sycamore Corridor on Reinig Road.

Casey Crust, who resides a Williams Addition home, says she’s excited to celebrate the new year and her “little old home’s 100th birthday.”  She said she loves everything about the Snoqualmie Valley and people in it, but during this time of growth, and explosion of new homes and new residents, the story of her home – along with its history and journey across the river – is pretty remarkable and should be remembered.

There’s history all over the Snoqualmie Valley. You just have to slow down and look for it. Thanks to Dave Battey and the Snoqualmie Valley Historical Museum for always sharing it with me.

 

Casey Crust’s Williams Addition home in 1959

 

Casey Crust’s Williams Addition Home December 2016 – as it nears its 100th birthday

 

Comments

  1. Love this article!

  2. I lived for some years in one of these homes, in Fall City. They are all over beautiful downtown FC. Mine was on the street behind the County Public Works yard. One could still see the cork boot marks on the house’s wood floors.

  3. Christy Charbonneau Wright says

    My parents purchased 3 homes and moved them out near Ernie grove. My family still lives in all 3.

  4. As someone who grew up in the Valley and attended school in the 80’s and 90’s, I can’t read anything about our rich history without thinking of our great Snoqualmie Valley History teacher, Mr Saterlee. He had such passion about our towns and taught us so much about how it started. From the Native Americans to early settlers to early logging and on.
    I think there is an entire generation that grew up with so much pride for our community because of him. Look around you and talk to some of the residents. Many of them grew up there. They may have left and come back, or just decided to stay and didn’t leave. And there are those that left and never came back, but will always consider Snoqualmie Valley “home”.
    There is something almost magical about the valley that brings the feeling of being grounded. Feeling like it is where you belong. There is such a shared history there. You can’t live there without feeling connected to the area; the land, the people, the history.
    Thank you to Mr Saterlee for instilling a sense of community pride into so many of us. His legacy lives on in hundreds of people who still call Snoqualmie “home”, whether they still live there live thousands of miles away.

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