Understanding the Historical Significance of Snoqualmie's Orchard Avenue

Yes… I know what you are asking.  Where is Orchard Ave in Snoqualmie.  Answer?  In the Braeburn neighborhood, about half way down Snoqualmie Parkway.  Orchard.  Braeburn.  Get the apple connection? 

Snoqualmie Valley Historian, Dave Battey, is taking you down Snoqualmie history lane and explains the two primary historic reasons for Snoqualmie having a street named Orchard Avenue.  You can get more Snoqualmie Valley history lessons from the Snoqualmie Valley Historical Museum.  Thanks, Dave!

Fruit Orchard Origins

Snoqualmie Valley’s first permanent European-American pioneer, Jeremiah Borst, settled here in 1858.  He later packed fruit trees on his back and transported them up the Cedar River trail for planting in the exceptional Valley soil.  Today, this is the area of the Mount Si High School fields near Park Street and Meadowbrook Way.  Snoqualmie’s Borst Lake is also known as Mill Pond, the setting of many spectacular Valley photos.

Borst’s initial attempt to sell fruit in Seattle failed because the fresh fragile apples could not handle the long, jostling trip down the Snoqualmie Falls hill to Fall City for transportation down the Snoqualmie River, to the Snohomish River, then to Puget Sound – and finally onto market in Seattle.

As a solution, Borst created products that could handle the long journey.  He dried the apples and raised hogs, which were made fat off on his orchard’s cull (blemished, deformed ) apples and home-grown fodder (animal feed).  The drying and curing processes ensured his fruit, bacon and hams could survive the long river shipment to market.

In 1882, Borst sold much of his land (later named Meadowbrook Farm) to the Hop Grower’s Association, which at the time gave the Valley floor between Snoqualmie and North Bend billing as the “largest hop ranch in the world.” The fruit crop was still important, though.  In 1886 the farm produced “about 5,000 bushels of apples.”

Orchards were very important to the initial financial success of the Snoqualmie Valley pioneers and the trees (growing where the high school now stands) are depicted below in the first-known artist’s image of the Upper Snoqualmie Valley, published in a 1889.

Snoqualmie Hop Ranch - 1889
The cable and barge to the left were replaced by today’s Meadowbrook Bridge. The main road pictured is now Park Street. The fancy building in the middle (surrounded by apple trees) is the Hop Ranch Hotel, built about 1885 to house the tourists who flocked to our Valley. Photo courtesy of Dave Battey.


The Orchard Community

As prime Snoqualmie Valley land became scarce, enterprising homesteaders settled on higher land.  One early family planted an orchard on a small Valley plateau that today is engulfed by the gravel pit at the back of the Weyerhaeuser Mill site.

As the now vanished mill town of Snoqualmie Falls grew from a few homes in 1916 to full build-out in 1924 with 250 homes, the Snoqualmie Falls Lumber Company (later Weyerhaeuser) added a large, complimentary neighborhood of about 97 homes.  Construction of those  homes started in 1919 on that orchard property.

This new community was known as “The Orchard.” An early photograph shows the newly completed homes, with a woodshed and outhouse for each.  A sanitary sewer system was later built for the community, but the need for wood sheds for kitchen wood stoves and home heating continued until the homes were sold and moved in the 1940’s and 50’s.  One neighbor with private land nearby purchased one of The Orchard homes in 1944 for $225.

It should be noted that there were two primary reasons for the mill houses in the first place.  When the second ‘all electric’ mill in the nation cut its first log here in November 1917, few families had cars.  Workers needed a place to live close enough to walk to work – so lumber companies provided those homes.

The second reason was a social experiment.  At the time, the lumber industry (and the public at-large) considered loggers almost transients, with little loyalty to their job or community.  Mill manager W.W. Warren wanted to change that image and felt providing homes for married loggers would instill stability and loyalty in Snoqualmie Falls Lumber Company loggers.  Single men generally lived in the mill’s huge boarding house.

The original concept of only logger families living in “The Orchard” faded over time.  Soon logger families were living in the other Snoqualmie Falls neighborhoods and mill workers lived in The Orchard.  But the experiment worked and created a significantly stable workforce – especially when compared to Everett and Seattle mills during the same time frame.

The name Orchard Avenue has double historic significance in the Valley, contributing to our first successful farming enterprise and naming the largest neighborhood in the mill town of Snoqualmie Falls, Washington.

The Orchard - Clark Kinsey#601 LS
The Orchard community in the mill town of Snoqualmie Falls Washington, about 1920. Note the lineup of house, woodshed and outhouse. Rattlesnake Mountain is in the background. Smoke in the upper left is from Mill 1, which cut primarily Douglas fir logs. Smoke in the upper middle is from Mill 2, which was engineered to cut Western hemlock and Western red cedar and also housed a huge shingle mill. The entire area covered with homes has been mined for gravel and is now a deep pit. Clark Kinsey photo, courtesy of the Snoqualmie Valley Historical Society.


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