Boiler fires at the Quality Shingle Company mill on the Edmonds waterfront go out for the last time, ending an historic era, on June 1, 1951.

  • By Charles LeWarne
  • Posted 3/27/2008
  • Essay 8545

On June 1, 1951, boiler fires go out at the Quality Shingle Company mill for the last time. The Quality mill was the last operating mill along a shoreline that once had at least 11 mills operating. It had been the Big Swede mill when father and son C. L. Wiley and D. C. Wiley acquired it in 1893.  When it was sold to a group of Everett shingle weavers in 1915, it became the Quality mill, a name it retained for the rest of its existence.

The Mills of Edmonds

The building and operating of shake and shingle mills along the Edmonds waterfront was a mainstay of the community from the time George Brackett (1842-1927) built the first one in 1889.  Additional mills opened until the shoreline was said to have 11 operating at a single time, grey smoke rising from their stacks.  Many of the town’s leading citizens owned mills at one time or another, and they provided employment for local men and their families. 

Mills were bought and sold, and there were injuries, fires, and layoffs, but the industry continued.  Along with  drying sheds and a lumber yard, other, unrelated, businesses occasionally appeared along the shore, some for a brief periods of time: an excelsior plant, a mink farm, a wrench manufacturing company, boatyards, a builder of barges, even a firm that sought to make leather from seal skins and whale skins.  But the shingle mills gave the town its character. 

One Tall Smokestack

Ray V. Cloud (1893-1974), publisher of the local weekly when the Quality Mill closed down, recounted their importance:  “The shingle industry was the mainstay of Edmonds through the critical decades when the wage-earner could not travel many miles from his home to find employment; he either found work close at home or moved on to another location.”  But declining local timber sources along with new industries and new building materials altered that, and by the 1950s this “one tall smokestack stood on the waterfront to remind the remaining pioneers of the dozen or more that sent smoke into the sky above the night and scent of fresh-cut cedar and the steady zip-zip of the shingle saws”  (Cloud, Edmonds, 215).

After that momentous day, Edmonds continued to thrive, but it grew into a different kind of community.

Sources: Ray V. Cloud,  Edmonds, the Gem of Puget Sound:A History of the City of Edmonds  (Edmonds, WA: Edmonds Tribune-Review Press, 1953); BOLA Architecture + Planning, A Historic Survey of Downtown Edmonds, Washington …  (Seattle, 2005).

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