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Snohomish: Historic Downtown Tour

HistoryLink.org Essay 9961

Click here to start the tour

This is a tour of the historic downtown business district of Snohomish that guides the reader on a looped walk from the Visitor’s Center, up First Street and back via the Snohomish River Trail.   

The “Village of Snohomish” -- as it quantified itself when first incorporated in 1888 -- was sited in the sunshine, on the south-facing bank of the river that gave it its name.

Frontier entrepreneurial spirit and the rumor of government spending motivated the filing of claims on both sides of the Snohomish River in 1859 with the speculation that traffic on a new military road running south to north would pay handsomely for a ferry crossing service. It was not to be. Instead, a steady increase in steamship service brought loggers and supplies to camps up and down the river, then family farmers following talk of the rich bottom-land of the valley, and Snohomish grew to become the economic and cultural center of the county. With statehood, it re-incorporated in 1890 as the City of Snohomish with a census count of 2,012 people.

Also the birthplace of the county (1861) and its home for 36 years, Snohomish lost the county seat to the big spender Everett in 1897. The handsome courthouse found new life as the high school, and the structure of locally manufactured brick echoed with the unfamiliar sounds of bells and laughter.  

Since 1973, the historic downtown business district, along with several residential blocks, has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  The 2010 census counted 9,098 residents who are also residing within the Snohomish School District that numbers over 40,000 people.

And the Snohomish River continues to rise and fall with phases of the moon and drainage of the North Cascade Mountain Range 60 miles to the east, just as each new generation comes to understand the river as the gift of nature that created the City of Snohomish.

Click here to start the tour

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Licensing: This essay is licensed under a Creative Commons license that encourages reproduction with attribution. Credit should be given to both HistoryLink.org and to the author, and sources must be included with any reproduction. Click the icon for more info. Please note that this Creative Commons license applies to text only, and not to images. For more information regarding individual photos or images, please contact the source noted in the image credit.
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Major Support for HistoryLink.org Provided By: The State of Washington | Patsy Bullitt Collins | Paul G. Allen Family Foundation | Museum Of History & Industry | 4Culture (King County Lodging Tax Revenue) | City of Seattle | City of Bellevue | City of Tacoma | King County | The Peach Foundation | Microsoft Corporation, Other Public and Private Sponsors and Visitors Like You

This essay made possible by:
Snohomish County Community Heritage Program

First Street looking east with Kla Ha Ya parade, Snohomish with the Snohomish River, 2009
Photo by Dennis Bishop, courtesy Snohomish Flying Service

Snohomish River Trail, looking west, Snohomish, 2007
HistoryLink.org Photo by W. Blake

Snohomish Historical Society poster, high school girls' basketball teams, 100 years apart, Snohomish, 2009
Contemporary team photograph by Dennis Bishop, courtesy Snohomish Historical Society

Billboard installation, Historic Preservation Month, Snohomish, May 2009
HistoryLink.org Photo by W. Blake

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