Looking Back: A picture from the past inspires a story

In 1911, during a discussion regarding journalism and publicity, Arthur Brisbane, a respected New York newspaper editor, made this observation.  “Use a picture.  It’s worth a thousand words.”

While writing about Edmonds and its history, I find Mr. Brisbane’s words to be especially relevant.  In Fact, many of my Looking Back columns have actually been inspired by certain historical photographs. It was a picture of Main Street in downtown Edmonds in the late 1920s that gave me the idea for this column about change and moving forward with three local businessmen from the past.

Thisappeared with an article in a June 5, 1953, edition of the Edmonds Tribune-Review. According to the news article, the car in the middle of Main Street dates the photo from around 1928 or 1929.

Changes to the downtown infastructure as Edmonds moves forward  

In this historic photograph, the small building on the left was located on the south side of Main Street, just east of 5th Avenue, and was the former real estate and insurance office of long-time Edmonds businessman James “Jim” Everton Wilson.

Directly to the right, facing 5th Avenue, is the Fourtner Building on the southeast corner of the intersection of 5th and Main. The Fourtner Building was later restructured and enlarged, and in 1946, Dewey Leyda became its owner. Having experienced many years of change, the building remains an important one at the busy intersection.

The small building occupied by Jim Wilson’s real estate and insurance business was demolished in the 1930s, and in 1938, a much larger, two-story brick structure replaced it. Located at 514 Main Street, the new building became the home for the Edmonds Tribune-Review, with Ray Cloud as its owner, publisher and editor until his retirement in 1952 

The Tribune office at 514 Main Street (Photo courtesy Edmonds Tribune-Review 1938)

In 1961, the newspaper relocated to larger quarters at 130 2nd Ave. South, and 514 Main Street became the site for Mode O’Day, a women’s dress shop; with the Sears store next to it.

Early 1960s—Looking east up Main Street when it was a one-way street. (Photo courtesy Edmonds Historical Museum)

Moving forward with three businessmen from the past

James “Jim” Everton Wilson (1863-1928)  

James “Jim” Wilson was born in Ontario, Canada on May 14, 1863. The son of John H. Wilson (1835-1912) and Emaline Scott Wilson (1845-1897), he was the eldest of a family of nine boys and one girl.

On July 3, 1883, he married Sarah Elizabeth Womer (1868-1935), the daughter of Henry Womer and ElizaCotterman. Two children were born to them: Lala Wilson (Mrs. Ernest Hubbard) and Flossie Wilson (Mrs. Harry DeLand).

Jim Wilson and his family moved from their home in Cadillac, Michigan to Edmonds in February of 1901. He first engaged in contract work for a painting and decorating company, and later purchased a grocery store in Seattle, which he shortly sold.

In 1907 he opened the Crescent Grocery Company in Edmonds, and for six years operated his grocery store at the Odd Fellows Hall between 5th and 6th Avenues on the south side of Main Street. He later moved his grocery business to the Beeson Building between 4th and 5th Avenues (also on the south side of Main Street).

Leaving the grocery field in 1917, Jim Wilson purchased the real estate and insurance agency first established in 1901 by Civil War veteran, Edmonds’ pioneer and former mayor Col. Samuel Street. Local news reported that Jim Wilson’s real estate and insurance clients came from “far and wide.”

Although he was physically disabled, Jim Wilson was also active in city affairs. For 18 years, he served as police judge, as well as Justice of the Peace for a number of years. It was reported that “no person in the community was better known than James E. Wilson—a man devoted to his family and always ready to render assistance when needed.”

In addition, he was a member of the Edmonds Odd Fellows Lodge No. 96, and the Kiwanis Club.

After many years of suffering from a neurological disorder, at times confined to his bed, Jim Wilson died at his Edmonds’ home on Saturday morning, Jan. 21, 1928, at the age of 64. His obituary was published in the Edmonds Tribune-Review:

“Funeral services for James ‘Jim’ Everton Wilson were held from the Hughes Memorial Church on Monday afternoon at two o’clock. Family and friends filled the church to capacity to pay tribute to one of Edmonds most highly respected citizens. Following graveside services conducted by IOOF Lodge No. 96 at the Odd Fellows’ Cemetery north of town, he was laid to rest. Jim Wilson was survived by his wife Sarah, his two daughters and their husbands, two brothers, and three grandchildren.”

His widow Sarah Elizabeth Wilson died in 1935, and she is also buried at the IOOF Cemetery (today’s Edmonds Memorial Cemetery).

One of Jim Wilson’s two surviving brothers was Lester W. Wilson of Edmonds. A one-time partner in the grocery business with his brother, Lester Wilson was formerly a Seattle and a nationally-known professional baseball player. Lester Wilson’s biography noted that in 1911, he was an outfielder with the Boston Red Sox.

Ernest “Ernie” Birdsley Hubbard (son-in-law of Jim Wilson)

In 1897, when 11-year-old Ernest “Ernie” Hubbard first settled in the small lumber town of Edmonds with his parents, Charles J. and Katherine Hubbard, and his two sisters Lillian and Florence, the family made their home on George Street (Main Street). Before finally making their permanent home in Edmonds, the family had lived in Centralia, Washington, having come west from Bismarck, North Dakota, where Ernie Hubbard was born May 31, 1886.

As a young man, Ernie Hubbard gained a favorable reputation while working in the shingle mills that lined the waterfront of Edmonds. It wasn’t long until he worked his way up the ladder to become an operator and owner in the shingle industry.

In 1909, he married a local young lady, Lala E. Wilson, the daughter of James Emerson Wilson and Sarah Elizabeth Womer, and in 1924, Ernie Hubbard began working at the real estate and insurance agency owned by his father-in-law. When Jim Wilson died in 1928, Ernie Hubbard became the owner of the agency.

Changing the company’s name to Hubbard Real Estate & Insurance, Ernie Hubbard soon moved his business to Katherine (Timberline Kate) Knowlton’s former building located at the northwest corner of the intersection of 5th and Main. Well known about town, Kate Knowlton operated her own real estate business in the building.

At the busy downtown intersection, Ernie Hubbard was a familiar figure. He seemed to enjoy telling the stories of Edmonds in its heyday as a shingle mill town—back when there were still forests of cedar trees surrounding the town. He noted that the streets were unpaved, and George Street (now Main Street) was still a puncheon (log) road, mainly used to skid the logs down the hill, through town, to the plethora of mills located along the waterfront. As Ernie Hubbard told the story, “There were 85 teams of horses, and the landmark of the town was a big watering trough at the southeast corner of what is now 5th and Main.”

Ernie Hubbard at Hubbard Real Estate. (Photo courtesy Edmonds Historical Museum)

In March of 1955, the Edmonds Tribune-Review reported on the demolition and replacement of the former Hubbard Real Estate & Insurance office, which is shown here on the right. Pictured next door was Beinz Confectionary, a favorite spot for teenagers to hang out and enjoy a drink of the well-advertised Coca-Cola, or perhaps a root beer or Green River float. A small section of the Princess Theater can be seen on the far left in this photo:

In 1956, the Edmonds Tribune-Review published an article entitled: “Hubbard Agency Traces its Origins Back to Edmonds Earliest Day as Shingle Mill Town.” According to the article, Ernest and Larry Hubbard announced they were holding an open house at the agency’s new office in the Fourtner Building.  Larry Hubbard, who was becoming the major voice in the management of the agency, issued an invitation for people to join them for a cup of coffee—the Hubbards’ way of showing thanks to those who had supported them through the years.

This was a time when Edmonds and the surrounding communities were experiencing the post-war era of the baby boomers, and the real estate market was experiencing its own boom right along with the increasing influx of young families. At that time, to keep up with the hot real estate market, the Hubbard Agency employed a staff of seven, and was insuring everything from automobiles to school houses. This photo of Ernie Hubbard and son Larry is from the Edmonds Historical Museum archives:

Ernie and Larry Hubbard

Ernie Hubbard died at Lynnwood Manor on Sept. 11, 1963 at the age of 77. His widow, Lala Wilson Hubbard followed her husband in death on Feb. 1, 1967, also at the age of 77. They are both buried at the Edmonds Memorial Cemetery & Columbarium. Ernest and Lala Hubbard were survived by their only child—Lawrence “Larry” Emerson Hubbard.

Lawrence “Larry” Emerson Hubbard  

Much has previously been written about Larry Hubbard and his involvement in the development of Edmonds, as well as his generosity. However, this story tells of his ancestral roots, and offers a better understanding of the deep love and respect he had for his family, and his hometown.

Born in Edmonds on Dec. 17, 1910, Larry Hubbard was the son, grandson and great grandson of Edmonds’ pioneers.

He graduated from Edmonds Graded School when it was an impressive, Victorian-style, wood-sided building located between Main and Dayton Streets, overlooking what is today’s Durbin Drive—between 6th and 7th Avenues South—about where the Edmonds Library is located in our time.  If you have ever visited the Edmonds Historical Museum, you have probably seen the school bell from the old graded school

Larry Hubbard’s 1929 Edmonds High School graduation picture is shown here and is from the Edmonds Historical Museum’s EHS yearbook collection:

Larry Hubbard

After graduation from Edmonds High School, Larry Hubbard attended the University of Washington—graduating from the UW Law School in 1936. Completing his education, Larry Hubbard joined his father in the real estate and insurance business.

With the encroaching possibility of war, Larry Hubbard’s business career was put on hold, along with the careeres of many other local young men. In October 1940, at the age of 29, he registered for the military draft, and later was drafted into service. The notice with Corporal Larry Hubbard’s photo in the Edmonds Tribune-Review shows he served in the U.S. Army’s Armored Division:

However, except for miscellaneous information, official records of his service years are not to be found. Unfortunately, his records were very likely among those destroyed in the disastrous July 12, 1973 fire at the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) in St. Louis, Missouri. For U.S. Army personnel discharged between Nov. 1, 1912 and Jan. 1, 1960, the total loss of military records has been estimated as high as 80%. To add to the disaster, duplicate copies of these valuable records were never made.

After discharge from WWII service, Larry Hubbard returned to his parents’ home in Edmonds and rejoined his father in the real estate and insurance business.  When his father died in 1963, Larry Hubbard became owner and proprietor of the family business.

Although Larry Hubbard seemed to be a quiet and unassuming man, he became an influential figure in the city’s business community. In addition to his noted business success, he served as Edmonds’ city attorney and as a member of the first city planning commission.

His lovely home was located at the foot of Caspers Street—overlooking Puget Sound.

Larry Hubbard died at the age of 71 on Feb. 19, 1982, at Stevens Memorial Hospital in Edmonds. Lawrence “Larry” Emerson Hubbard’s cremains are buried at Edmonds Memorial Cemetery.

Continuing a family tradition of giving back to the city and its people

Never married, with neither children nor siblings, Larry Hubbard chose to make the City of Edmonds an heir of his estate. In 1982, when he became ill and death was imminent, his last act was a very thoughtful one. With the assistance of his long-time friend Ruth Sater, and that of his legal advisor and close friend, attorney Chester (Chet) Bennett, Larry Hubbard purchased the long-neglected Odd Fellows/Swedberg Cemetery located south of town in the Westgate area, and then willed it to the City of Edmonds along with a trust fund, with Chet Bennett as the administrator.

Because of the forward-looking generosity of Larry Hubbard, Edmonds has a lovely pioneer cemetery—one to be justly proud of.  Renamed Edmonds Memorial Cemetery & Columbarium, it is under the ownership of the city and is maintained by the Edmonds Parks Department. To this day, this beautiful and restful “Place of Tradition” continues as an active cemetery, with a mayor-appointed volunteer cemetery board overseeing its operation and maintenance.

Prior to his death, Larry Hubbard also made arrangements to establish the Hubbard Family Foundation. The foundation was established in 1983 “to enhance the quality of life for the citizens of the City of Edmonds and South Snohomish County.”  The Edmonds School District continues as the geographical boundary to qualify for grant requests.

A successful conclusion

As the shingle-mill town of Edmonds matured and moved forward, there can be no doubt that these three men each played an important role in the city’s development.

Summertime 2019 at Edmonds Memorial Cemetery & Columbarium. (Photo courtesy Betty Gaeng)

— By Betty Lou Gaeng

Betty Gaeng is a former long-time resident of Lynnwood and Edmonds, coming to the area in 1933. Although now living in Anchorage, she occasionally writes about the history and the people of early-day Lynnwood, Edmonds and Mountlake Terrace. She is also an honorary member of the Edmonds Cemetery Board.

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