Edmonds celebrating its history one site at a time

With its shops and restaurants, downtown Edmonds is a genteel, artsy and walkable place. It wasn’t always that way.

Early Edmonds was rugged. Founded by George Brackett, a logger from Canada, it was a working town. There were dirt roads and a waterfront lined with lumber and shingle mills.

The loggers came in 1872 to cut down old-growth timber. By the time Edmonds was incorporated in 1890 — three years before Everett became a city — “the whole waterfront was mills,” said Larry Vogel, chairman of the Edmonds Historic Preservation Commission.

“We were cranking out shingles that were shipped from Southern California to Alaska. Edmonds had a ready supply of timber mills that ran 24 hours,” Vogel said Thursday.

Brackett’s mill was first. Later came the Yost family’s mill, one called the Little Swede Mill and others. That’s what Edmonds was like when a home now known as the Charles Larsen House was built, sometime around 1890.

At 10 a.m. this morning, that house at 630 Main St. will host a brief ceremony to commemorate its addition to the Edmonds Register of Historic Places. A marker recognizing its inclusion on the register will be placed at the house, now home to the McDonald McGarry Insurance office.

The home’s historic name came decades after it was built. Between 1928 and 1960, it was the residence of Charles Larsen, an Edmonds town marshal. It was built in the American Foursquare style, but unlike many houses with that architecture it’s one story.

A photo taken in the early 1890s from the roof of the Edmonds Graded School shows the house surrounded by dirt roads and fenced parcels of land. The town looks like a rural place.

The Larsen House is the 17th property on the Edmonds Register of Historic Places. Among other sites on the list are the Andrew Carnegie Library, the Edmonds Memorial Cemetery, Brackett’s Landing North, the Ganahl-Hanley Log Cabin, and Edmonds Elementary School, which is now the city’s Frances Anderson Center.

The Edmonds Historic Preservation Commission, a volunteer panel working under the umbrella of city government, maintains the register. The group encourages owners to consider listing their properties, with the aim of raising awareness and appreciation of Edmonds history.

“We do have a very rich history,” Vogel said. “Edmonds played a major role in the history of the Puget Sound area, especially to the north. It was a major stop on the old Mosquito Fleet route.”

The Edmonds register began listing sites about 10 years ago. It was a project championed by former Everett City Council member Michael Plunkett, Vogel said.

Owners hoping to have a property listed begin with an application describing the place’s historical significance. Further steps include a site visit, the posting of a “Notice of Land Use Action” sign, a public hearing, and approval by the Edmonds City Council.

There can be tax benefits to site owners, particularly if a property is also on the National Register of Historic Places.

What historians know as the Charles Larsen House is Meagan McDonald’s workplace. She is office manager of McDonald McGarry Insurance. Her father John McDonald is the company’s president, and her mother Sandy McDonald is its administrator.

Meagan McDonald said her mother grew up in Edmonds, and loved the idea of a business in “the little house on Main Street.” The firm has been in the house since 1996. It is not the family’s residence.

They have updated the building “for safety and comfort,” but McDonald said her parents maintained as many of its architectural elements as possible — including the original front door. “We really wanted to keep the flavor and character,” she added.

The Larsen House now shares its neighborhood with modern condos. It’s on a street George Brackett would never recognize. But its history is not forgotten.

“Edmonds is really celebrating its history in lots of ways,” Vogel said.

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; jmuhlstein@heraldnet.com.

Ceremony today

A ceremony at 10 a.m. today will commemorate the placement of a marker recognizing the addition of the 1890s Charles Larsen House to the Edmonds Register of Historic Places. Edmonds Mayor Dave Earling and Edmonds Historic Preservation Commission members will attend the event at the house, now McDonald McGarry Insurance, 630 Main St., Edmonds.

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