Lynnwood woman knew area’s stories long before she was named city’s historian

  • Sun Feb 7th, 2010 11:33pm
  • News

By Lauren Thompson, For The Herald

LYNNWOOD — Long before I-5 became the main thoroughfare in Snohomish County in the late 1960s, Marie Little decided to take a drive to Seattle.

The small farming community of Alderwood Manor had become her home. But on that day, something was different.

Driving south on 44th Avenue W. through what is now Lynnwood, Little saw something unexpected. “Suddenly, there was a big red stoplight,” she recalled. She stopped her car at the new light, with no other traffic in sight. “I think that pretty well describes how Lynnwood has changed.”

Little moved to her home on 44th Avenue W. with her husband, Warren, in 1952, seven years before Lynnwood became a city. They built their home on 2.5 acres, which has been whittled down over the years. Since then, she has become an invaluable source for information on Lynnwood’s history, working with the Alderwood Manor Heritage Association.

In December, the Lynnwood City Council recognized her as the official city historian — a first for the city — presenting her with a key to the city.

“She certainly acted as city historian though it wasn’t official (before December),” said Lynnwood parks planner Laurie Cowan, who has worked with Little on many projects. Most notably, Little assisted with the formation of Heritage Park, which opened in 2004. The park is on Poplar Way, south of I-5.

Little became interested in the history of Alderwood Manor after she moved to the area. Growing up bouncing between Everett and Seattle, “I just drifted around,” she said.

Her husband, on the other hand, was born and raised in Lynnwood. “His family lived a couple blocks down the street. A lot of people considered ‘pioneers’ (of Lynnwood) were their friends,” she explained.

“I didn’t have a history,” Little said, so she embraced Warren’s.

She began to learn the city’s history when she came up with an idea for a radio show on the local station, KSER, called “If Houses Could Speak.”

“The next thing I knew, I was the host of this radio show,” she recalled with a laugh. For the show, people would share the history of their homes, doing walkthroughs with Little. “People kept giving me ideas.”

Over time, she learned the history of numerous homes in the area.

Through the years, as Little raised two children, earned a degree at the University of Washington and worked in public relations, she became more and more fascinated with the history of Alderwood Manor.

She is now an invaluable resource for the city. Little works primarily through the Heritage Association, which she helped begin after, as she described, she “saw things disappearing and no one in the government was trying to save them.”

“She made it her job to know the history of the area, so everyone went to her with questions, and she always had answers,” said Cowan, the city parks planner. “She just loved Alderwood Manor, and wanted to make sure everyone else knew about it.”

On Little’s kitchen table lay yellowed newspaper clippings. One is from the south Snohomish County weekly paper The Enterprise, chronicling an award Little was given for reporting for the paper in the 1970s. Others are her own more recent columns giving perspectives on the past for The Third Age, another local publication. One details Lynnwood as “A City at the Crossroads.”

Joining the plastic-covered articles is a replica of the sign for “Marie Little Drive,” a road that now runs through Heritage Park, named at the request of the city of Lynnwood.

These are just a piece of Little’s work. Over the decades, she has written articles, contributed to books and recorded oral histories, all to be used as resources for locals to learn about their history.

“I think it’s something (people) need to do — to recognize their history,” Little said. “People say Lynnwood has no history. Of course it has history. People need to explore it.”

Marie Little’s busy life

Little’s many historical activities with Lynnwood over the years have included:

Primary organizer/charter member of the Alderwood Manor Heritage Association since 1991.

An original member of the City of Lynnwood Historical Commission from 1998 to 2008.

Produced the radio program “If Houses Could Speak” on KSER radio. This program received an award of merit from the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation.

Co-authored the book “Images of America — Alderwood Manor.” Published in 2006.

Authored “Perspectives on the Past,” a regular article in The Third Age newspaper from 1992 to 2002.

Provided written reflections on the community’s history that have been published or quoted in The Enterprise newspaper, Snohomish County Business Journal and The Seattle Times.