‘Fine views’ of rough and tumble Everett

A year before Everett became a city, the place was booming. It was 1892. New buildings rose along muddy streets. Steamboats plied the bay. Around town, there were big-money men, rugged workers and dandies in derby hats.

And two photographers were in Everett to capture it all.

R. King and D.W. Baskerville arrived during the winter of 1891-92. Within months, from a studio on the east end of Hewitt Avenue, they created a sweeping photographic story of a boomtown. And then they left.

Exactly who they were and what else they accomplished is a mystery.

“That’s part of what’s intriguing,” said David Dilgard, a historian at the Everett Public Library. “They arrived right as Everett is exploding. They’re catching all of it.”

Their earliest Everett photos date to February 1892. Dilgard found a first mention of them in Everett Herald archives from that March. King and Baskerville were producing “fine views of Everett,” the paper said.

Dilgard borrowed those words for a free program, “Fine Views of Everett — The King &Baskerville Photos,” scheduled for 2 p.m. May 2 in the Everett Public Library Auditorium.

The Everett Land Company was a major client for the pair, and Dilgard knows where dozens of King and Baskerville pictures were taken. The photographers’ own stories aren’t so clear.

“We’re reasonably certain there’s a connection to Dakota Territory, that they came from a little place, Watertown, South Dakota,” Dilgard said. “D.W. Baskerville, I believe, was an Englishman. He hooked up with this fellow, R. King. But there were a number of R. Kings who were photographers. None seem to have stayed in this area.”

According to Herald archives and the library’s webpage about the King &Baskerville Studio, their photography firm was dissolved on June 8, 1892. Their work — capturing an industrious era, but with an artist’s eye — lives on in Everett, where King and Baskerville spent little more than six months.

In the library’s digital King and Baskerville collection are images of a Broadway schoolhouse, whaleback barges and sailing ships, shops, bridge construction and other industry.

Dilgard is struck by an idyllic shot of Spithill’s Wharf. It stood where California Street meets the Snohomish River, a spot that today is under the I-5 bridge. Neil Spithill was the son of a Scottish immigrant father and an American Indian mother. A building at the wharf was the scene of the first theatrical performance in town, a traveling troupe’s rendition of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” Dilgard said.

In the picture, tribal canoes are tied at the wharf and tall trees are reflected in glassy water. Dilgard said the photo has composition qualities found in 19th-century oil paintings. Another King &Baskerville picture, of four men atop a huge stump, was used as a logo for the city’s centennial in 1993.

Everett had scenes of serenity in 1892, but it was a rough-and-tumble place.

Another King and Baskerville photo shows men outside the Tontine Saloon, which was on Hewitt Avenue’s north side in the Riverside area.

“I have one of the doors from when they tore it down,” Dilgard said. The Tontine had a secret — a buzzer hooked up to one of the steps, Dilgard said. If police arrived, prostitutes and their customers upstairs could flee out the back.

In 1985, the library acquired many of the King and Baskerville glass-plate negatives for its Northwest Room collection.

“We found an amazing gentleman, Billy Skinner, who had an antique store where the Fred Meyer is now on Evergreen,” Dilgard said. Skinner had a stash of glass negatives matching prints of photos Dilgard had seen at the old Snohomish County Museum at Everett’s Legion Memorial Park.

King and Baskerville used what Dilgard called an “oddball format” that helped in identifying their pictures. Instead of the conventional 5-by-7-inch format, they used what Dilgard called a “boudoir print format.” It was half of an 8-by-10-inch plate, 5-by-8 inches. “It’s slightly panoramic,” he said.

Many of the images include a tell-tale person. Dilgard has a hunch “that guy is probably David Baskerville,” but he’s not certain. “This guy turns up in many of the 5-by-8 photographs in a derby hat and nice coat,” said Dilgard, likening the sightings to “Where’s Waldo?” books.

Dilgard said Baskerville, the junior partner, later showed up in the Midwest, but may not have stuck with photography. After they left Everett, photographer J.H. Blome set up shop in the Hewitt studio.

Along with the places, Dilgard is captivated by people in the pictures. One subject, digging a ditch while wearing a suit jacket, “looks like he just left a beggar’s opera,” he said.

“They had an amazing gift,” Dilgard said.

“There will be 20 people in a group, and each individual face is a minor masterpiece. You could write a short story about every one of them.”

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

‘Fine Views’ at the Everett Library

“Fine Views of Everett — The King &Baskerville Photos,” presented by Everett Public Library Northwest Room historian David Dilgard, will be held at 2 p.m. May 2 in the library auditorium. The free program will showcase the work of photographers R. King and D.W. Baskerville, whose images captured Everett in 1892. The Everett Public Library is at 2702 Hoyt Ave. Information: http://epls.org/calendar/main-library/4261

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