EVERETT — It’s Presidents Day, a good time to brush up on local visits paid by the nation’s commanders and chiefs.
In the past 112 years, Snohomish County has played host to six sitting presidents.
The first to set foot on county soil was Theodore Roosevelt in May of 1903 when 35,000 people — triple the city’s population at the time — turned out to cheer the country’s leader. Everett was just 10 years old at the time and throngs cheered as Roosevelt was paraded up Hewitt Avenue to deliver a speech on Colby Avenue.
The last presidential visit was much more subdued. It occurred April 22, 2014, one month after a mudslide killed 43 people near Oso. On that occasion, President Barack Obama surveyed the devastation, talked with leaders of the recovery effort and met privately in the Oso Community Chapel with dozens of people who lost loved ones in the mudslide.
In recent times, Snohomish County has become a destination point for presidents, presidential candidates or, in the case of George Herbert Walker Bush, an understudy who later became president. Bush was vice president when he attended the funeral of U.S. Sen. Henry M. Jackson in Everett in 1983.
The past four presidents — either before or after they were elected to office — have found their way to Snohomish County, sometimes with Boeing as their backdrop.
The other four presidents to visit while in office were William Howard Taft on Oct. 9, 1911, Franklin Delano Roosevelt on Oct. 1, 1937, Harry S. Truman on June 9, 1948 and Oct. 2, 1952 and Bill Clinton on Feb. 23, 1993. Obama also gave a speech at the Boeing plant on Feb. 17, 2012.
Before becoming president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon and both George H.W. and George W. Bush made their way to Snohomish County. On Aug. 30, 2016, then-candidate Donald Trump paid a visit to then-named Xfinity Arena in Everett.
Some visits were extremely brief at rail stations.
Such was the case when FDR spent a few minutes in Everett on Oct. 1, 1937.
“Whistle stopping became an art in itself,” said David Dilgard, a historian with Everett Public Libraries.
Everett was along Roosevelt’s route that included a visit to Forks where the president was thrilled to watch a logger cut the top from a 175-foot Douglas fir and later to the Grand Coulee Dam, a massive Depression-era public works project that was then under construction.
The late night stop on Pacific Avenue in Everett left little time for glad-handing, as Snohomish County Sheriff Walter Faulkner learned.
He’d hoped to hobnob with the president, but instead was given an important assignment — to drop off flowers at the hospital.
A Herald reporter covering the event described what happened:
“The sheriff received the flowers when his attempt to mount the rear platform of the presidential special was halted by a secret service agent. Instead of being permitted to get on the train, the sheriff was made the custodian of the bouquet with orders to take them to a hospital with the president’s regards.”
Faulkner took his duty seriously, the reporter wrote.
“The flowers not only marked the impasse the sheriff met in his efforts to board the train but also proved the end of Mr. Faulkner’s stay at the open-air appearance of the president. Fearing souvenir hunters would strip him of the prize, the sheriff left the scene immediately to take the bouquet to the hospital.”
The most frequent visitor before and during his presidency appears to be Harry Truman, Dilgard said.
As a senator from Missouri, Truman enjoyed spending time with U.S. Sen. Monrad Wallgren, in his colleague’s hometown of Everett. They were known to play poker and pool and go fishing together.
“There were quite a few glimpses of Harry S. Truman in Milltown,” Dilgard said. “He and Mon would be out doing something.”
Dilgard imagines Truman walking Everett’s streets somewhat anonymously in the years before he became president.
One stop Truman apparently made before his presidency was to the Lighthouse, which was a cafe in the 3500 block of Rucker Avenue across the street from what is now Sequoia High School. It was well known for its hamburgers and orange cakes.
Some locals remember then-Vice President Nixon’s visit on a Halloween Friday night at the Everett Civic Auditorium in 1958 and some door-to-door campaigning around Everett High School he did for local candidate’s afterward.
Dilgard said Snohomish County has been in a good position geographically for presidential visits for more than a century.
Presidents have arrived by boat, train and plane.
“The transportation net appears to have been key to get people out so they can see them, reach them and make an impression on them,” Dilgard said.
Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446; firstname.lastname@example.org.