Website finds stories behind county’s historic corners

Samuel Holmes, the son of an Illinois lawyer, was well known in early Edmonds. By the early 1900s, he had cleared land, raised cattle and built a big house. But by 1918, Holmes had been accused of attempted murder and had shot himself to death.

Today, the place Holmes homesteaded is a busy intersection — 212th Street SW and 76th Avenue W — and the site of Edmonds-Woodway High School. Violence and intrigue are part of the story of Holmes’ Corner.

In the 1930s, a spot near Arlington on what was then U.S. 99 was known as Rex’s Corner, named for a restaurant owner. In 1946, the restaurant was sold to Eric and Pearl Shurstad. They renamed it the Smokey Point Cafe after an eatery in their hometown, Minneapolis. It became known for the smoke from its open barbecue.

Today, we know the whole area near Smokey Point Boulevard (Old Highway 99) and 172nd Street NE as Smokey Point.

In 1928, Freda and Lyman Thrasher moved with three sons to the Bothell area. They opened a grocery, gas station and towing company in a place that still had dirt and plank roads. A longtime neighbor remembered Freda Thrasher as a glamorous woman who wore bright red lipstick.

Today, their former business location, where the Bothell-Everett Highway and 208th Street SE intersect, is Thrasher’s Corner.

The stories of these and nearly 20 other Snohomish County corners are detailed on a new website, It’s the result of a research project developed by the Snohomish County Historic Preservation Commission.

Featured on the site are Keeler’s Korner, the 1927 gas station on Highway 99 in Lynnwood, and many places that now show no evidence of their origins.

Wendy Becker, the county’s cultural and economic development manager, said the project was largely done by BOLA Architecture &Planning, a Seattle firm, and Lauren Hoogkamer, an historic preservation specialist who worked with BOLA on a contract. The architectural firm has worked on the Fort Lawton Historic District and many other preservation projects.

“My role was to do all the research, writing, interviewing and legwork,” said Hoogkamer, now the city of Tacoma’s historic preservation coordinator.

Once that work was done, Becker said the Everett-based Luminous Corporation was hired to create the website, which includes maps, historical photos, biographies and oral histories. Luminous also created the website for the county’s Centennial Trail. The corners website has a similar design.

Becker said money used for historic preservation comes from document recording fees collected by Snohomish County. The cost for Hoogkamer’s work was about $11,000, Becker said, and Luminous was paid $4,000 for the website.

The next step is to create roadside markers at the corner locations. “We’re looking at two locations to start, Holmes’ Corner and Thrasher’s Corner,” Becker said. The county hopes to install metal cut-outs in the shape of banners, possibly on utility poles.

“At places like Keeler’s Korner, we don’t want people stopping on the side of the road,” she said.

The list of significant corners originated with David Dilgard, an Everett Public Library history specialist, Becker said. Hoogkamer spent time in the library’s Northwest Room researching the people and stories behind the corners.

Raised in Lewis County, Hoogkamer has a bachelor’s degree in history and journalism from the University of Southern California and masters degrees in historic preservation and urban planning from Columbia University. For the corners project, she delved into newspaper archives and obituaries, and included work done by local historical societies.

She is grateful for the memories shared by people she interviewed — neighbors or ancestors of families tied to historic places.

One man she interviewed, in his 90s, had written a memoir that included information about the Murphy family. By 1915, Robert A. Murphy had purchased 44 acres at what’s now the intersection of 19th Avenue SE and 132nd Street SE in Mill Creek — Murphy’s Corner. His parents had immigrated from Northern Ireland to Canada, and Murphy built a cabin and then a hotel on his Snohomish County land.

“It was a privilege to be able to speak with him. These stories are so valuable, we should collect them while we can,” Hoogkamer said. “Farmhouses and mom-and-pop shops really tell the story of how our area developed.”

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460;

Learn more

Snohomish County has more than 20 historic corners, many named for pioneer families or landmark businesses. The Snohomish County Historic Preservation Commission hired BOLA Architecture &Planning to research the corners, and a website was created. Learn about the corners at:

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