Seattle Now & Then: The Mount Vernon Ferry

(As ever, click on photos to enlarge)

mt-vernon-ferry-then-mr
THEN: In a 1884 election Mt. Vernon surprised La Conner by winning the Skagit County seat. Here, ca. 1890, Mt. Vernon has besides its 800 citizens and one ferry, great prospects. (Photo courtesy Skagit County Historical Museum’s Research Library.)
NOW: At the time Jean Sherrard recorded this repeat of the ferry photo in 2006, Mt. Vernon was preparing a comprehensive plan for its historic downtown that included an appointed promenade along its waterfront.  You may wish to see how this county seat with by now nearly 30,000 citizens is doing by visiting Mt. Vernon’s Saturday Farmers Market along the revetment.
NOW: At the time Jean Sherrard recorded this repeat of the ferry photo in 2006, Mt. Vernon was preparing a comprehensive plan for its historic downtown that included an appointed promenade along its waterfront. You may wish to see how this county seat with by now nearly 30,000 citizens is doing by visiting Mt. Vernon’s Saturday Farmers Market along the revetment.

We would imagine that it was Gilbert LaBerge and/or Fred Barnier who arranged for their Mount Vernon ferry to be photographed with the burgeoning Skagit County Seat on the far shore, except that one of them is cut off at the knees – either Gilbert or Fred.  The ferry proprietors are both listed in the 1889-90 Washington State Gazetteer as are all the Mt. Vernon hotels whose signs may be read on the far shore – three of them.

The original photo in the Skagit Valley Historical Society’s research library has a caption scrawled on the border: “Mt. Vernon before the fire of 1891.”   The fire destroyed most of the business district shown here and so a new commercial strip was built two blocks to the east, or further from the river.  With the arrival also that year of the Seattle and Northern Railroad, the Skagit River and its steamers got competition in moving the valley’s produce, lumber and citizens to markets.

Two years later in 1893 the first bridge across the river – a wooden truss with a draw span – was built here.  Although more convenient, the bridge was still not much faster than the ferry.  Signs on either side warned, “$25 fine for riding or driving over this bridge faster than a walk.”

The 1889-90 Gazetteer includes an impressive list of Mount Vernon concerns, including two banks, four churches, a skating rink, two music teachers, a cornet band, a sawmill, stores for all the necessities and a few luxuries like jewelry and a billiard hall.

In 1890 the Skagit News (also a book store and job printer) was already six years old and today’s Skagit Valley Herald is its descendent.  (For a great illustrated horde of  “Northwest Corner” history just visit yet another publication, the skagitriverjournal.)

WEB-ONLY EXTRAS

Let’s begin with Jean’s eerie/lovely view from the bridge, just a little bon-bon for all you Mount Vernon lovers.

Evening on the Skagit
Evening on the Skagit

And now, more of the historical:

The Black Prince at Mt. Vernon
The Black Prince at Mt. Vernon

Of the three sternwheelers pointing upstream on the Skagit River at Mt. Vernon, the middle one, the Black Prince, can be identified by its nameplate.  A quick survey of citations in the McCurdy Maritime History for Puget Sound reveals that this 92 foot long freight and passenger steamer was built in Everett in 1901 by Robert Houston for service on both the Skagit and Snohomish Rivers.  Beginning in 1923 it was kept around the Everett harbor for use in towing, and then oddly stayed in Everett after it was dismantled in 1936.  The upperworks were carried off by the Everett Yacht Club for a clubhouse until 1956 when the members wanted something new.  What parts of the Black Prince club members did not carry home for souvenirs became kindling, perhaps, for a Port Gardner incinerator.

mt-vernon-fm-hill-web
Mt. Vernon from the hill
Then: Mount Vernon pan from bridge
Then: Mount Vernon pan from bridge
Now
Now

The bend in the river seen from the hill is the same as that seen from the bridge in the panoramas – then and now – of Mt. Vernon’s waterfront.  It is our speculation – waiting for correction by some Skagit River historian (Noel?) – that this view was taken from a point that now would be suspended over the I-5 Freeway that passes between the business district and the residential hill to the east.  By these impressions the timber trestle is where South Second Street still rises from the business district, although now on a concrete span over the freeway.   And so our hunch also has it that the street on the far left is South Third Street.  (Noel? We mean, of course, Noel Bourasaw founder and nurturer of the on-line publication, the skagitriverjournal.)

(If the Then and Now images directly above seem familiar, you may be the proud owner of the Dorpat/Sherrard tome Washington Then and Now.)

The Skagit County Courthouse
The Skagit County Courthouse
courthouse-now
Now, the Matheson Building

Built in 1892-93 at Mt. Vernon’s First and Pine, southeast corner, the old Skagit County Courthouse survives there as the Matheson Building, but without its playful top story.

Second Street
Second Street then
Looking north now
Looking north now

Mount Vernon, Second Street and looking north to the trestle that figures in the earlier “Mt. Vernon from the Hill” photo, included with this posting.  Judging from the motorcars, this view dates from circa 1920 (some car-sensitive reader can probably nail the date), while the “hill” picture is from about 1900.  Note that the wooden John Deere building on the left remains today, although obscured by trees.

Skagit River ferry
Skagit River ferry

Before the bridges, and even after them at some crossings, ferries like this one on the Skagit, were ready for a fee to take one and much more to the other side.

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