Seattle Now & Then: Poulsbo’s Front Street

(click to enlarge photos)

THEN: Poulsbo’s Front Street in the 1920s.
NOW: Today’s Front Street shows off some of Poulsbo’s post-war Scandinavian embellishments.

One of our first now-then features for 2018 begins with a book and a town.  The chosen book is for lovers of our state and good writing.  Once in your hands or waiting in a library, you may want to open Washington: A Guide to the Evergreen State for one or more of those wonderfully absorbed little reads that visit us before slumber.   The 1941 classic state guide is filled with more than 650 pages of skillfully interpreted visits to our state’s communities. Alas, it is also long out of print, but like many other cherished tomes, you may find it in a used bookstore.  Poulsbo, our town of choice, has a few.

Today, to quote from the guide, this “picturesque fishing village on Liberty Bay” has a population of about 9,000.  In the 1950 reissue (its last revision) of the WPA – funded guide, Poulsbo’s population is set at 639, an accounting done probably with the help of the 1950 federal census. Federal depression-time funds were also paying salaries to the book’s many out-of-work skilled authors.  Using well-calibrated distances traveled on state and federal highways, Poulsbo, part of Tour 9A, is first reached on page 572.

Poulsbo is introduced as stretching “along the sinuous shoreline of Liberty Bay. Substantial frame and brick buildings line the main street.”  Poulsbo’s main street is named Front, and is seen here in the 1920s looking into the long curve from its intersection with Jensen Way N.E.  (This refers to the featured photo at the top, and not the one that follows, below.)

Jean and I have lost our notes for the date and booster’s name of this community sprucing, but we imagine on hints from the printed dress and other sartorial clues that this is from the 1950s when the locals were feeling some fervor for painting the town.  And now  we expect letters. 

For his repeat from the same prospect, Jean Sherrard had to settle for an early winter mist.  He missed last year’s white Christmas by one day.  A comparison of the “now” with the “then” reveals why the well-preserved Poulsbo attracts visitors to admire the old world charms of its towers, gables, rustic murals, half-timbered decorations, well-wrought balconies and flower baskets like those, we imagine hanging in Valhalla. As Washington: A Guide to the Evergreen State continues, it surely presages some changes:  “Farms crowd the town from the hillsides.”  Now there are also developmentsThe Guide’s demographic claim of 1950 no longer apply.  It reads, “Approximately 90 percent of the persons living at present along the bayshore are Norwegians.” Today, visitors to Poulsbo may wish to study its residents and calculate their own statistic.

An earlier look down Poulsbo’s Front Street that comes with its own caption. “Front Street on a busy day at the intersection of Jensen Way. Note the oil lamp on the post at left.  The bridge in the foreground was replaced by a  culvert, thus dating the picture as 1912.”  [Yes, the sentence just completed requires some evidence that “supplies” its “thus” with its conclusive certainty about the date, 1912.  We probably misplaced it years ago when we published our book “Washington Then and Now.” ]


Here we will interrupt our Poulsbo anecdotes of  yore with Jean’s breaking news: his part in today’s parade from Capitol Hill to Seattle Center.   Along the way Jean managed to repeat a 1950s parade shot showing a uniformed band reaching the intersection of Fourth Avenue and Pine Street where today’s parade made its 90 degree turn to the north on its last happy leg to Seattle Center.  We will feature that repeat in an upcoming now-then.  


Again, we strolled amongst the marchers today to capture another Now & Then classic. We’ll drop in a few photos here from a drizzly but energized day:

Coming down Pine Street into town
The first several thousand marchers approach 4th and Pine
A clever rebus…
Many wonderful women, one Wonder Woman!
As always, cell phones capture the moment

Anything to add, fellahs?   Alas not much on Poulsbo.  Although we do have several kitsap-related clippings among our about 1800 features those have not yet been scanned.  (Any volunteers are welcome.)  Instead we will visit some suburbs  (including distant ones like Oregon and Dakota) and wander along the waterfront hinting at our yearning to cross the Sound.  We will also favor a Scandi tone to much of it.

THEN: Tied momentarily to the end of the Union Oil Co dock off Bay Street, Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen’s ship Maud prepares to cast-off for the Arctic Ocean on June 3, 1922. (Courtesy, Ron Edge)

THEN: The now century-old Norway Hall at the corner of Boren Avenue and Virginia Street opened in 1915, on May 17, Norwegian Independence Day. (Courtesy, Nordic Heritage Museum)



THEN: The S. S. Suveric makes a rare visit to Seattle in 1911. (Historical photo courtesy of Jim Westall)

Then Caption: Amateur photographer George Brown most likely took this view of Portland’s 1905 Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition from the north porch of the Washington State Building. Brown also played clarinet in Wagner’s popular concert and marching band, which was probably performing at the Expo. (pic courtesy of Bill Greer)

THEN: Twenty years ago the Mukai Farm and Garden on Vashon Island was designated a King County Landmark. (Courtesy, Vashon Maury Island Heritage Association)

THEN: For his May Day, 1901 portrait of the Seattle City Council, the photographer, Anders Wilse, planted them, like additions to the landscape, on the lawn somewhere in the upper part of Kinnear Park. (Courtesy, Seattle Municipal Archives)

THEN: Captioned Salmon Bay, 1887, this is most likely very near the eastern end of the bay where it was fed by Ross Creek, the Lake Union outlet. (Courtesy, Michael Maslan Vintage Posters and Photographs)

THEN: Built in 1910, Ballard’s big brick church on the northwest corner of 20th Avenue NW and NW 63rd Street lost the top of its soaring tower following the earthquake of Nov. 12, 1939.

THEN: Swedish Lutheran (Gethsemane) Church’s second sanctuary at the northeast corner of Ninth Avenue and Steward Street circa 1920, photo by Klaes Lindquist. (Courtesy, Swedish Club)

THEN: James Lee, for many years an official photographer for Seattle’s public works department, looks south over Ballard’s Salmon Bay a century ago. Queen Anne Hill marks the horizon, with a glimpse of Magnolia on the far right. (Courtesy, Museum of History and Industry)

THEN: This panorama could have used a tower (or drone) to better survey the size of the June 1, 191l, crowd gathered in Fremont/Ross to celebrate the beginning of construction on the Lake Washington Ship Canal. (Courtesy, Museum of History & Industry)

THEN: Hugh Paradise neither named nor dated his photograph looking down from a basalt cliff onto the Yakima River. (Courtesy, Byron Coney)














“One Hot Hotel,” the last title above, is a reminder that in newspapers of size, like The Seattle Times, there are title specialists who are thought to be especially clever in dragging readers into the copy.   Sometimes these specialists are, indeed, very clever.   However, often they are mildly pathetic victims of the restraints in humor that come with any publication that runs on advertising.



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