Blackman House Museum Goes Hollywood

Blackman House Museum
For the past week the interior of our house museum has been cast in the role of a brothel.

The independent feature, “You Can’t Win” is based on the book of the same name published in 1926. Black’s autobiographical novel tracks his life on the road freight-hopping across the western United States and Canada, and his experiences with the Yegg Brotherhood of hobos, bums, tramps and criminals who rode the rails in turn-of-the-century America. In the movie treatment, Jack finds redemption from his wild ways in the love of a prostitue — hence a brothel.

Mayor Karen Guzak (L), Michael Pitt and unidentified cast memberStaring in and producing is Michael Pitt, recently appearing in “Boardwalk” an HBO production. He is pictured here with Mayor Karen Guzak (and a Society super supporter), with an unidentified cast member.

Mayor Karen joining the cast and crew for "lunch" in the Waltz Building Mayor Karen was invited to join the cast and crew for their “lunch” break. The Waltz Building played the role of lunch room for the cast and crew of close to 100 people.

Shooting in Snohomish ended on May 14th.

The Last Mother’s Day Show

The first show in the new Snohomish High Performing Arts Center for Eleanor and her troupe of tap dancers, comedians, even one opera singer, will be her last.

Follow this link to the story in the Daily Herald.

And follow this link to the learn more about the documentary.

The Snohomish Historical Society’s 34th annual variety show, “Memories,” is scheduled for 7 p.m., May 10, 11 and 12, with an additional 2 p.m. presentation set for May 12 and 13, at the Snohomish High School Performing Arts Center, 1316 Fifth St.

Tickets cost $7.25 for seniors and students, and $9.75 for adults.

Tickets can be purchased online at or by calling 1-800-838-3006.

Tickets also can be purchased at the door.

2011 Snohomish Parlour Tour

The annual Snohomish Historical Society Parlour Tour will be held Sunday, December 11th from noon to 4pm. General admission tickets cost $15.00.  Adults over 62 and children under 12 receive a discounted rate of $12.00.

Tickets are now available for purchase at Kusler’s Pharmacy and Gifts, Annie’s on First, McDaniel’s Do-it Center, Speckeled Hen and Joyworks. Tickets on the day of the tour will be available at the Waltz Building at 116 avenue B. For further infomation please call 360-568-5235 or e-mail

Walter P. Bell, (1856-1934)

Ed Anderson, left, with David Dilgard

As Ed tells the story, it was a rainy evening, when he received five dirty dusty cardboard boxes, from his mother. She had been storing them in the crawl space of the family home — an inheritance from her Mother’s sister — the family pack-rat.

That was nearly ten years ago. It has taken Ed this long to sort through all 5 boxes with the discipline of his training as a civil engineer, currently employed with Boeing.

Walter P. Bell
Walter P. Bell, c.1888
His great-grandfather, Walter P. Bell was born in Iowa in 1856. He came to Washington 23 years later, working as a cowboy by day and reading law in the evening.

He began practicing law in Port Townsend, was engaged in the mail service on the steamships, and finally opening a law office on the second floor of Wilbur’s Drug Store on First Street, downtown Snohomish. Attorney Bell was instrumental in forming the articles of city’s first incorporation in 1888, and was elected to serve as the city’s first attorney.

It was around this time that Walter met and eventually married Lillian Blackman who had followed her father Almon to Snohomish from Maine. They were cousins to the well known Blackman Brothers who settle here in 1872.

The couple gave birth to four children, Harold, Mary, Doris and Winifred. Mary was Ed’s grandmother and Doris is the heroine of this story for saving everything — papers, letters, photographs, even diaries kept by her great grandmother back in Maine who never made the journey west, yet recorded the ups and downs of the clan so far away.

Doris, Walter Bell
Doris with her father Walter, 1923
Walter P. Bell moved his office to Everett after Snohomish lost the county seat in 1897. He was elected attorney general of Washington in 1908, serving for three years, when he was appointed judge of the superior court.

Included in this generous and significant donation is a statement from the Claim Department of the Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company, dated July 9, 1934, notifying Mrs. Lillian Bell of a $2,000 payment upon the death of her husband, (in the same year).

All materials donated to the Historical Society are processed under the supervision of Kathleen Lince, the Society’s paid archivist. Your membership makes this vital community service available — please consider joining today.

General Membership Meeting

Wednesday, March 16th | 7p  | Waltz Building

This meeting is for You!  Please join fellow Snohomish Historical Society members for a presentation on the historic Carnegie Library project.  Come hear about the current plans and future use of Snohomish’s own gem presented by Melody Clemons, president of the Snohomish Carnegie Education Center.  You won’t want to miss this one!

Refreshments will be served.

Remembering Bill Blake

Bill Blake Our dear friend, and Life Member, Bill Blake was sent off in proper style on his new adventure with a packed memorial service on Thursday, July 16, 2009, at Snohomish’s Presbyterian Church.

Bill was born in the family home on Avenue H in 1921, and where he was living with his daughter Bonnie when he died in the hospital on July 8th. He had been in and out of the hospital for the past couple of years, so it was always a treat when I would run into him shopping at Top Foods. He would apologize that he wasn’t quite ready yet to take the tour of First Street that he promised for an oral history project that I was hoping to do with him. That’s how I met Bill, as the to-go-guy with a question of what business preceded the current one in such and such building on First.

Once, I found Bill in the flower section at the store and asked him what he was up to. It was Memorial Day weekend and he was picking out flowers for his wife’s grave, “I don’t want Georgia upset with me,” he said. No chance of the now.

You may read more about Bill’s life HERE.


Bill would have enjoyed the exhibition now on view in our Waltz Building, titled, “Treasurers from the Attic.” Charter member, Middy Ruthruff led a committee responsible for selecting, installing and now attending the extensive exhibition of a wide variety of objects and memorabilia. And it’s FREE! Open from 11 to 3p. everyday until July 25th.

Read the article in the Herald HERE.


Finally, a heads-up that my monthly column in the Tribune, “Snohomish: Then and Now” is also available on it’s own website: Snohomish Then And Now — and it has just been updated with a story about Bickford Motors, a generous supporter of the Society.


CLICK ON THE ARROW to begin a 11 minute documentary about the letter Snohomish resident, Jeff Starr, left behind on his computer, which was intended for his girl friend if he should not return from his third deployment to Iraq.

“LetterHome” is the title Jeff used for the message found on his laptop computer several months after he was killed in action on May 30, 2005, while on patrol in Ramadi, Iraq. The short documentary tells the story of a love letter that evolved into a political football on the internet and eventually referenced in a speech by President Bush.

Over eight hours of interview footage captured in 2007 will be archived with the Snohomish Historical Society. The expenses for the project were donated by the production company PSTOO. Sharon Howard of Howard and Rosen Productions interviewed the Starr family members.

The movie will be screened on Sunday, May 31, 2009, 2p, at the Snohomish Library as part of a program hosted by Gold Star Parents.

Please follow this link for more details.

Sunday Afternoons at the Blackman House

Frances Wood, Guest Speaker

Writer, naturalist and teacher Frances Wood spoke on Sunday, February 15, about her book “Down to Camp: A History of Summer Folk on Whidbey Island”. Frances is related to the Blackmans who lived in our historic home. Her great-grandmother was Nina Blackman, a cousin to Hycranus Blackman who hired her to teach school in Snohomish when he was serving on the school board in the 1880s. It was during this time that several families, including the Blackmans, began spending the month of August camping on a Whidbey Island beach — reached by boat going down river. This tradition continues to this day and France’s account of this unique summer culture through the years is informative and quite endearing.
Frances Wood Following a short Q & A, Frances read parts of the first chapter from her new book, which is a fictional account of Nina’s journey to the frontier town of Snohomish to teach school and her courtship with Charles Bakeman. It was a real treat and enjoyed by all .