Photos courtesy of Shoreline Historical Museum - Captions provided by Vicki Stiles
Richmond Beach History
Richmond Beach, one of the oldest areas of Shoreline, started as part of ninety-eight acres of land which was deeded to George Fisher in 1872. Mr. Fisher sold that land in 1882 for $846. In 1888, John Papendick bought a tract for $2,050, and in 1889, C. W. Smith bought 63 acres from Papendick for $4,000 and named the town Richmond Beach, after Richmond, England.
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Property has been bought, sold, divided and developed many times over the years, resulting in the current community of Richmond Beach. People coming to the Seattle area saw Richmond Beach as a place of opportunity and the town grew steadily. The Holloway family settled here in 1889 and their daughter Lena was the first pioneer child born in Richmond Beach.
Connecting with the outside world: train and post office
The Great Northern Railroad platform was completed in Richmond Beach in 1891 and the train would make unscheduled stops if properly flagged. The Adams family applied for a Post Office license in 1890 and set aside a room in their store across from the railroad platform for that purpose. The railroad was required to pick up and deliver mail which came from Seattle or Edmonds; the mail sacks were often hung from a metal hook and the mail was taken on the fly.
Mail was the primary method of communication with the outside world for the residents of Richmond Beach, bringing personal letters, newspapers, style magazines, Sears Roebuck and Co., and Montgomery Ward catalogues and farm magazines from the East, many of which advertised articles on how to get rich quick on the Pacific Coast. The post office was also the center for local news and gossip.
Introducing culture and education: park, school, church and library
A one room school house was built in 1891 on the site of the current Community Park. The first use was for the Congregational Church Sunday School, with regular school classes held for only one month the first year. The second year the school year lasted for five months! J. T. Holloway had built a hotel on Richmond Beach Dr. to house the Great Northern workmen, and in 1892 a group of local people raised $22 to begin a local lending library. One hundred discarded books were donated by a librarian in Seattle and the hotel lobby was the first library site.
In 1899 the Richmond Beach Library Association was formed with the goal of raising enough money to build a permanent library. The primary way to raise funds was at basket socials where decorated baskets of food, and the privilege of sitting with the person who prepared them, were auctioned to the highest bidder. The permanent library building operated from 1913 to 2001, when it was replaced by the current building. It is the second oldest library in King County. A group of people of Norwegian origin founded the Lutheran Church in 1903.
Necessities: phone and electricity
Telephone service arrived at Richmond Beach in 1907, ahead of electricity by seven years. Groceries and supplies could be bought at either St. John's or Kennedy's grocery stores. There were also a saloon, a butcher shop and a dance hall at the beach. In 1907, a small depot was built to replace the railroad platform which had served for many years.
Once a few roads were in place, a stage line between Edmonds and Richmond Beach was established. The Ellington boys used seven-passenger Studebackers and Buicks in the beginning and then expanded to 35 passenger buses. Mr. Yost of Edmonds bought them out with the condition that they would continue on as drivers and run the service. The Interurban from Seattle reached Ronald Station at 175th by 1906. Service to Everett was completed in 1910. People also walked long distances for school or business.
In 1919, the high school at Richmond Beach only went to the 10th grade. Students who wanted to continue their education either went to Edmonds or Ballard. For those who attended the University of Washington, a typical trip was to go to 145th and Stone Way by bus and then on foot to the university because this was faster than making streetcar connections.
Strawberries from Richmond Beach were well known for their size and quality. Farmers who wanted to sell their fresh-picked strawberries at the market in Seattle would leave home with a horse cart at 1 a.m. to be ready to sell on Western Ave. at 5 a.m. After breakfast in Seattle, they would head back home for a little sleep before going out to pick berries in the afternoon and repeat the process the next day.
Clearing a space
The first people to settle the area needed to do a lot of clearing. Much of the wood that was taken was cut and sold for cord wood. It was hauled to the dock at the original Shell facility (later to become Standard Oil) where tugs, passenger and freight boats would buy it for fuel. Cedar was cut for use as railroad ties. Shingle bolts were cut and hauled to the water where they were made into a boom and sent to Edmonds. Horses pulled the booms along as they waded in the water, while the men would ride the boom and pole it away from the shoreline.
Cleared wood was also used to build some homes and to supply shake mills in the Richmond Beach area. What could not be sold was burned, sometimes as much in one day as would be used to heat a house for a year. By the early 1900s, there was a $100 fine for burning from June 15 to Oct.15. This was less for concern about air quality than to protect the coastal timber.
Industry and commerce
Besides logging, there was a cooperage for making barrels, a brick making plant and a sand bunker operation at Richmond Beach. The Pioneer Sand and Gravel Company sluiced the sand and gravel from the hillside of the present Salt Water Park, making for a wonderful sandy beach for the local residents to use in the summertime.
By 1919 the town had grown to include the following along Market Street (now 195th Pl. NW): the railroad depot (on Olympic, now Richmond Beach Drive), Walloch's hardware store and the post office, Umbrite's drug store, Sweeley's grocery, the Holloway Hotel, Ashton's pool room, Richard's barber shop, Paddock's shoe repair and Dahlquist Hall, where town socials were held. Further east were the library, Taylor's butcher shop and Kennedy's general store. Adams Nursery was in business at 8th and Richmond Beach Road.
Fires and natural disasters
The Congregational Church burned in 1923 and church was held in the school until a new building could be erected. Later in 1923, the school burned and classes were held temporarily in the new church. In the 1930s, there was a terrible fire at the Standard Oil plant and at least one person drowned as a result of jumping off the dock.
The great snowfall of 1916 was remembered for a long time. Four feet of snow fell in one day. The local stores were well supplied before the storm, but almost empty at the end. At another time a big earth slide occurred when water seeped through the clay soil and resulted in a half mile of railroad track being damaged. It took two days and nights of work to reopen the track.
Entertainment and recreation
Entertainment was made at home, at Dahlquist Hall and at the churches. Men and women formed a community band to play at social events. The Kennedy family built a dance hall at the beach in 1919. The building was 100 ft. by 146 ft. and as many as 1,500 people would dance the night away on a Saturday evening. It was closed down by the sheriff after a rather short existence.
In 1908 a featherweight championship boxing match—the first of its kind in the region—was held at a farm on Sound Beach (now Point Wells). A barn was used as a dressing room and the ring was set up on the beach surrounded by a closed-back, open-air tent. It was held on the border to be more accessible to people travelling by train and boat from the north and south. Notables in the crowd included the Seattle mayor and Chief Joseph.
In the 1930s the WPA built tennis courts across the street from the school. They are still in use.
The Richmond Beach School was completed in 1924. At that time the population of Richmond Beach was 750 and a five-acre tract with a cheap house could be bought for $8,500. The school included both elementary and high school classes and several times the basketball team took the county championship. The last high school graduating class was in 1945 and the school closed in 1971.
Baseball was also a popular sport and the Richmond Beach team was well known in the area. There was always a friendly rivalry between the teams from Richmond Beach and Edmonds.
Richmond Beach was known for the flavor of its strawberries. The berries, picked by local adults and children, would either be taken to market in Seattle or sent by train to other parts of Washington, Montana and Idaho.
The berries were put into one quart boxes and some of them were large enough that 18 berries would fill the quart. Twenty-four quarts were placed in a crate which weighed thirty-three pounds. The pay for picking was 25 cents per crate and some kids could pick eight or nine crates in a day.
There were also orchards of cherries, apricots, plums, prunes, peaches and quinces in the area. Many people kept cows and milk was sold by the pail.