Bill Brown, mayor of Redmond from 1919 to 1948, built a garage and service station in 1920. The building stands in the city’s Old Town district.
I CONFESS THAT I know neither who took this photo nor when, nor do I know whose fleet of trucks this is, nor the names of any of the, I presume, drivers posing with them.
I do know who built this sturdy brick business and when. Bill Brown was serving his first term as Redmond’s mayor when he began construction on what is now a landmark, located in what high-tech Redmond calls its Old Town Historic Core. Both the date, 1920, and the name, Brown’s Garage, are posted above the front door, and another sign swinging above the sidewalk lets one know that Goodyear tires are included among the motorcar services Brown is selling.
Earlier, before building his garage at the southwest corner of Redmond Way and 164th Avenue Northeast, Brown operated a popular saloon in the neighborhood. It survives as another Redmond landmark, the Brown Building. When new in 1913, the two-story brick bar was the tallest commercial structure in town. It also might have been the most companionable. There was drinking on the main floor, while upstairs there was dancing in the big room and, it seems, prostitution in the smaller ones.
With national Prohibition closing the legal taps in 1919, Brown turned his saloon into a drugstore. He then jumped from fixing sorrow through alcohol to mending cars in his garage with 20 mechanics’ stalls — plus a gas station. His motto was, “All Roads Lead to Redmond.”
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Conveniently, Snoqualmie Pass opened to adventurous motorists in 1915. The improved Yellowstone Trail (AKA the Sunset Highway) reached the pass through Redmond, but not yet as easily through Renton or the strawberry fields of bridgeless Bellevue.
Also, a graded road between Kirkland and Redmond had been completed in 1911. The astute Brown purchased an open omnibus to carry passengers between them.
Mayor Brown’s biggest accomplishment might have been the building and paving of the West Lake Sammamish Parkway between Redmond and Issaquah. Brown then developed commercial homesites along the way.
The convivial mayor was widely appreciated and kept his title for three decades, until beaten in the 1949 election in which 332 Redmond citizens cast their votes.