During the Alaska Gold Rush, beginning in the late 1890s, many of the hams from grocer Charles Louch were shipped north.

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ENGLISHMAN CHARLES LOUCH first stepped onto the Seattle waterfront, it seems, in 1885, and for many reasons, including the “bag of money” he reportedly carried, prospered and stayed for 18 years. He returned to England in 1903 with enough American assets to purchase an estate near Southhampton, which he shared with his two single sisters.

Louch opened a stand for “fancy fruits” on the east side of Front Street (First Avenue) but soon expanded his fare to the “cigars, tobacco, groceries and provisions” that are indicated on the sign above his front door. In the 1885-86 Polk City Directory, Louch is listed as one of 22 Seattle grocers. He is recorded as living at the same address, almost surely in the back of the store.

NOW: The sidewalk sites of Charles Louch’s storefronts are now held by tenants of the Harold Poll Building, which was built in 1910 as the Hancock Building. (Jean Sherrard)
NOW: The sidewalk sites of Charles Louch’s storefronts are now held by tenants of the Harold Poll Building, which was built in 1910 as the Hancock Building. (Jean Sherrard)

Based on evidence provided by the 1888 Sanborn real estate map, Louch later installed both a sausage room and a smoke house in his former living quarters. Louch’s 1888 Brand smoked hams were a longtime favorite and not just locally. During the Alaska Gold Rush, beginning in the late 1890s, many of the hams were shipped north.

The city’s Great Fire of 1889 was good to Louch and his hams and sausages. As the fire moved north up the waterfront and Front Street it was stopped less than two blocks south of Louch’s grocery. About one-half of the 36 groceries listed in the year’s city directory were consumed. That same year, Louch moved into a mansion-sized Beacon Hill home he had built on Othello Avenue overlooking Rainier Valley.

After partnering in 1889 with M.B. Augustine, a traveling food salesman from Nevada, the ambitious pair moved into the much grander post-fire quarters of the Colman Building (still at First Avenue and Columbia Street.) There they became famous for their upscale specialty foods and the dozen wagons needed to make free deliveries throughout the city.

After Louch returned to England, Augustine took on a new partner, and the company was renamed Augustine and Kyer. It grew to five locations, with the last one, in the University District, holding on through the Great Depression of the 1930s.