WE ALL IMAGINE Main Street as a hospitable hub for shopping and schmoozing. But sometimes it is a thoroughfare as much as a destination. This applies to a burg like Bothell, which — perched along the Sammamish River near the northern tip of Lake Washington — served for most of a century not as somewhere to go but mostly as “on the way to.”
In the late 1880s, a railroad carried coal circuitously from Issaquah north around the lake and through Bothell to Seattle. Likewise, the nearby Sammamish River (before its water level plummeted with the 1917 opening of the Lake Washington Ship Canal) carried logs and passenger steamers along a similar route. In little time, newfangled automobiles followed suit.
Thus, in concert with the statewide Good Roads movement, led by Seattle’s Sam Hill (later known for building the U.S./Canada Peace Arch and Stonehenge replica at Maryhill), this coterie of cars bustles east on Bothell’s Main Street on May 29, 1913. Gov. Ernest Lister joined locals to salute the completion of a 4-mile highway between Bothell and Lake Forest Park to the west, which helped connect Bothell with Seattle (today’s Highway 522) and Everett (Highway 527).
The celebrated segment, left in the dust by our “Then” motorists, was made of red brick, an upgrade from muddy, rutted terrain. The brick soon proved slippery, so eventually it was repaved — all but a 1,000-foot stretch that survives in a landmark park southwest of downtown Bothell.
Boosting Bothell’s roads in that decade was a colorful land agent-turned-mayor, Sidney F. Woody, who pushed for a 10 mph speed limit through town and in 1912 became the first person cited for breaking it. The Bothell Sentinel said Woody, a “high-class, single-minded talker,” prevailed in court by challenging four eyewitnesses, including one who insisted the errant speed was at least 12 mph, “but had no instrument by which he could prove it beyond a peradventure of a doubt.”
Perhaps Woody’s constituents acquitted him two years later, when he created the Chuckhole Club. His scheme, which The Seattle Times termed “clever,” asked motorists to carry spades and interrupt their automotive errands to fill in one rut every month, aiming to eradicate 12,000 craters a year.
Participants were to swear to a Woody-written pledge, vowing that noncompliance would mean “no less a penalty than that of having my axles broken in twain, my springs smashed to smithereens, my wheels torn off at the hubs, my tires blown out, my carburetor filled with water and my gasoline tank emptied 10 miles from a station, so help me Sam Hill and keep me busy.”
Spoken like a politician on — where else? — Main Street.
THEN: This May 29, 1913, print, looking west along Main Street and damaged as if run over by one of the parading flivvers, comes from the scrapbook of Bothell pioneer Carlton Ericksen. The three most prominent cars are likely (from left) a 1908 or 1909 International Harvester Auto Buggy; a 1911 Stoddard-Dayton; and a 1912 Studebaker Everitt-Metzger-Flanders, as identified by West Seattle’s Robert Carney. The 1908 Hannan Building, Bothell’s first brick structure, to the left of the white banner, is the only depicted edifice that survives. The closest building later became the site of Meredith’s 5 & 10, managed by Dave Johns, father of U.S. Sen. Patty Murray. For more on Bothell’s Main Street, see the photo-filled book “Bothell Washington Then & Now” (2008, Bothell Landmark Preservation Board). ()