A Look Back at the Heart of Edmonds

This week’s article takes another view of Edmonds’ central business district and how it has changed to reflect the needs and character of the community.

The intersection of Fifth and Main has served as the undisputed epicenter of Edmonds for the past century.

In the early 20th century, the main trunk roads from the south and east converged here, and the daily traffic made it a natural location for stores and businesses. To this day, Fifth and Main remains Edmonds’ premier location for business, arts, and leisure.

All these photos were taken from Fifth and Main looking west toward Puget Sound.  Taken together, they show a century of change at this location.

The first photo from 1912 shows a group of citizens posing in a muddy street (despite the presence of new sidewalks) in front of a building bearing the name LC Engel. This is the same Engel who founded the tavern and café that still bears his name (for more on Engel's Tavern, see the March 2009 issue of The Preservationist from the Edmonds Historic Preservation Commission). Horse drawn carriages are evident, with no motorized vehicles to be seen. The newly-constructed Beeson Building in the background was erected in 1909, replacing the former wooden structures destroyed by fire.

The second photo, also from 1912, was probably taken on the same day. Note the horse and carriage in front the Edmonds Meat Market that appears in both photos. The Beeson Building is nicely shown in this photo.

The third photo from the mid 1920’s shows the Up-To-Date Grocery replacing the Edmonds Meat Market on the southwest corner. The Princess Theater, originally located between the two groceries on the south side of Main, is now directly across the street in its newly-constructed dedicated theater.

The fourth photo from the mid-1930’s shows a somewhat remodeled grocery and meat market continuing to occupy the southwest corner. The street is lined with cafes and stores, with Friese’s Bakery now in the space formerly occupied by The Princess Theater. The “new” Princess sports a flashy new marquee advertising “Manhattan Merry-Go-Round”. Note the small letters at the top of marquee bearing the name of the owners, Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Berry (for more on the Princess Theater, see the June 2009 issue of The Preservationist from the Edmonds Historic Preservation Commission). Note also the suspended streetlights extending west and the blinking traffic signal above the intersection with the sign “make full stop”.

The fifth photo from 1956 still features the blinking traffic light. The Princess is now showing John Wayne in The Searchers, a story taken from Louis L’Amour’s Trailing West series. McGinness’s store is prominent on the northwest corner, with Fred Hubbard’s insurance agency just to the west.

The final photo from today shows the Mexican restaurant occupying the space on the northwest corner, and on the southwest corner. The intersection has been reworked into a traffic circle with a fountain as its focal point. The traffic circle and the various structures that have occupied it are a story in itself that will be covered in future articles. The Princess, since renamed the Edmonds Theatre, is showing the new animated Johnny Depp feature Rango, which you can still catch if you hurry.


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