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Wednesday, May 24, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Loggers to latte stands: Route spans history

Times Snohomish County bureau

Back when Silver Lake froze over every winter and the night sky was so dark he could watch the northern lights dance and flash, young Gordon Stubb would lie in bed and wait for the faint, distant sound of an approaching car.

When he heard one coming south from Everett, he could visualize its path as it went left around Silver Lake, motored past the gas station at Green Lantern Road and then whooshed by his bedroom window, above the tavern of his family's lakefront resort.

The sound would diminish as the unseen car rolled on past a three-room schoolhouse, near the modern-day Silver Lake Elementary, and then would fade away as it crossed Murphy's Corner, heading toward Bothell or perhaps Seattle.

At 82, Stubb still lives on Silver Lake. But when he lies in bed, it's hard to hear the cars, buses, trucks and SUVs steadily streaming by on the four-lane asphalt highway that has replaced the two-lane concrete road of his youth. The modern rush of traffic — much less its individual cars — can't be discerned above the dull roar of Interstate 5, out of sight just west of the lake.

The Bothell-Everett Highway, as it's known today, reached a milestone this month, when the state opened the final stretch of a 16-year widening project.

The highway's expansion parallels the exponential growth that has taken place in recent decades in the communities through which it passes. Longtime residents recall making the drive between Bothell and Everett without ever pausing for a traffic signal or a stop sign. Now 30 lights control the flow of 14,000 to 43,000 vehicles per day on the highway, formally called State Route 527.

Back in the early days of wagon and automobile travel, it was part of the Pacific Highway — the only way to drive between Seattle and Everett.

Old-timers seem a bit incredulous at the changes wrought in recent years, as their once-peaceful country drive has morphed into an urban swell of commerce and condominiums.

In the 1940s and 1950s, motorists and local residents marked the landscape by its scattered taverns, gas stations and groceries. Thrasher's Corner and Murphy's Corner still are familiar names, even to relative newcomers who've never heard of Lyman Thrasher or Robert Murphy, the original proprietors of their respective markets.

Other landmarks have faded from the collective memory.

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Mill Creek swallowed Wintermute's Corner, the 164th Street Southeast intersection where for decades a "truck farm" grew vegetables. A plaza anchored with an Albertsons now sits on the old farm plot. Another plaza, with a QFC, occupies the site of the former Wintermute grocery.

The only traces of Kennard Corner, at 196th Street Southeast, lie in the memories of old-timers such as 90-year-old Bud Ericksen, a former Bothell mayor.

Ericksen recalls the day, in 1926 or 1927, when his dad took him for a drive in the family's Hudson automobile. As they approached Kennard Corner, a horse-drawn buggy pulled out in front of them.

"My father was going too fast — must have been about 35 [mph]," he recalled. "He turned off to the right. We missed the wagon, but we hit the gas pump. Knocked it off."

Gas spewed everywhere, he said.

"Put him out of business," Ericksen said. "That guy never opened his service station again."

Ericksen's grandfather, Gerhard Ericksen, played a prominent role in the highway's development.

"My grandfather was in the state Legislature, and in 1903 he was responsible for passing a proposition to build the Bothell-to-Seattle part of the [Pacific] Highway," he said. "In 1905, they appropriated the money, and in 1907 the road was constructed from Seattle to Lake Forest Park."

That stretch of highway, now Lake City Way, at one point was christened Gerhard Ericksen Way.

The state experimented with red brick to pave the next phase, between Lake Forest Park and Bothell. Bothell has preserved an exposed section as Red Brick Road Park.

But the new road, completed in 1914, proved quite slick when it rained, said Bothell native Ron Green, 89.

The rest of the highway, completed to Everett in 1916, was paved with concrete. Snohomish County voters in 1915 approved a bond measure to pave their portion of the Pacific Highway, which at that time ran north through downtown Everett, east to Cavalero Corner near Lake Stevens, and then north through Marysville and Stanwood to the Skagit County line.

"I remember the stage from Everett to Seattle coming through Bothell. My dad was a driver," Green said. "I remember it was like an early Greyhound bus."

County histories don't clearly indicate the pre-paved origins of the Bothell-Everett Highway. But in 1885, a buggy trail between Snohomish and Seattle was completed along the route of modern-day Seattle Hill Road, which meets the Bothell-Everett Highway just south of 164th.

A 1910 atlas indicates that through what's now Mill Creek, the road was lined with logging operations, the Beaver Mill and Coup Shingle Co.

"If they'd come a little while later, they could get lattes while they logged," quipped Everett Public Library historian David Dilgard.

The advent of the automobile transformed the county's road system, providing an economic motive for paving routes that traditionally had been impassable during rainy months, Dilgard said.

"The politics shifted from farmers wanting roads, and not being able to get them, to doctors and lawyers wanting them," he said.

By the 1920s, Silver Lake and Murphy's Corner were established as resort destinations, offering swimming, cabin camping, dancing and popular eateries known as chicken-dinner restaurants.

Stubb says the Prohibition era also inspired more colorful local enterprises — speak-easies and brothels.

Robert Crissinger, 55, arrived in Snohomish County in 1974 while a student at the University of Washington. He has heard those stories, too.

"When the old-timers were still around, they told tales," said the Mill Creek man during a recent trout-fishing trip to Silver Lake. "Big, wild times — police raiding, people jumping out of windows to get away."

But for families, the Silver Beach Resort was the main attraction, with outdoor kitchens, paddle boats and canoes, an 18-foot water trapeze, high dives and a terror-inducing 25-foot slide. Swimmers would lug toboggans to the top of the wooden structure, fit them onto a metal rail and plummet, roller-coaster style, into the lake.

Also popular was a 12-foot water wheel; the adventurous stepped onto the top and ran in place until they lost their balance and splashed down.

Stubb grew up at the resort, founded in the 1880s by his maternal grandfather, Norwegian immigrant John Hauge.

In the 1920s, the state created a new Pacific Highway route by extending Seattle's Aurora Avenue North into the modern-day Highway 99 corridor. That greatly eased congestion on the Bothell-Everett Highway, Stubb said.

"Before the Pacific Highway was finished [in 1926], it was wall-to-wall traffic. My dad said if you got off the road, you couldn't get back out on again," he said.

Today, Everett's Hauge Homestead Park and the adjacent Emory's Lake House restaurant share the site once occupied by his family's 25-acre resort, which Stubb sold in 1967.

The resort's only physical traces are 40 short concrete piles, in the shallows below Emory's dining deck, that once supported a dance hall.

The entire highway, in fact, feels scrubbed of history. A few old houses are tucked here and there between the dental offices, retailers and dense residential developments springing up along the road's length. A few clues remain: a consignment shop operating from a small 100-year-old house; the Bothell Feed Store with its saddle blankets and bridles; an abandoned smokehouse restaurant in Mill Creek's greenbelt.

The oldest remaining business is Bert's Tavern, which moved to its current location in 1954.

"When I started coming in here, people would still ride their horses down, and we had a hitching post out there," said owner Bruce Anderson.

Bert's was a local landmark for generations, said local historian Jack O'Donnell, back when taverns were scattered randomly along the highway with not much else in between.

"Like to go to May's Pond, you'd say, 'Turn at Bert's Tavern,' " said O'Donnell, who 46 years ago earned a Boy Scout badge by hiking a 10-mile stretch of the then-rural highway, picking up beer bottles along the way.

Now people who make that turn, onto 180th Street Northeast, are more likely to notice a glitzy casino across the street.

That's the sort of "progress" that makes many old-timers shake their heads. Stubb, however, is pragmatic.

"It's just one of those things that happens," he said. "Things change, from the 1800s to the 1900s to the '40s and '50s and '60s. Everything changes. I liked it better when it wasn't as crowded.

"But that's progress, I guess."

Diane Brooks: 425-745-7802 or dbrooks@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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