Ed. note: We share this version of the early history of Burlington because George Cressey was one of the few writers who was there in the very early days of 1890 when the little village began, hunkered around the Seattle & Northern depot at Anacortes avenue. The latter was actually a mere path that continued south from the depot, crossed Gage’s slough, turned west at what is now the Pease road and then quickly turned south to the area we now call Riverside. It probably followed a centuries-old Indian trail and was soon widened enough that a horse could pull a freight wagon for the logging camps. Cressey gives us a first-hand description of how the center of the town moved over to the junction of the two railroads that soon defined Burlington. He started as a general factotum for early merchant Tom Wilson and later became a key member of the incorporation promoters, who failed the first time in 1896 and succeeded in 1902. We especially enjoy his intricate details about Anacortes avenue. We know that T.W. Soule named the town for his native Burlington, Vermont, but we are intrigued about how the city fathers named their initial main street after the town on Fidalgo island, many miles west, that boomed meteorically in early 1890 and then fell to earth just as fast a year later. We will share other memories of Mr. Cressey in future issues. Although his memory was sharp, his writing skills were a bit shaky and he apparently never proofread the typed document. So we have included information in [ ] that corrects spelling, gives background or edits the document lightly so that the reader can understand.
Memoirs by George G. Cressey – July 22, 1910
Gentle reader: as we sit here under our own fig tree and gaze upon nature’s beautiful handiwork, with the sparkling waters of Puget Sound at our feet, and the towering snow capped, Olympic mountains towering high in their majestic beauty away westward, causes our thoughts to revert back to the old homestead near the banks of the mighty Skagit where we lived so many eventful years, shoulder to shoulder, working together for the commonwealth.
How similar to this view is that looking eastward and southeastward from Burlington where sloping gently back apparently touching the eastern skies, the foothills rise in their picturesque splendor and revel to the artistic eye their ever-changing beauty, covered with a wealth of virgin timber and undeveloped mineral deposits.
It was the winter of 1890 and ’91 that Messrs. [T.G] Wilson and [Thomas] Shaughnessy came from Anacortes to Burlington, followed soon after by the writer and his brother Will. The former gentleman had secured the contract of opening and planking Anacortes and Orange streets and slashing the brush and timber adjoining. At that time, activity centered at the intersection of Fairhaven and Anacortes streets where tents were pitched for the accommodation of their employees.
[Ed. note: in 2003, Fairhaven avenue is the main street of old, downtown Burlington, running west to east with a dead-end at Burlington Boulevard, or old Highway 99. Anacortes avenue runs north and south and is the connector arterial to Pease road, where the thoroughfare crosses the old Great Northern roadbed. Orange avenue runs parallel to Fairhaven, four blocks to the south, and is now cut off by the tracks as a result of construction of the new Great Northern depot complex in 1909. On Orange, there is just one building that appears to date from the turn of the 19th century or before, now a private home at the northwest corner of Cherry street. It has a handsome balcony that stretches across the front of the second story in the style of that time.]
To read more on the history of Burlington, please click here.