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Emerson Elementary students get hands-on history lesson on walking tour

Warner Blake shows elementary children the history of Snohomish
Doug Ramsay photo,

Snohomish historian Warner Blake talks to a group of third graders from Emerson Elementary during a walking tour of First Street in Snohomish on Wednesday, May 14.

SNOHOMISH — When 9-year-old Jamie Shackleford asked his parents if they would like to see the old jailhouse in Snohomish, they had no idea what he was talking about.
Then, when he got a chance to walk down to a grassy knoll near the river and show them the old jailhouse, his parents were blown away.
This is the kind of excitement Kim Moritz, a teacher of a third and fourth grade combination class at Emerson Elementary School, hoped to see in her class when she taught them about Snohomish’s history this year. But she also knew that she would need to do something different from a regular classroom lesson to get her kids excited about it.
One day, she decided to look up interesting facts about Snohomish, and every time she found something new, Warner Blake’s name was attached to it.
“So finally, I just contacted him through email and I asked if he could help me teach the history of Snohomish in a more hands-on way,” Moritz said.
Blake was glad to help.
“I’ve been writing history columns since 2007, and Kim is the first teacher to contact me to do something like this,” Blake said. “She’s a hero in my book.”
First, Blake came to class with pictures of historic people from Snohomish and told them interesting things about them.
Later, Blake lead four third grade classes on the first ever third grade historic tour through Snohomish earlier this month.
Sites that the four participating third-grade classes visited included the Feather Ballroom, the Oxford Saloon and the old Penobscot Hotel, which caught fire in the early 1900s. The hotel was eventually converted into a retail space and is now a kids clothing store called Beebops and Lollipops, but the mosaic tile outside the door survived the fire and still spell out “Penobscot.”
“I didn’t know about the tile,” Maddy Murphy, 9, said.
The students learned about E.C. Ferguson’s founding of Snohomish in class, and many were excited to see his history in town.
“I didn’t know that he had a cottage,” Summer Schmidt, 8, said.
Most of the students were excited to see the creepy old jailhouse by the river.
The kids also learned that the Marks Building downtown holds the first flushing toilet in Snohomish.
“I see you’re not writing that down,” Blake told the class.
“No, why would anyone?” one student responded.
Blake was excited to share the history of the building on 924 First St., which is an old red brick building. He didn’t know how it got there, but he looked in old newspapers to find out that the basement had been graded to be a shooting gallery and a doctor had wanted to open a hospital on the second floor.
“I felt like an explorer making a discovery,” Blake said.
The students that went on the tour are now writing letters to send to Blake thanking him for the tour and all of the interesting facts about Snohomish that they learned. Blake will use their feedback to make the tour even better next year.
“From what I heard, nearly everybody had a good time,” Blake said. “I know I did.”

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