Early Vashon Town 1890-1914


The Gorsuch store was on the corner opposite to Master’s blacksmith shop; Livesley’s and Gorsuch homes in cherry, apple and pear orchards; along with a small telephone office, run by the McGuire’s; composed the town of Vashon.
Fred Eernisse memoir, Vashon Maury Island Heritage Association

east town 1910.jpg

Marjorie Stanley described the above photo,”A picture of Vashon in 1910 shows the bank located in a large brick building a block south of it’s present location. It was started in 1909 by Terkel Hansen. Capitol was $10,000. The newspaper office is shown across the street on the south side of the big building, Martin Block and Hotel lettered on it. The building belonged to R.W.F. Martin, who had a real estate office there. Other buildings on this side of the street included Peterson’s Meat Market on the corner, and the post office in Steffenson’s Saddle Shop and grocery Store”.  Marjorie Stanley, Searching For Laughter.


Marjorie Stanley describes the above photo,”Fruit trees where the Vashon Pharmacy is, indicate the site of the original Frank Gorsuch home. The picture also shows the store where McCormick’s is now – the first store at Vashon. It was a grocery store built and run by Frank Gorsuch in 1890. Robert Gerry owned it later. He sold it to Fred Weiss who took in Ole Thorson as a partner shortly after. In 1929 they sold it to George McCormick who bought out the hardware section of Kimmel’s store across the street. George was later joined by his brother Earl to establish what is now Vashon Hardware. Fred Weiss who following his sale to George McCormick in 1929, built the brick building across from Kimmel’s and also opened a store. So, step by step, and year by year Vashon grew”. Searching For The Laughter, Marjorie Stanley


In the 1885 census James Master is listed as Blacksmith in the Vashon precinct. Ira Thompson recalled that there were less than 100 people living north of Center in 1890. As those numbers began to grow, settlers and farmers needed more convenient access to stores and shops. The closest store was Sylvester Huffman’s at the Vashon Landing west of town which as Fred Ernisse described it, “was a hard pull up the long steep hill from the Vashon Dock”, there was also a store at Center.

Vashon town had at least three blacksmith shops by 1905. Billy Scales described activities at the blacksmith shops to Marjorie Stanley. “There were bright glowing coal fires where the horse’s shoes were heated red-hot in order to shape them for the horse’s and oxen’s hooves. Lots of tires for buggies and wagons were made and tightened to the wheels, brakes were shod, and various repairs were made on conveyances and farm equipment, particularly plows, cultivators, spring tooth harrows, scrapers and drags. Stump pullers and sawmill and logging machinery were also repaired”. Marjorie Stanley, Searching For Laughter

In 1890 the Gorsuch store opened in what is now known as the Hardware Store building at Bank Road. In 1913 the Weiss brothers took over the Gorsuch Store. General Stores in those days  sold “dry goods” and groceries, everything from sewing supplies and clothing to everyday household needs items. Unlike modern stores shoppers did not walk through with a cart and browse, they brought in a list and a clerk retrieved the items from the stock shelves and store-room. Instead of cash and credit cards customers were allowed personal credit accounts with the store. Most local Vashon stores also bartered for produce and livestock goods.

Below, Weiss Brothers Store, undated, Undated photo, Vashon-Maury Island Heritage Association 84-bus

Below, Interior of Weiss Brothers store. 1909 photo, John Reid, Vashon Island News, 1909


Farmers Mutual Telephone Co.

The Farmers Mutual Independent Telephone Company, headquartered in Everett, secured a franchise for telephone service on Vashon Maury Islands in 1904 and set up an exchange in the town of Vashon serving the north part of the Island. There were no telephone poles at this time, the lines were strung on trees. Only customers close to the exchange office had service. There were not very many roads that were more than just trails and most were in rough condition. No photo.

YMCA building

A large YMCA building was built in 1904 to house Presbyterian services and community functions.  Frances Blekkink remembered, “The ‘Y’ was a local group, not part of the national organization.  Oddly enough, it was seldom – if ever- used for ‘Y’ activities, though many other Island activities, including Presbyterian church services were held there”. The Past Remembered II

1930 photo, Vashon-Maury Island Heritage Association.


Steffenson Store building

In 1905 John Steffenson built a saddle, harness and shoe store which also housed the first Post Office (the building later housed the Alibi restaurant). According to Fred Ernisse in 1905, Guy Ernisse “ran the first Rural Free Delivery route from the Vashon Post Office in the  recently constructed Seffenson store and shoe repair”. A saddle, harness and shoe store reflected the needs of the local community of farmers, loggers, and brick-makers. Later as more people moved to the area around Vashon town the need for another store led Steffenson to change his store to a General Store.

Below, 1930’s photo of the Steffenson building, later know as the Alibi restaurant building, Vashon-Maury Island Heritage Association.

172 bus.jpg

Below, Steffenson Store interior, photo,  John H. Reid, Vashon Island News, 1909



 Presbyterian Church

The Presbyterian church held their services in the YMCA building until a church building was built in 1907. In his memoir Fred Ernisse recalled that Sara Ernie sold a 210 foot lot to the church, in 1906 for $800 dollars. The church he wrote, “Listed the price as $1200, so they could have some valuation for borrowing money from the church board that controlled the building fund in Seattle”.

Below, 1938 King County Tax Id photo.


Martin Block building

In 1908 R.W.F. Martin built the Martin Block building with a 6 room hotel on the second floor, Martin’s Real Estate office, a confectioner’s shop and barber shop on the first floor.

R.W.F. as he was always called, ran the hotel for a time. Then it stood vacant for a couple of years. In 1913 Arthur Poultney took it over. “I borrowed $500 form Terkel Hansen” said Arthur, “To re-open the hotel. It had six bedrooms. I took care of them alone and cooked and served family style meals”.  Marjorie Stanley, Searching For The Laughter Vashon-Maury Island Heritage Association.


 Masonic Hall/Vashon State Bank building

Vashon’s first bank and brick building was built south of the Gorsuch store in 1908 to house the Mason’s on the second floor. Vashon State Bank opened March 29, 1909 on the first floor. Deposits on the first day totaled $2,000. Below photo, John Reid, Vashon Island News, 1909.


New Vashon State Bank building

In 1912 Vashon State Bank moved to a new building on what is now called Bank Road where the current US Bank is located. The Vashon Island News Record reported that, “The building and equipment was of the most modern type of that time and Vashon-Maury was justly proud”.

Vashon State Bank, 1938 King County Tax Id photo.


Sanbourn Maps

The following maps are from the Seattle Public Library digital map collection. I have added (in red) the names of the buildings and businesses that were there in 1914, at the time the map was made.

The map shows that there were no businesses on the east side of Vashon Hwy Sw from Bank Road north to Ober Park property where there was a school building (not shown on this map).

The map shows only two business buildings on the west side of Vashon Hwy Sw from Bank Road south, the Gorsuch store and the original State Bank/ Mason building


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Blogging about Vashon Island past and present. I'm a 4th generation Vashon Islander, artist, dad and grandfather