Snohomish was founded around 1858 by Emory C. Ferguson, E. F. Cady and others. It was originally known as Cadyville, and changed its name to Snohomish City in 1871. The name Snohomish comes from the name of the dominant local Native American tribe "sdoh-doh-hohbsh", whose meaning is is widely disputed by historians.
One of the first inland cities in the Puget Sound region, Snohomish was built where a planned military road connecting Fort Steilacoom and Fort Bellingham was set to cross the Snohomish River. The road, proposed in the wake of the Pig War, was intended to be built far enough inland to be safe from British naval attacks. Although the road was never completed, Snohomish quickly became a center of commerce in the expanding region. In 1861, Snohomish County separated from Island Countyand the Village of Snohomish was voted the county seat. It remained so until 1897 when the county seat was relocated to the larger, yet much newer neighboring city of Everett after a controversial and contested county-wide vote.
Snohomish's first school was organized in either 1867 or 1869. The city was finally incorporated in 1890 with Hyrcanus Blackman (who had, since 1888, been Police Chief with the monthly salary of $20.00 plus $2.00 for each arrest) as mayor. 1893 saw the construction of a roller skating rink and 1894 the first graduations from Snohomish High School. By 1899 the city of Snohomish was a prosperous town with a population of 2,000, 25 businesses and 80 homes.
1901 brought Snohomish the first motor car in the county. In 1903 First Street was paved with brick. When it was finished, there was a three-day celebration, and for years afterward, the city's residents remained so proud of the street that they washed it every week with a fire hose.
Emma C. Patric was appointed the town's first librarian in 1901, an event that lead to the 1910 grand opening of the town's first public library, The Carnegie Library. It is now the oldest remaining public building in the city.
In 1911 a disastrous fire struck First Street and everything between Avenues B and C was destroyed. The fire began when a small blaze in the Palace Cafe on the South side of the street got out of control on Memorial Day, 1911 at about four a.m. Thirty-five business structures were put out of business, with $173,000 worth of goods destroyed. Despite the disaster the town continued to grow and by 1920 the population grew to a little over 3,000. The population would remain relatively stable for the next 40 years.
The Great Depression was not acutely felt in Snohomish because its economy was mostly agrarian with many family farms. One of the town's largest employers, Bickford Ford, was founded in 1934 by Lawrence Bickford; the dealership flourished in a period when many auto dealerships failed. The 1930s brought Snohomish national notice as the hometown of baseball great Earl Averill, the only Washingtonian in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Averill played from 1929 to 1941, mostly with the Cleveland Indians.
The 1960s saw the city of Snohomish enter a period of decline. As the Boeing Company fell on hard times, many people were laid off and had to move away to seek other work. A commonly heard phrase was, "Will the last person out of Seattle please turn off the lights?" Snohomish fought back with a redevelopment plan in 1965 that proposed the destruction of the historic structures along First Street to make way for an enclosed mall. The plan was not carried out due to lack of funds, and the area remains today as it has through much of its history.
The town's economic malaise continued throughout much of the '70s, with the downtown area given over to mostly bars and small shops. In 1973 the city adopted a Historic District Ordinance protecting historic buildings and structures from inappropriate alterations and demolitions and encouraging the design of new construction in keeping with the district's historic character. In 1974, the Historic Business District, a 36-block area, was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Larger stores moved away from First Street into newer developments and strip malls that spread out along Second Street and Avenue D.
In 1974 the Seattle-Snohomish mill was gutted by fire and rebuilt by its owners. In 1975 a severe flood struck the area, damaging over 300 homes and killing 3,500 head of livestock, but the community rallied to support those who were affected. 1976 and '78 brought added community spirit as Snohomish High School won the AAA State football Championships under coach Dick Armstrong.
The 1980s saw renewed vigor in Snohomish when, along with other developments, two 7-Eleven convenience stores and a McDonald'sfranchise opened during the first part of the decade. In 1981, Richard Pryor came to town to film parts of the movie, Bustin' Loose. Snohomish received additional attention from Hollywood in the 1983 movie, War Games as the name of the high school from which character David Lightman (played by Matthew Broderick) hacks into a military computer system. (The actual school that appears in the film is El Segundo High School in El Segundo, California.)
Around 1985, the U.S. Route 2 bypass was completed, allowing traffic which had until then been forced to pass through the town to circumvent the city. This greatly eased the gridlock which had been a part of everyday life and allowed the city to assume the more peaceful character.
In the 1990s, First Street was redeveloped to take advantage of its historic buildings as a tourist attraction. Its sidewalks were rebuilt and public restrooms added. The city hall and police station were moved away from First Street and a new fire station was built, allowing those historic buildings to be renovated as well.
Snohomish was a model of how cities can reinvigorate their business districts by preserving their historic charm. In the 2000s the town continued to grow, with much of its development spread out along the former Route 2, now known as Bickford Avenue. Snohomish conscientiously maintained a balance between its regular businesses in modern facilities, serving the local community, and the specialty shops in the town's historic areas, serving visitors.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 3.60 square miles (9.32 km2), of which, 3.44 square miles (8.91 km2) is land and 0.16 square miles (0.41 km2) is water. The Snohomish River runs by the town's historic downtown.
Northwest of Snohomish is Everett. North is Fobes Hill, West Lake Stevens, Machias, and Lake Stevens. To the northeast is Three Lakes, Forest Glade, and Lake Roesiger. Southeast is Monroe. South is Cathcart and Maltby. Southwest is Everett and Mill Creek. West is Everett and Lowell.
Snohomish is located at 47°55′9″N 122°5′28″W (47.919131, -122.090978).
Snohomish prides itself for its historical downtown, and is known for its many antique shops. Snohomish is also referred to as the "Antique Capital of the Northwest." The historic business and residential center of the town constitutes the Snohomish Historic District, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Many houses bear plaques with the year the house was built and the name of the people who originally occupied it. Each year the city gives tours of the historic houses; one of them, the Blackman House, is a year-round museum.