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Car #20 in Columbia City

RVHS: 1993.001.0198

The date is 1902. Car #20 of the Seattle, Renton & Southern RY., traveling southbound, has just crested the hill between Genesee and Edmunds Street. On the left side of the photograph, next to the tracks, is a trunk that is part of the freight hauled by the streetcar line. Most of the line was single track with passing tracks through the business districts. The black box on the pole to the right of the car contains a switch for signal lights to let other motormen know when the single track is in use. The switch is operated by a pull on the dangling rope.

The first building on the left is Charlie Nelson’s Meat Market. He moved there from Hillman about 1909. The business, was later operated by his son Richard, known by many as “Butch”, and his wife Fran. At his death the business was sold to Bob Ackley who operated it as Bob’s Quality Meats. Bob just recently sold the business to his son Jim and his grandson Abraham. 


The corner building to the left housed a variety of businesses over the years including DeWit Orvis, Real Estate; Rainier Valley Undertaking Co., O. A. Phelps Mgr.; L. Natoli Produce Market; Belmont Grocers; Burkhardt Grocery Store; Taylor Brothers Price-Rite Grocery; Millard’s Mens Shop; Wades for Men;  Rector’s Men’s Shop and the current business Fashion Nails.

 The path going up a slight incline to the right of the light pole goes to the home of D. C. Brown at 3815 Edmunds Street. Mr. Brown was Columbia’s first Town Marshall in 1891.

In 1907, Will Brown, D.C.’s son, built a two story brick building on the location of that pathway. The building’s first tenant was the Record Publishing Co. on the first floor with doctor’s offices and apartments on the second floor. In 1909 the owner of the Record Publishing Co. was killed when the kerosene driven press exploded. Mr. Grayson then moved his hardware and furniture store into that location from the Toby building next door to the north.

About 1916 Will Brown left his job as superintendent of the car line when it went bankrupt and became a partner with Mr. Grayson and it became known as Grayson & Brown Hardware and Furniture Co. until 1984 when Welch Hardware moved in for six years. It then reverted back to furniture and became Saver Furniture. 

Just to the right of Brown’s building, across the alley, is the building that housed the Van Meyers and Corbett’s Columbia Furniture Co. in 1911; followed by Fred Hitt’s Hardware & Electrical Repair Co.; Gunnar Larsen’s Shoe Shop; Economy Fair Hardware; World War II Surplus Store; Rector’s Dry Goods & Women’s Store and now the Rainier Office Supply. 

Rainier Avenue is to the left of the streetcar tracks and was covered with wood planks that solved the muddy street problem but made for a very rough ride for the horse drawn wagons and buggies. The planks in the foreground lain parallel to the tracks appear to be in really poor condition. What appears to be a stack of new planks, at the far right, are probably awaiting installation.

(RVHS: 1993.001.0198)

This photo was taken on July 6th, 1915 looking south along Rainier Avenue up to Columbia. The streetcar in the distance is at the same location as car # 20 in the accompanying photo. Many changes have taken place in Columbia during the thirteen years since the other photo was taken. The buildings on the left have been built and apparently Rainier Avenue has been regraded as the tracks are now on the west-side of Rainier and there are two sets of tracks rather than one set. 


The planks in the foreground indicate the location of the trolley stop at Angeline Street. Also, in the foreground, notice the spur leading off to the left. It was used to transport the coal cars to the bunkers of the Valley Fuel Co. located just off Rainier in the gully on Alaska Street. The gully was later used as a landfill and is currently the site of the Columbia City Post Office.


Days Gone By 

South District Journal 12/16/1998

By Buzz Anderson


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