top of page

Rainier Valley Dairy

RVHS Photo: 95.31.01

Smith M. Wilson started in the dairy business on Beacon Hill in 1916. There were many small dairy farms throughout the sparsely settled Rainier Valley in those times and he was one of the successful ones. He soon relocated his business to Columbia City at 4922 Rainier Avenue, on the Northeast corner of Rainier and Hudson Street.

The building he moved into about 1922 had a variety of businesses preceding him. It started about 1908 with the Columbia Undertaking Company, next came the W. A. Copeland Painting and Paperhanging Company, and then C.R. Hepler Real Estate, who also sold wood and coal.

After the Rainier Dairy occupied the site, it became Pat's and Jeff's Meals and Card Room.

Following that it was a popular Ice Cream Parlor for several years until it became the Christian Science Reading Room in the '50s. Now it is being remodeled into an Italian Deli and restaurant.


The photo above shows Smith Wilson's business and delivery truck at 4922 Rainier Avenue. He is the man on the right leaning against the fireplug. His business thrived and he soon needed a larger building. His new, modern facility was at a new location just north of Genesee Street on Rainier Avenue at Adams Street. He had eleven delivery trucks at the new location.

The Rainier Valley Dairy was noted for the high quality of their milk products they delivered throughout the Valley. This was indicated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Report of September 30, 1927. They had a rating of 97.66, which was the highest of the 26 dairies tested in the Seattle area.

 In 1929 he merged with the Kristoferson Dairy, that was located just south of Dearborn Street on Rainier Avenue. Alfred Kristoferson had started his dairy business in 1898 by rowing across Lake Washington with three, one gallon milk cans and a quart measure. He then set forth on foot for his morning rounds. 

Smith Wilson, as part of the merger agreement, became an employee of the Kristoferson Company. No position was created for him so he left the company, sued them, and won a settlement.  

He then decided to run for Seattle Port Commissioner. His platform promised efficient government and he demanded honesty. He promised he would place the interests of the public above politics, personalities and special interests. He was elected in 1932, served almost three terms and kept his promises. 

During his term as Port Commissioner he acquired and managed the University Dairy on University Way. He died of a heart attack while at work at the Dairy in 1942 at the age of 49.  

The  Smith Wilson home was on the corner of 39th Avenue and Americus Street just north of Columbia City, on the hill overlooking the Rainier Playfield.  Every Christmas he would decorate, with lights, the large holly tree in his front yard. It became a tradition in the neighborhood before lighting outdoor trees became so popular.  

For the people driving south on Rainier Avenue, the tree became a landmark and its presence was anticipated every Christmas by the whole community. The Seattle Times gave awards for the best decorated trees in the city and he was a consistent first place winner. 

His daughter Donna, now living in Snohomish, donated family photos and printed material and also met with us for an oral history interview. The information we obtained was added to the Rainier Valley Historical Society archives and was the basis for this article. 

Days Gone By 

South District Journal 8/18/1999

By Buzz Anderson


bottom of page