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Skagit River Journal

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The Kelley Strip in Sedro-Woolley

(Woolley map)
Click to see the full-size version of this 1891 plat map of Woolley by Engineer Albert G. Mosier shows the portion of the original town of Woolley that was affected by the Kelley Strip legal case, north of State and west of Murdock Street. Note the "fork" that extended north from Third street to Metcalf and Murdock. Did that exist or was it a proposed triangular park that never came to be? Note also the difference of orientation in the plat. Old Woolley, west of Murdock and north of State Street, was platted horizontally, as was the portion of Sedro, south of State. But the area east of Murdock — part of Sedro, not Woolley as some assume — was platted vertically. Records and newspapers from that era are long gone. Maybe a reader has an article or document that could help explain this?

      If you look at old city maps you will see that there were no buildings on either side of the south third of Metcalf and Murdock streets in Sedro-Woolley until 1907. That area was the middle of what was called the Kelley Strip. Norman R. Kelley, the father of new-Sedro, died in 1894 and his father, Albert Kelley, a New York financier (who apparently never visited his son's boomtown) administered his holdings through the Sedro Land Company. Looking at the old map maps, you may wonder why Kelley owned property that seems to be in the original town of Woolley. The answer is that the area of Metcalf north of State Street known as the Kelley strip, or the Second Addition to the Town of Sedro, was actually part of Sedro because of a mistake by a government survey crew back in the 1880s. Although State Street was laid out east to west, The section line angled slightly to the west-northwest.
      Albert G. Mosier, the city engineer, explained the glitch before he died, and John Abenroth, a surveyor in Sedro-Woolley, recently clarified how it happened. He also insists that the error was not technically a mistake because once the survey was filed and accepted, the result was official. Once the lines were set on paper, they became official. In fact, if you check old section maps, you will find that sections all have varying acreage totals because there were little mistakes in almost all the lines. As we noted in the homestead paragraphs above, every section measured one mile on each side, and was split into quarters. Without getting too technical, the corner points were established first and then the quarter points were located. As Abenroth explains, the crews were paid per mile, regardless of the terrain. On a prairie, that was easy. But when you were hacking underbrush in the dense forest, the process took longer. The swamps and marshes north and south of the Skagit were even worse. Throw in the incessant rain of the late fall to early spring and the crew could be slowed down to a crawl. Occasionally an error of a few dozen yards on one point could affect sections north or south from it.
      Township Road was then the eastern boundary of both the township itself and the section that included most of Sedro. If the quarter point had been located correctly, State Street would have been the northern boundary of the section, but when Mosier platted those blocks he discovered that an incorrect quarter point formed a long narrow triangle which grew northward as he walked west from Township. In May 1899 the town attorney was instructed to research the title so that streets that cross the strip could be improved. A 1904 edition of the Skagit County Times predicted that the Kelley lots on Murdock would be open for purchase that year, but the disputes over those partial blocks were not settled until 1906. Permanent structures weren't erected on both northern corners of Metcalf until 1912 for the west side and 1924 for the east side. The Kelley Strip was officially platted as the Second Addition to the Town of Sedro by Hi Hammer, the city clerk, on Oct. 5, 1906. So, that triangle on the north is actually Sedro. See Kelley's obituary at this Journal website.

(Elephants and Kelley Strip 1922)
Click for full-size photo

      This photo on the upper right (click for full size) is of the parade of elephants from the Al Barnes Circus on May 15, 1922, just before one of them, Tusko, tore up the town of Sedro-Woolley The photographer was looking northwest from about where the Old Timers Tavern now stands on the south side of State Street. The brick building at the left is the combined Livermore apartments (upstairs) and retail space and Skagit Realty (lower floor) at the northwest corner of State and Metcalf streets. That is the wide end of the Kelley Strip, which is explained in the article above. In the center, behind and to the left of the elephants, is a row of billboards along the sidewalk of the north side of State Street, a continuation of the Kelley Strip.
(Skagit Realty early 1900s)
See below

      In the mid-1890s, the south end of that long block between Metcalf and Murdock streets (later the 800 block), and facing south on State Street, was called the Bowery or Bowery Square. The only permanent structure erected there was an open-sided community building that was originally called the Bowery Hall. Apparently in the beginning it was open on all sides with a tent top. By 1898 that was replaced by a wooden structure called the Opera House, which in turn became the Moose Lodge two decades later and still later it was a roller rink, Danceland and finally a cafe before it was torn down in about 1972. The space behind the billboards in this photo stayed empty until 1923 when the Masonic Lodge erected a one-story building with a mezzanine that initially housed the Ludwick-Wuest Department Store. It later housed the J.C. Penney store, starting in 1938 and, after a brief vacancy, it has been the home of Bus Jungquist Furniture since 1983.
      This photo at the left shows a meeting between Junius Brutus Alexander (left) and Harry L. Devin, principals of the Sedro Land Co. SLC was an outgrowth of Norman R. Kelley's Sedro Land & Improvement Co. (SLIC), which platted and sold the lots of new-Sedro. The office at that time, circa 1900, was on the south side of State Street, about where the Old Timer's Tavern stands in 2007.
      Soon after the turn of the 20th Century, SLC was based in the Woolley part of town, in the 800 block of Metcalf where R&E Engineery stands in 2007, but with the same leaders and stockholders. Devin and Charles J. Wicker were partners in Skagit Realty, which they began in 1902 and which was the longest surviving realty company in the county when it closed in 1998. Alexander, the SLC president, moved here from Brooklyn in 1890 after graduating from Harvard College. Wicker and Devin came from Iowa, in 1884 and 1890, respectively.
      Skagit Realty and SLIC/SLC sold, re-sold and promoted almost every property, both town lots and acreage, in Sedro-Woolley and upriver during the early years. Prospective buyers and sellers checked in at the Skagit Realty to learn about plats, developments and the real estate market. The location of the building in the photo was identified in the source newspaper as Ferry Street, but we have researched and discovered that the Skagit Realty buildings were always on Metcalf. This was probably taken on the east side of Metcalf sometime before 1912. Photo courtesy of Sedro-Woolley Courier-Times 1953 Territorial Centennial edition.

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Story posted on Story posted on Oct. 23, 2002, last updated Oct. 9, 2007, moved to this domain Nov. 1, 2011
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