the eve of the boom that began the city of Everett, a Seattle
photographer traveled by sternwheeler to the townsite on Port Gardner
Bay, toting his tripod, view camera and a heavy parcel of unexposed
The month was October, the year 1891, and the man behind the camera was
dapper, mustachioed Frank La Roche. His job: fulfilling a commission for
the management of the Puget Sound Wire Nail and Steel Company, one of
the industries which was to line the perimeters of Henry Hewitt’s “City
La Roche arrived by steamer to discover a bleak peninsula stripped of
much of its timber and shrouded in the smoke of burning stumps. The
city-to-be was in fact two small settlements on opposite sides of the
site. The east side community was clustered at the intersection of
Pacific Avenue and Chestnut Street. There one found the little office of
the Brown Engineering Company, a firm busy laying out streets and
surveying new additions to be platted.
Nearby was Boughton Aldrich’s Workingmen’s Grocery and the tent hotel of
W. A. Tegtmeier. A little further north on Chestnut stood the Everett
Meat Market run by Jack Bone, who later became Everett’s first fire
chief. A tent next door to Bone housed Saner’s Barber Shop, where one
could drop off clothes to be shipped to Snohomish for laundering.
docked at the foot of Pacific under somewhat makeshift circumstances
until Swalwell’s Dock at the foot of Hewitt was finished in January of
1892. On the bayfront the nailworks was under construction. At the west
end of ungraded Hewitt Avenue was the original residence of the Rucker
family, a two-story white frame building. A little south of there was a
building known as Miley and Henderson’s store, which doubled as the
local post office.
The Seattle-Montana Railroad line was nearing completion. The section
along the Everett bayfront was already finished and passenger runs began
less than two months after LaRoche took his series of photos for the
In addition to his cumbersome picture-taking gear, La Roche brought
impressive skills and reputation with him to Everett. Born in
Pennsylvania in 1853, he began his photographic career in a Philadelphia
studio at 17. Two years later he was operating his own shop and at 21 he
gained nationwide publicity by making the longest time exposure that had
yet been done—a picture of an ancient church in St. Augustine, Florida.
He opened the lens at ten in the morning and closed it 30 hours later,
on the afternoon of the following day.
In 1878, the U. S. government commissioned him to make a difficult
series of telescopic shots of the transit of the planet Mercury, an
unprecedented feat that was a minor milestone in the field of
Eleven years and innumerable awards later, he arrived in Seattle. It was
late summer and a disastrous fire had just destroyed much of the city.
As Seattle rebuilt, LaRoche established one of the finest photographic
studios in the Northwest, a base from which he embarked on hundreds of
La Roche made at least three more trips to Everett during the year that
followed his first photo series of the area, sandwiching the visits
between excursions to Alaska, where he was laying the groundwork for a
project that promised to outshine the Mercury photos and the St.
Augustine time exposure in lasting importance. Between 1890 and 1902 he
made over 100 round-trips to the Klondike and the 3000 pictures he took
there were acclaimed during his lifetime as an unsurpassed chronicle of
the Alaskan Gold Rush.
An active professional photographer until he was 73, La Roche remained
busy and vital until he suffered a sudden, fatal heart attack at 84. The
fate of his Gold Rush collection is unknown, but it appears to have been
lost sometime after his death. The University of Washington Special
Collections department has much of La Roche’s work, and it can be viewed
online at their website.
Everett Public Library
Originally published in the Everett Herald, June 16, 1973
2702 Hoyt Ave.
Everett, WA 98201
2702 Hoyt Ave.
Everett, WA 98201