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(Seattle & Northern 1890)

Skagit River Journal

of History & Folklore
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Noel V. Bourasaw, editor (bullet) 810 Central Ave., Sedro-Woolley, Washington, 98284
Home of the Tarheel Stomp (bullet) Mortimer Cook slept here & named the town Bug

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Central Grocery was the oldest in county

(Central Store)
Central Store with the former Hammer home at left rear

      Central Grocery in Sedro-Woolley was the oldest continuously operated grocery anywhere in Skagit county until it closed in 2003. The original store at 1003 6th Street was opened in 1917 by Hiram Hammer, who was replaced as Sedro-Woolley postmaster in 1915.
      Hammer was originally auditor for Skagit County for two terms in the 1890s, taught in several county schools, served on the school board that opened the first high school here and was postmaster from 1906 to 1915 after acting as city clerk. He was a brother of Emerson Hammer of the Union Mercantile department store on Metcalf street and an uncle of George Hammer of Oliver Hammer Clothes Shop. He and his brother were born in Indiana and moved here from Kansas before the turn of the 20th century.
      We believe that Hammer built his home on the corner of Warner street before building the store. He apparently decided after leaving the post office that the Central street frontage was a natural place to build a store that would cater both to the neighborhood clientele and children who attended the two schools across the alley to the south on Central street. The original Irving School was located where the tennis courts are now. Franklin Grade School was south across Talcott on the same side of the street.
      A story in the June 3, 1920, Sedro-Woolley Courier-Times announced that Hammer sold the store to Rupert S. Gale who married George Hammer's daughter, Mary. The story noted that Hammer and his wife, Catherine, were taking a long vacation to Yakima. He lived until 1936 and his wife passed on in 1939. Gale only kept the store for a year and a half. A Dec. 29, 1921, Courier-Times story announced that Gale sold the grocery and was now the manager of the Green and Hammer Ferry Street Garage. The buyer was George White, who owned a variety store downtown; he said he was representing an Everett man.
      That may have been a man named Kruger who ran the store during the depression of the 1930s. Long-time residents like such as Harold Renfro, Harold Ferrall and Tuffy Pearson, all now passed on, remembered the store best for its penny candy and jaw breakers almost too big to fit in their jaws. During that time Franklin School was torn down and replaced by Central Grade School and Irving School was razed altogether.
      Al and Ruth Hyldahl bought the store in 1937, a year after Hi Hammer's death. Up until that time Al had been an employee of Stave's Service and Oldsmobile Agency at the southwest corner of State and 3rd streets. They also bought the Hammer house at the southeast corner of Warner and 6th streets, just north of the store, and started a tradition of couples owning and managing the store as "mom and pop." At that time the railroad tracks of the original Fairhaven & Southern train still ran across the property on a diagonal just east of the original Hammer house. The F&S was the first train north of Seattle, opened between Fairhaven and the old town of Sedro by the Skagit River on Christmas Eve of 1889. The Hyldahls expanded the stock of the store and hired a part-time butcher.
      Owners after that included:

      The last owners, Michael and Winona Mann, bought the store in 1991 and after Central School was remodeled and reopened in 1993 they continued the long-time tradition of supplying many kinds of old-fashioned candy that kids love. They attempted to sell the store and house in 2003, but could not find a buyer. Over the years most of the dozen neighborhood markets that operated here in the 1930s and '40s eventually closed as groceries consolidated and others reopened outside of the downtown hub. Central was the oldest standing market by at least ten years, but it closed for good in 2003. The house has been purchased in early 2005.

Story posted on June 1, 2001
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Heirloom Gardens Natural Foods at 805B Metcalf street, the original home of Oliver Hammer.
Oliver Hammer Clothes Shop at 817 Metcalf street in downtown Sedro-Woolley, 82 years.
Bus Jungquist Furniture at 829 Metcalf street in downtown Sedro-Woolley, 36 years.
Schooner Tavern/Cocktails at 621 Metcalf street in downtown Sedro-Woolley, across from Hammer Square.

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