July 2013

From: Where in the WA?

(Read the full Where in the WA article from the July edition.)

Jack C. O’Donnell of Everett sent in the third correct guess along with a mother lode of historic postcard images of the stump in three of its locations. Most of the images show cars of various vintages driving through the stump. 

Tree Stump Postcards and Captions
Courtesy of Jack C. O’Donnell

The first five are when it was located in the triangular island where the old Pacific Highway met the Arlington-Silvana Road.

The second seven are when it was along northbound Highway 99 just south of the Arlington-Silvana Road.

The last is at the rest area.

July 2012

From: Where in the WA?

John Lavis Cook and the Building of Hallett House in Medical Lake
By David Gurr

Just before the turn of the 19th Century, John Lavis Cook and three of his sons built a home for “Lord” Stanley Hallett located in Medical Lake, southwest of Spokane. Hallett was also a Washington State Senator, the Mayor of Medical Lake and co-founded the Medical Lake Asylum Hospital.

Regarding Hallett himself, it is possible that his use of the title “Lord” was an affectation. This often occurred among the English nobility who emigrated to the United States and Canada. (Australia was a penal colony so no self-respecting family would send a son there.) It was common that a fourth son and subsequent sons of a titled Englishman, as well as those who fell out with the family over some dalliance, was often sent to the United States or Canada and received a remittance to remain there and not return home. Hallett did return twice to England each time to take a bride, but always returned to the United States. Since Lord is the title of the male heir who inherits property upon the death of the father of Lord of the estate, why would he have left the estate and come to America in the first place?

There are a great many unusual features that make the Hallett House unique. One trademark of the work of John Cook and his sons were arched windows and buttresses, both constructed of brick. John’s second eldest son, Samuel, once showed me how it was done. Sam built a fireplace and chimney at the author’s home in Spokane. When he finished the arched brickwork over the hearth, he placed the last brick in the center at the top of the arch. I was sure that it would fall, but he assured me that it wouldn’t, and it didn’t!

Arched windows were their signature work throughout Spokane, and the surrounding area. As a child, I learned to spot brick homes and buildings with arched windows as they were certainly built by them.

The older sons of John Lavis Cook, John William Lavis Cook, Samuel Exworthy Cook, and William Edward Gladstone Cook worked on Hallett House along side their father. Hallett House has a spiral front staircase, columns and a turret. All of the bricks forming these were hand chipped by John and his sons. Again, he used this as a way to train his sons in the art of building curved brick structures.

John and his four brothers had had a brick construction firm in Plymouth, England in the early-1880s. However, a falling-out with the brothers led to his emigration to the United States. Sadly, the vast majority of the buildings that he and his brothers built in Plymouth were bombed-out during WWII.

John and his eldest son John came to America in the middle of June, 1883. He went to Minneapolis and worked as a bricklayer there for the remainder of that year. There was no union in Minneapolis at that time. He left for St. Louis, Missouri and arrived the first week in January of the next year and was initiated into the Bricklayers Union No. 1 of Missouri, working for more than a year. He left there and went to Crystal City and worked for three months in the Glass Works. Some time during 1885, he returned to Minneapolis and helped to organize the Stonemasons Union in that city. He also became a charter member of the Brick Masons International Union. Then he sent for the rest of the family in England to come to Minneapolis and settle down.

A family myth is that he once saw a woman walk over and spit in the gutter. As a result he thought that Americans were so uncouth that he left the family in Minneapolis and with his eldest son John, went up to Canada in 1889 to search for work. There, he heard that there was cheap farmland available in Argentina and he decided to go there to ranch. He headed west on the Canadian Pacific Railway to see the country before embarking for Argentina, intent on sending for the family when he was settled.

However, when he got to Trail, British Columbia, he learned that the City of Spokane, due south of Trail, had just had a major fire. He reasoned that there would be brick work to do there. He and his son went to Spokane and found work rebuilding the city as well as its expansion with Washington State becoming so in that same year.

When the Great Northern Railroad reached Spokane, John gathered up his family in Minneapolis and moved to Spokane. In 1893 he became an independent contractor for two years in Spokane. He returned laying brick as a laborer and was reinstated in the union. He remained in the union for the rest of his life. In 1910, he hired the first African-American in the Hod Carriers Union in Spokane. The Hod Carriers Union was really an apprenticeship union for bricklayers and stonemasons.

He and Harriet Dingle Exworthy had 18 children with 12 of them reaching adulthood; eight boys and four girls.

All of the Cook boys learned bricklaying at home. Their father would set out a pile of bricks with mortar, called “mud” that had to be mixed and instructed each son to build a brick wall. Each night when he returned home, he examined the wall that each boy had built and tore it down with instructions to do it over again until it was to his satisfaction. As a result, nearly all of the boys worked as bricklayers and one, Walter Blaine Cook, was a cement finisher, becoming the Secretary-Treasurer of the Cement Finishers Union Local in Spokane. All but one of the boys became a union member.

John and his sons built a number of buildings in downtown Spokane as well, such as the Masonic Temple. During the construction of the Temple, he lost his pry bar. Years later, when his son Sam was foreman supervising the work on an addition to the Masonic Temple, one of the workers found the pry bar. It had John Lavis Cook’s name engraved on it.

He worked on Fort George Wright. He also worked on the Medical Lake Asylum and this is likely where he met Hallett who was a co-founder of the institution and helped pass legislation for its construction.

John also worked in Portland, Oregon and Wichita over the years when work was not to be had in Spokane.

John Lavis Cook referred to himself as a “Gladstonian Socialist,” hence the reason for including Gladstone in one of his boys’ names. He was living in Chicago and laying brick in the mid-1920s until he became too ill to continue. It appears from his personal records that he joined the Workers of the World (called the “Wobblies”), a socialist union movement founded in Chicago in the ‘20s. It vied for control of the industrial and craft unions in the United States but lost out to the AFL-CIO.

John died of prostate cancer on March 27, 1926 in Chicago at St Anthony's hospital. He is buried at Beverly Cemetery in Blue Island IL. His wife, Harriet Exworthy Cook died shortly there after and is buried in the same cemetery. Reportedly, there are no markers.