The Tale of Twin Cities

Bonnie Johnson - Monday, June 06, 2016

It may surprise you to know, Arlington WA was platted in the same year as Everett, in 1890. Though Arlington was never in the running to be considered for county seat in our burgeoning corner of the Pacific North West, as Everett and Mukilteo were wont to do, that doesn’t mean that the small community didn’t have its own thriving commerce, or less any history to share. This is an article of how two rivaling towns struck their feet in the sandy loam of the Stillaguamish shore and struggled against each other to establish dominant power in their region.

The earnest settling of Arlington began in the 1880’s, after many forays inland and the process of felling timber for commerce made room for communities to begin their rise. This effort was also aided by a US Army trail that was laid in 1856, which crossed the river just below where the forks of the Stilly come together. A month after Arlington was platted, Maurice Haller, a real estate speculator, platted Haller City just about half a mile from Arlington, in an area nestled closely to the Stillaguamish river, where trade via water vessel was handily accessible. Maurice almost immediately passed away in an unfortunate canoe accident, but his brother Theodore and a few investors picked up the cause.

As buildings went up, so did the rivalry. One town had a blacksmith and meat market, one had an express and a post office. One gained a post office, lost it to a fire, and one added schools. They both put in place their own social clubs and churches. Eventually the struggle redefined itself; one of the communities must make itself the most desirous space for a railroad depot to be placed. The Northern Pacific (whose eventual successor would be Burlington Northern) mainline assessed them both and favored Arlington; it was the better locale because of its increased distance from the Stilly, and also because it had a higher elevation. After the depot went in and trains began rolling through at the rate of three a week, lots became more desirable, the population expanded and eventually Haller City was left with nothing much more than a few eating tents and shingle mills. It is an undisputed fact, through our shared American history, that railroad was king, and in this speck of inland Washington, said rule did also apply.

The tides didn’t turn, per se, but the communities did come together when a ball park was produced, and a collective rather than competitive wind began to blow. The Twin City baseball team was created, with America’s thriving past time emerging as the common ground. In 1903, both towns incorporated into one under the name of Arlington, which was chosen as the town name after Lord Henry Arlington who served on the Cabal Ministries under King Charles II of England, which is an obvious nod to the Western European ancestry of the founders. Now what remains of the friction between two struggling cities is Division Street, where their mutual interest in their own interests collided, and one secondary track held by Burlington Northern. Haller Park lies nestled against the Stilly, and Haller Street runs just four blocks North of Division, highlighting how very close the two communities cohabited.