April 9, 2001
Photo by Brownwyn Wilson.
The amazing Town of Grace
by Bronwyn Wilson
Senior Staff Reporter
Just over the railroad tracks, north of Woodinville, lies a town unlike most.
You won't find a supermarket there or an espresso shop or hamburger place with golden arches. Yet, it is a thriving town, proudly claiming a mayor-for-life, a police chief, a grand marshal, three fire trucks, an annual St. Patrick's Day parade, a children's petting zoo (where the animals don't bite) and the world's tallest lighted Christmas tree.
Instead of passing a Safeway or Starbuck's, you'll pass oceans of classic oxidized cars in their pre-restored stage. Up the hill is a golf course and down the street a ways is the Bear Creek Grange. If you're lucky you might catch a glimpse of the town mascot, a goat named "Scape." But if none of this gives you a clue,
you'll know you've arrived when you see the city sign heralding it's name, Town of Grace.
Mayor-for-life Terry Jarvis explains that the city boundaries expand and contract depending on the local mindset. Grand Marshal John Hughes sums it up this way, "Grace is a state of mind."
Nevertheless, Grace has a physical existence. The town straddles Highway 9 with the Burlington Northern railroad tracks on its eastern border.
"We don't claim further east because that property is on the wrong side of the tracks," Jarvis says. On its western border is SR 522.
Mayor Jarvis notes, "We're recognized even in the Thomas Guide."
And Grand Marshal Hughes mentions that Grace can be located on King and Snohomish County maps.
In Grace, auto-parts stores, steel fabrication shops, self-storage warehouses and heavy equipment operations are the bulk of the town's business. Vintage Auto Parts is among these and is owned by Jarvis. Starting the business in Seattle in 1960, Jarvis moved to the current location in 1965.
At first, Jarvis thought he moved to Woodinville. But after discovering some old property deeds, he learned that Vintage Auto Parts was actually located in the town once known as Grace.
Since he is a history buff, he began to look further into Grace's past. Jarvis says, "Then all of a sudden a bunch of pioneers came out of the woodwork telling stories about Grace." The oldest written record dated back to the late 1880s when "Grace Station" was listed as a whistle stop in a Washington register.
Upon further discovery, Jarvis learned that in the early 190's the community consisted of Karsten's Shingle Mill, Jesse Brown's Saw Mill, Grace School (where the grange now stands) and the Grace Mercantile Company, a small general store.
Jarvis explains that his business sits on the original site where the Grace Mercantile sold goods while also serving as the Grace Post Office.
Getting together with fellow business owner Don Fitzpatrick, Jr. of Fitz Auto Parts, the two men decided to re-establish the town.
Jarvis says, "We wanted to preserve the history of Grace." In order to accomplish this, Grace was re-inaugurated in August 1992.
For the occasion, 150 people turned out in celebration, including state legislators, the Woodinville City Council, and Scape the goat.
Says Jarvis. "We firmly believe when a community has an identity and a history, it builds the people together and it makes a very safe and wholesome area."
The origin of the town's name, however, still remains a mystery.
"We think the railroad might have established the name," says Hughes. But whatever the reasons, Jarvis and Hughes are having a good time with the name.
Mayor Jarvis says, "Amazing Grace is our town anthem." He sings ... "Amazing grace, oh yes, it is - The town that would not die..."
Terry Jarvis believes if he injects fun into history, he will create excitement about it. He also believes that people of the once-bustling Grace community had a sense of humor, evident in old photographs of town picnics and from talking to longtime Grace residents. And Jarvis as well as Grace's twelve residents have resumed good times. First order of business for Jarvis was to proclaim himself mayor-for-life. Fitzpatrick became the town's police chief, Hughes the grand marshal and numerous other government positions were filled, such as census enumerator and hot air balloon commissioner.
"Having fun is serious business" is the town motto. The town newspaper, The Greater Grace Gazette, didn't hesitate to get in on the fun.
One headline screamed, "Grace closed for12 days! Did anyone notice?"
One issue of the Gazette touted three front pages with three headlines.
Publishers Jarvis and Hughes, former owner of the Citizen newspaper, say that people hear about the Gazette by word of mouth and phone in asking for a subscription. The newspaper is distributed all over the world.
"Too many newspapers have rape, crime, murder. It doesn't have to be that way. We poke fun at ourselves," says Jarvis. One of the ways the town of Grace pokes fun is through their annual eight-minute St. Patrick's Day parade.
"We traditionally have more participants than viewers," says Hughes who as grand marshal is in charge of parades and celebrations.
The last three St. Patrick's Day parades were cancelled. "They fell on the wrong day of the week," Hughes clarifies. But when it's the right day for a parade, local Fire and Life Districts participate with their old fire trucks.
Once people from White Center pedaled tricycles. One time Patti Payne, the newspaper columnist, rode in her car while pulled by a tow truck. The Eastside journalist had failed to pay her parking fee, says Jarvis, and therefore Grace officials were left no option but to impound the car. Grace benevolently added her car as a parade entry.
You may wonder, what are the town parking fees? Mayor Jarvis answers, "It all depends on where we put the mobile parking meter."
This fluidity of rules is part of Grace's charm. For example, if a house is not in Grace, it can be "spot annexed."
"We only annex the best real estate. We certainly do not annex any real estate on the other (wrong) side of the tracks," remarks Jarvis. "We sell spot annexations as revenue producers. And we sell citizenships to Grace."
He says that a citizenship sold at the Woodinville Rotary Auction for as high as $440.
"We don't pass out citizenships lightly," he jokes.
Hughes deadpans, "We don't want to create any riots."So far riots haven't broken out, but in Grace riotous fun cančand willčbreak out at any moment.