Fremont Drug Company in Seattle, Part Two: the Brothers and the Business

The census of the year 1900 showed that at age 24, Thomas W. Lough had already experienced extremes of joys and heartaches in his life.  At age 21 in January 1898, Thomas married Vina Graham in a ceremony at the home of Vina’s parents in the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle.  Less than two years later, Vina died.

Vina Lough grave marker at Mt. Pleasant Cemetery on Queen Anne Hill. Photo courtesy of

The census of the year 1900 listed the widowed Thomas Lough and his one-year-old daughter Verah as living with his in-laws, Stephen & Emma Graham, who lived next door to the Cheadle family in the 3600 block of Aurora Avenue.  The Grahams raised their granddaughter, freeing Thomas Lough to attend classes at the University of Washington and work toward his chosen profession of pharmacist.

Seattle Public Utilities’ North Transfer Station is on the former site of the William Ashworth home at 34th & Ashworth Streets.

Thomas Lough was a person who was driven to make something of himself.  At age twelve in the year 1888 he’d had a summer job at the Ashworth Berry Farm (present site of the North Transfer Station at 34th & Ashworth).  At age 16 Thomas had a newspaper delivery route.  In 1895, at age 18, Thomas began an apprenticeship with pharmacist Sidney S. Elder at the Fremont Drug Company in its new building at 3401 Fremont Avenue.  Sidney S. Elder, who also lived in Fremont, became a close friend and mentor, and signed as a witness at the wedding of Thomas and Vina on January 25, 1898.

Thomas Lough married again a few years after the death of Vina, and he and his new wife had another daughter, Louise.  In 1924 and 1926, Thomas Lough’s two daughters, Verah and Louise, signed as witness at one another’s weddings.

According to an article in the January 1904 edition of the Fremont Colleague newspaper, in 1903 Fremont pharmacist Sidney S. Elder, age 47, decided to step back from the work at the Fremont Drug Company and hand it over to Thomas Lough.   The two men had worked together for nine years and Mr. Elder felt confident that Thomas Lough would do a good job to carry on as pharmacist at the drugstore.

Fremont Drug Company circa 1907. Photo courtesy of UW Special Collections Item 1345.62

In a continuation of the mentoring and apprenticeship tradition at the Fremont Drug Company, Thomas brought in his younger brother Jacob who had also taken a degree in pharmacy at the University of Washington.  In the same way that Sidney Elder had trained Thomas Lough, Thomas then began working with his brother Jacob before Thomas transitioned out, leaving the Fremont Drug Company to be operated by Jacob.

Lough family background

This map of 1894 shows the communities on the north shore of Lake Union.

Thomas and Jacob were the two youngest sons of George & Sarah Lough and had been born in Kansas as the family gradually migrated westward across the USA.  The George Lough family arrived in Seattle in 1886 and lived on Capitol Hill until Mr. Lough could build a new home on Wallingford Avenue.  Mr. Lough wanted to live near the developing neighborhoods on the north shore of Lake Union, where he could obtain work as a carpenter, building houses.

In 1938, when Jacob was 58 and Thomas was 62, the two brothers decided to reenact the walk they had taken on August 12, 1888, which had been Jacob’s eighth birthday.  They started from the site of their first home in Seattle at East Howell Street & Summit Avenue on Capitol Hill.  From there they descended into the valley of South Lake Union and walked westward.

Before construction of the ship canal there was this ditch which had been created by hand-digging. Photo circa 1912, looking west with Fremont at right. Photo courtesy of MOHAI 83.10.6934.

There was no Westlake Avenue in 1888, so the two boys had turned to walk northward on a path along the line of what is now Dexter Avenue North which is located just to the west of Lake Union.  Dexter Avenue nearly lined up with the Fremont Bridge which, in 1888, was only a small trestle over a stream.

By 1888 the stream, called Ross Creek, had been enlarged by hand-digging so that it was deep enough to float canoes.  A bridge with fixed posts, called a trestle, spanned the creek at about the same location as today’s Fremont Bridge.

After crossing over the Fremont trestle bridge the Lough boys turned east and walked along what is now North 34th Street, parallel to the railroad tracks of what had been the Seattle, Lake Shore & Eastern Railroad (now the Burke-Gilman Trail).  The two brothers arrived at Wallingford Avenue, the place where their father had been working on a new house in that summer of 1888.  As of 1938, Jacob still lived in the 3600 block of Wallingford Avenue in his parents’ house.

Jacob Lough 1880-1954

The two brothers remained close though the course of their lives was different.  Thomas Lough had started working at a young age, married at a young age, trained as a pharmacist and then continued to advance in his career until he became an X-ray technician at Swedish Hospital.

After moving to the house on Wallingford Avenue in 1888, Jacob Lough lived there until he retired in 1947.  He spent his entire career at the Fremont Drug Company where he had started as an apprentice to Thomas.   Jacob did not marry until he was 38 years old.  Upon retirement, he and his wife Onda built a home on Mercer Island.

The drugstore and another brother

In the year 1900 another set of brothers, William & Ralph Woodman, came to live in Fremont where they began decades of activity in the business district alongside the Lough brothers.

The Woodman family patriarch, W.H. Woodman, was an immigrant from England who had started out in Michigan and gradually migrated westward.  Some of the Woodman children were born in Michigan and some in South Dakota before the family settled in Seattle.  The Woodmans lived on Etruria Street just south of the Fremont trestle bridge.  As of 1900 two of the Woodman sons, William & Ralph, were listed as barbers at 3406 Fremont Avenue.

In the early 1900s William Woodman attended the school of pharmacy at the University of Washington along with Thomas and Jacob Lough.  As of 1908 William Woodman was listed in the city directory as working at Fremont Drug Company at 3401 Fremont Avenue, while brother Ralph continued as a barber across the street.  Over the years that the Woodman brothers worked in Fremont, Ralph added sidelines until he became known as a jeweler, though his Fremont shop also had barber & beauty operators.

The hazards of old-time pharmacy work

Fremont has had its own fire station since 1901, at 3829 Linden Avenue N.

  January 1, 1909:  “W.G. Woodman and J.W. Lough, of the Fremont Drug Company, extinguished a blaze in the drug store by means of hand fire extinguishers yesterday morning when it seemed as if the whole building would be burned.  Had the flames not been checked so soon, the whole block of wooden buildings at the northwest corner of Fremont Avenue and Ewing Street might have been destroyed. 

The drug store employees had almost entirely succeeded in putting out the blaze by the time the apparatus arrived from the Fremont fire station.  The fire was caused by an explosion of alcohol while a preparation containing it was being heated on a gas stove.”   (Seattle Daily Times, January 1, 1909, page 14.)

 The Great Seattle Fire of June 6, 1889, was supposedly started by a glue pot which boiled over on a stove in a woodshop in downtown Seattle.  What could have potentially become the “Great Fremont Fire” of December 31, 1908, started by an overheated pharmaceutical potion, was averted because Jacob Lough and William Woodman were both on duty and had fire extinguishers at the ready.

Fremont Drug Company moves to another building in 1911

In a 1904 promotional photo, Samuel P. Dixon (front) and Charles E. Remsberg are shown in their bank building at 3416 Fremont Ave N.

In 1911 the Fremont Drug Company moved from the corner of North 34th Street, northward to the corner of 35th, where their new address was 3423 Fremont Avenue.  Known as the Fremont Hotel building, 3423 had had its own fire in 1903, had been destroyed and rebuilt.

The 3423 building was owned by Fremont attorney, banker and businessman C.E. Remsberg, and after the 1903 fire he’d had fireproof reconstruction done.  He and his business partner, Samuel Dixon, also started selling fire insurance at their bank across the street at 3416 Fremont Avenue.

We don’t know all of the reasons for the move of the Fremont Drug Company from 3401 to 3423 Fremont Avenue.  It may have been, in part, because of concerns about the potential for fire at the wood-frame 3401 building, and that the rebuilt 3423 building was more fireproof.

The Fremont Drug Company storefront as of 1912, in their new location at 3423 Fremont Avenue. Photo courtesy of UW Special Collections Item 1345.63

Another concern which may have motivated the move of the Fremont Drug Company to a site northward on the block, was the impending work of construction of the new ship canal, the related bridge work and street regrading to meet the higher elevation of the new bridge over the new ship canal.  By moving just to the north, the drugstore could still be in the heart of Fremont’s business district but away from the problematic intersection of North 34th Street so close to the ship canal construction.

A 1909 photo looking northward on Fremont Avenue shows the buildings in the foreground which had to be removed during construction of the ship canal. The Fremont Drug Company is at second left.

A problem with the intersection of 34th & Fremont was that it was too low.  By 1911 the intersection had already been raised at least once.

Over time, photos of the building at 3401 Fremont Avenue show that at first it had steps leading up to its door, and later the door became level with the street because the grade had been raised.  Lough & Woodman, co-owners of Fremont Drug Company, may have been concerned about whether the 3401 building might have to be removed, as had happened to the entire 3200 block to the south of the store.

Businesses in Fremont suffered during the long construction period of the ship canal from 1911 to 1917, when the Fremont Bridge and North 34th Street were closed at times.  In fact, the Remsberg & Dixon Bank failed in 1915 which may have been due in part to closure of traffic on Fremont Avenue and the lack of a bridge during the ship canal construction.  The Fremont Drug Company seemed to continue on successfully and perhaps even benefited from less competition, since Dr. Miller’s Fremont Pharmacy had closed when the 3200 block of Fremont Avenue was removed for the widening of the ship canal.

The Fremont Hotel building, rebuilt in 1903. In 1911 the Fremont Drug Company moved to the storefront space on the left side of this photo.

Active businessmen in Fremont

The vigor and involvement of Fremont businessmen was shown on the day of the Queen City Bank robbery, southeast corner of 35th & Fremont Avenue, across the intersection from the Fremont Drug Company.  W.G. Woodman, pharmacist of the Fremont Drug Company, took an active part on that day.

Queen City bank robbery diagram in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer newspaper of September 30, 1925. All rights reserved; do not copy.

“An alarm from the Queen City Bank rings in the drug store and Mr. Woodman says that he ran out with a revolver when the alarm sounded.  He saw two men running around the corner from Fremont Avenue onto North 35th Street.  There they commandeered an automobile as they made their getaway.  Mr. Woodman says he saw a third man running in the opposite direction and believes there were three bandits in the party, this lone man going by himself to divide the pursuit.  Mr. Woodman hailed a policeman and he commandeered another car and started in pursuit.”  (Seattle Daily Times, September 29, 1925, pages 1 & 2.)

After the Queen City Bank moved out in 1925, the space at 3424 Fremont Ave became the Queen City Drugstore. It was directly across the street from the Fremont Drug Company, which survived the competition. Photo courtesy of Puget Sound Regional Archives.

At the end of the year 1925 the Queen City Bank moved to 1701 North 45th Street in the Wallingford neighborhood.  Their former space in Fremont, 3424 Fremont Avenue, became the Queen City Drug Store.

Over the years that the Fremont Drug Company operated, there often were several other drugstores close by like the Queen City Drug Store, but the store operated by Lough & Woodman seemed to outlast the others.

Fremont’s pioneer heritage

In 1946 Seattle Times newspaper writer Margaret Pitcairn Strachan did a feature article about long-time businesses in Fremont.  Jacob Lough was in his last year of work before retirement, and he made the claim that the Fremont Drug Company was the longest-running and last-remaining pioneer business in Fremont.  The company was founded in about 1890 and their first building at 3401 Fremont Avenue dated from 1895.

The title of Mrs. Strachan’s article was “Fremont: A District That Thrives.”  This was a fitting way to characterize the vitality of the Fremont neighborhood.  Its long-time business owners were also neighborhood activists, involved in improvement initiatives such as the founding of a reading room, street improvements, extension of street car routes through Fremont, and the construction of the ship canal.  In 1946 when Mrs. Strachan wrote her neighborhood profile, the activist tradition of Fremont could still be felt in its business community.

From drugstore to Red Door

The next article on this blog, Part Three of the story, will tell what happened to the building at 3401 Fremont Avenue after the Fremont Drug Company moved out in 1911.  Finally, in the year 2001 the building was moved to 3401 Evanston Avenue.  The building housed a restaurant called the Red Door beginning in 1988.  Sadly, the Red Door closed its business on March 8, 2020.  We hope that future businesses in this storied building will thrive and grow.


Census, City Directory and Seattle Times articles via on-line search at the Seattle Public Library genealogy resources.

Find A  photos of family and of gravesites.

The wedding of Thomas Lough and Vina Graham on January 25, 1898.

Washington Digital Archives:  dates of birth, death and marriage.  Often marriage certificates are available, like that of Thomas Lough and Vina Graham at right.  We see the signature of pharmacist Sidney S. Elder as one of the witnesses at the wedding, showing that he was a friend and mentor as well as Thomas Lough’s employer.

Note on the Lough name:  The family probably pronounced their name “Lowe” as it is misspelled that way on some years of the census.  Here on this blog I wrote about another Thomas Lough, no relation.  That Thomas Lough was killed in a tree-cutting accident on Queen Anne hill in Seattle in 1895.  His widow remarried and the family moved to northeast Seattle.  See:  The Mock Family and Maple Leaf School.

Newspaper articles in chronological order:

The Fremont neighborhood in Seattle is located at the northwest corner of Lake Union. Map courtesy of HistoryLink.

“Destructive Fire in Fremont, Business Section Damaged to an Amount That Exceeds $9,000, Probably Originated from Defective Flue in a Barber Shop.”  Seattle Daily Times, June 24, 1903 pages 1 & 2.

Fremont Colleague newspaper, January 1904, pages 3 & 9, articles about S.S. Elder, T.W. Lough and the Fremont Drug Company.  On microfilm at the University of Washington Library.

“Fire in Drug Store Quickly Extinguished,” Seattle Daily Times, January 1, 1909, page 14.

“Three Bandits Caught After Bank Hold-Up.”  Seattle Daily Times, September 29, 1925, pages 1 & 2.

“That’s Twice, and Every 50 Years They’ll Walk to Lake.”  Seattle Daily Times, August 13, 1938, pages 1 & 3.

“Fremont: A District That Thrives,” by Margaret Pitcairn Strachan.  Seattle Times, May 12, 1946, page 51.

About Wedgwood in Seattle History

Valarie is a volunteer writer of neighborhood history in Seattle.
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