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Of Heritage and Hardware
by RENEE MIZAR
Communications Coordinator, Museum & Arts Center in the Sequim-Dungeness Valley
For several years, an unassuming bronze plaque at 131 E. Washington St. has quietly marked the location of a building that once housed one of Sequim’s earliest and longest-lasting family run businesses.
Predating city incorporation, the Knight-Godfrey Building emerged in the downtown core upon the formation of the Knight-Godfrey Company, Inc., by business partners James Knight and Herbert Godfrey on Nov. 18, 1910. The store, which operated under the Knight-Godfrey name for some 29 years despite Knight having bowed out of the partnership in 1913, became a well-known supplier of hardware, housewares and building materials.
“When my grandfather started the store, it was all hardware — pretty heavily hammers, nails and whatnot,” said Rick Godfrey, noting that goods were shipped from Seattle to the Dungeness dock in those early years. “Later, either he or my father started putting household goods in there, so eventually it became building materials, hardware, appliances and any other hard goods that they could stick in there.”
One of early Sequim’s most respected businessmen and prominent citizens, Herbert Godfrey was elected the city’s first treasurer in 1913, a post he held for nearly two decades. He also served as mayor. His business passed from father to son in 1939 when he sold Knight-Godfrey to his son, George R. Godfrey, who shortened the store name to simply Godfrey’s.
Upon returning from U.S. Navy service in World War II, during which time Herbert Godfrey ran the store, George R. Godfrey expanded Godfrey’s eastward to include room for the new Thurston’s Men’s Shop. Operated by Godfrey’s Navy comrade Carl Thurston, the men’s clothing store, later renamed Thurston’s Apparel, would come to be considered one of Sequim’s oldest businesses upon its 25th anniversary in 1971.
Rick Godfrey, who lives in Sequim, recalls helping out in his father George’s store as a youth in the 1940s. He said his work revolved around the nail bins in the back of the store, where people could rake out however many pounds of nails they wanted.
“In my family, everybody had to do a little bit, so my job was to pick up all the nails. When people were scooping them out with a long steel hook, they were always falling on the floor,” he said, adding that he’d also have to sweep the floors. “And you couldn’t just sweep them. You had to get this red, kind of a creosote stuff that you’d throw on the floor, which would soak up oil and stuff like that.”
Godfrey said that as a teenager, he occasionally would help unload truckloads of cement and other building materials into the Godfrey’s warehouse. As the only supplier of building hard goods in the area, Godfrey noted, the store played a role in the construction of numerous structures across the Dungeness Valley, including at Graysmarsh, where George R. Godfrey was project manager.
As a business owner and entrepreneur, George R. Godfrey was “extremely conscientious of merchandising, very much aware of public relations and how to advertise and promote stuff,” noted Rick Godfrey. One such attention-garnering tactic entailed exhibiting wildlife as a storefront attraction.
“There used to be a bounty on cougar and bear, it was open season on those all the time, and Godfrey set up a cage right out front of his store,” Sequim High School Class of 1954 graduate Bill Huntington recalled.
“When they’d shoot a bear and there’d be a couple cubs left over, they’d bring them down and put them in that cage and we could go in there and play with them.”
Huntington said Lloyd Beebe, a noted cougar hunter at the time, would take the animals once they got too large. Beebe went on to create the Olympic Game Farm.
“They didn’t have any teeth, didn’t have any claws, they were like little German shepherds and they liked to suck on your fingers. They were really fun,” Huntington recalled of the showcased bear cubs.
“Well, then they started growing up and got teeth and you didn’t put your hand in there anymore, so they took them out to Beebe’s and they kind of grew up out there.”
The Godfrey family’s tenure in the Knight-Godfrey Building ended in 1950 when John “Sody” Soderberg purchased the business and reopened it as Sody’s Hardware. The store became Sequim Hardware after being sold to Glenn and Louise Irish in 1957, and in later years, the building would house businesses of various types, such as Carlson’s Hallmark Shop in the 1980s, and, currently, Mad Maggie Boutique.