History of Seattle Municipal Railway's Division C, the streetcar line that once connected Burien with White Center and Seattle.
July 17, 2005
History of King County pp 310-313

Charles A. Thorndike

Charles A. Thorndike, scion of one of Seattle’s oldest families, after engaging in various lines of business to which he aided materially in the development of the city, has since 1920 been one of the community’s best known realtors.

Although Mr. Thorndike missed being born in Seattle by scarcely a year, virtually all of his life has been spent here. He was born at Haywards, California, August 15, 1868, a son of Edward A. and Mary E. (Webster) Thorndike. His father was a native of Rockland, Maine, who had come to Washington territory in 1863 via the Isthmus of Panama to Portland and thence overland to King county. Here he met Mary E. Webster, whose parents were also King county pioneers, and they were married. Charles Thorndike, a brother, had stopped off in California and remained there. The Thorndikes were in California when the subject of this sketch was born, but late in 1868, on account of the severe earthquake of that year returned to Seattle, where the father served as last town marshal and first chief of police. The father-in-law of Edward A. Thorndike, John Webster, a blacksmith at Port Madison, was one of the first regents of the Territorial University and one of the organizers and a charter member of St. John’s Lodge, F. & A. M., Seattle. Mr. Webster held the record for attendance, never missing a lodge meeting, despite the condition of the weather. The meetings were held on Saturday night to accommodate him, and he would cross the Sound in a canoe, returning home Sunday. John Webster married Phoebe Stowell, who like himself, was a native of the empire state. He was one of the early whalers out of New York before coming to live in the territory. Mrs. Webster once owned the property at the southwest corner of Third avenue and Madison street where the new telephone building is to be erected. She bought the two lots from A. A. Denny for three hundred dollars, paying for them with money she earned by boarding two children. Charles A. Thorndike has a sister, Miss Lucy U. Thorndike, now at Hollywood in the motion pictures. It can readily be seen that Charles A. Thorndike had a family tradition to live up to, when he entered the Territorial University and later embarked upon a commercial career. His subsequent connection with firms which played a conspicuous part in the growth of the city and his role as an independent real estate operator have in no wise diminished the record of the family as pioneer builders. He was always busy as a lad. An early job was selling newspapers and when shows were held in Yesler hall he pulled the curtain. He was not heavy enough, and so climbed the rope pulling the curtain up by jerks. He tells many interesting stories of early days in Seattle. He was present when about thirteen years old at the hanging of three men, which has gone down in history as Seattle’s only public lynching episode. At the end of his seventeenth year he left the Territorial University and after selling papers for a while tried bill posting, being the first bill poster in Seattle.

Of an enterprising turn of mind, young Thorndike went into the business of handling the audiences of the theaters and public halls, continuing in that business until 1900, when he sold his contracts. During that time he handled Yesler’s hall, Frye’s Opera house, the Alhambra, Turner hail, and the Seattle theater. Meanwhile, in the daytime he clerked in the Golden Rule Bazaar after which he had spent a year as salesman for the Hirschberg Clothing house. His next business experience was as bookkeeper, for Jones & Hubbell, feed and grain merchants, and for Vail & Hubbell. This gave him an introduction to the feed business and when the Seattle Cereal Company succeeded Vail & Hubbell he bought an interest in the firm and became treasurer and assistant manager. He continued in this capacity until 1903, when he became secretary and treasurer of the Graham Folding Box Company. During his tenure of these responsible positions he had an opportunity to enlarge his circle of acquaintances among men who were playing important parts in Seattle’s continually widening commercial and industrial activities.

In 1904 he was offered a position as cashier with the Seattle Brewing and Malting Company and accepted. He retained this position until the business was discontinued in 1914, following the adoption of prohibition by the state of Washington. Mr. Thorndike was transferred to San Francisco as cashier of the Rainier Brewing Company, remaining until 1919, when he returned to Seattle. His widening private interests now claimed his entire time. He had acquired stock in the Citizens’ Bank of Georgetown, of which he served as director, and had become cashier of the Occidental Realty Company, a subsidiary of the brewing company. He extended his activities to real estate and of recent years has built up an extensive clientele, handling some of the largest realty transactions in the history of the city. His long experience in various kinds of business, his good judgment, and a remarkable faculty for taking advantage of opportunities for investment and development have made him one of the active real estate operators in Seattle.

On February 6, 1895, at Blair, Nebraska, Mr. Thorndike married Hortense Victoria Davis, who was born at Calhoun, Nebraska, a daughter of Judge Jesse T. Davis. They are the parents of one son, Charles J., now a cartoonist and art editor with General Motors of New York. Charles J. Thorndike at tended the University of Washington for a time, then married Miss Katherine Lesser at Vancouver, British Columbia, and they have a daughter, Barbara. Charles A. Thorndike’s first wife passed away November 22, 1926, and on July 29, 1927, at Med; ford, Oregon, he was united in marriage to Mrs. Ida E. Currie, a native of Canada. Mrs. Thorndike is a member of the First Church of Christ, Scientist, of Seattle, which Mr. Thorndike also attends.
Throughout his life Mr. Thorndike has been an active supporter of the republican party, but he has never sought public office. He is a member of the Pioneers’ Association and is an advocate of the preservation of local history. Through effective utilization of an unusual native ability and a constant desire for self-improvement and advancement, Mr. Thorndike has by his own efforts established himself in the business world. His lofty conception of the obligations of a business man to the community in which he lives has made him a valuable citizen of Seattle.

Posted by Rob Ketcherside at July 17, 2005 3:25 PM