National Register – Slagle House, c. 1900 – Republic

The Slagle House, built c.1900 in Republic, Washington is historically significant under Criteria C, as a resource that embodies the distinctive characteristics of its type and period of construction. The home is one of the most intact examples of numerous wood-frame homes that housed Republic’s middle class in the first half of the Twentieth Century. This modest Queen Anne style house retains its original massing, windows and doors, exterior finishes, floor plan, furniture, and systems with no significant alterations. It serves as the best surviving example of middle-class life in this Northwestern mining town. Its interior preserves the setting in which one family dealt with the upheavals of the early Twentieth Century, including the Depression and WWII.

From its purchase by pioneer pharmacist J.W. Slagle in 1909 until his death in 1954, the Slagle House was the home of one of the town’s most influential citizens and his family. Slagle’s activity in local commerce, politics and civic affairs strongly influenced the city’s development and its key institutions. This association with the life of a major figure in the town makes the Slagle House significant under Criteria B.

Jesse W. Slagle, who preferred the initials J.W. to his given name, was born near Murphy, North Carolina in 1873. He grew up on a farm near Franklin, North Carolina and attended local schools and Western Carolina College. In his mid-twenties he tired of farm life and moved to Henrietta, Texas where he took charge of a drugstore for Dr. J.H. Ferries. While there he studied pharmacy and became a registered pharmacist. After four years in Texas he migrated to Washington and obtained a Washington pharmacy license, working in stores in Blaine and Waterville. In 1904 he was sent to Republic by the Stewart & Holms Wholesale Drug Company of Seattle to liquidate a drugstore that made up part of an estate. The liquidation work was estimated to take about three months, but instead it led to a lifetime in Republic, during which Slagle became one of the town’s civic leaders.

Seeing a business opportunity when he arrived in Republic, Slagle purchased a competing drugstore from its elderly proprietor. In spite of unfavorable economic conditions, he combined the two stores in a venture so successful that he invited his brother, Jeff, to join the business. The two brothers added another drugstore in nearby Kettle Falls and remained business partners until 1914.

Slagle married local school teacher Elizabeth Moore, in Newport, Washington in 1909. As an established businessman contemplating marriage, Slagle purchased the nominated house and three city lots in 1909. Together, J.W. and Elizabeth Slagle raised three children in the home with few alterations.

In addition to his work as a pharmacist, J.W. Slagle was active in civic affairs. He was elected to the Republic City Council in the depths of the Great Depression in 1934. He became mayor of Republic when his predecessor resigned in 1934 or 1935 and was re-elected without opposition in 1936, serving as mayor until 1939 when he resigned to concentrate on business concerns. He was also a key figure in the passage of Republic’s first fire ordinance and provision of a water system to replace the old system with its wooden water mains and uncertain water sources. He remained an active member of the volunteer fire department for many years.

During the 1930s Republic lacked a bank and no safety deposit boxes were available so Slagle responded by installing a “nest” of fifty of the steel boxes in the drugstore vault to fill his customers’ need for fireproof storage. They rented for 25¢ per month.

Slagle was also at the forefront in assuring that Republic shared in the benefits brought to the region by construction of Grand Coulee Dam. He was elected one of the first commissioners of the newly formed Public Utility District (PUD) in 1936 and became its president in 1937. Slagle’s obituary describes him as “Mason, councilman and mayor” and hails him as a man who “participated in the development of the area since the boom days”.

Since Mrs. Slagle’s death in 1969, the house has been closed with all its contents, resulting in a “time capsule” of a middle-class house in a small Northwest mining town, largely dating from the pre-World War II era. The Slagle family recently donated the property to the Ferry County Historical Society for use as a museum.

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