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Middleton History

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Content by Jennifer Furber published on June 16, 2017

the history of middleton The Harrison House Suites is a historic structure located on Friday Harbor’s C Street, overlooking the harbor. For 50 years, Alfred and Vivian Middleton called it their home. The Middletons have deep roots in the town’s entrepreneurial and civic history of this community.

How One Middleton Became Two

Alfred arrived on San Juan Island as a toddler in 1892 with his pioneering parents from Pawnee, Nebraska. His father Alfred Sr. bought a farm in San Juan Valley and Alfred Jr. along with his sisters Mary and Sadie, helped run the farm throughout their childhoods.

Vivian Bell was born in Kirkland, WA and moved to the San Juan Island after 1907. Before moving, she often spent summers amid her grandfather, Peter Kirk’s, 1,200 acres at Mitchell Bay. Both Alfred and Vivian choose to stay on-island and grow along with the ever-changing, vibrant community. In their twenties, Alfred was active in baseball. Both found love and belonging in local theatre productions. Vivian also spent considerable time with a Women’s Study Group and taught piano lessons.

Alfred owned The Star Theatre, Friday Harbor’s first movie theatre. It was located on the corner of Front and Spring Street where Cask and Schooner is now located. The Star was a small theatre that ran silent movies. Alfred needed a piano player to accompany the silent films. He came across Vivian’s newspaper ad offering piano lessons. Alfred responded to Vivian’s ad. And, in less than a year, the two were married. This was in 1914.

Vivian and Alfred’s Life Together

After marriage, Vivian began plans for a bigger theatre that she’d name The Fribor (Friday + Harbor) Theatre. They completed the larger theatre in 1915. For a couple of years, Alfred and Vivian lived above the theatre and eventually welcomed their first son.
After Alfred served in the US Army during WWI, the Middletons moved to Harrison House in 1920. The expanded their business spirit and ran the Bell Middleton Market. Later referred to as The Middleton Market. They ran it for decades until finally selling to the King family. At this point, the market was renamed King’s Market and stands that way today.

The Middletons were civically active community members. Alfred was a fire chief from 1930-1941 and a Master leader in Friday Harbor’s Masonic Lodge in 1932. They called Harrison House home until their deaths in 1961 and 1967, respectively.

Experience the History

Family members of the Middletons still frequent the Harrison House Suites. It’s wonderful to welcome them back and listen to them share stories of the memories they had in the house! Come experience the history of both our properties for yourself to gain a true feeling for life 100 years ago in Friday Harbor.

Jenn ~ Local blogger for the San Juan Island Inn Collection

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