by Reneé Mizar
Communications Coordinator, Museum & Arts Center in the Sequim-Dungeness Valley
While the store names changed a few times over the years, up until 18 years ago the Babcock building at 117 E. Washington St. in Sequim had been a pharmacy for as long as anyone could remember. That’s because prior to becoming the new location of Cole’s Jewelers in 1995, the building always had been home to one.
Constructed in the heart of downtown in 1913, the same year as Sequim’s incorporation, the building still boasts the same distinctive “Babcock Block” roofline moniker as when it first opened its doors as the Sequim Drug Co. Also known as Babcock’s Pharmacy after original owner and University of Washington graduate pharmacist Frank D. Babcock, the drugstore continued serving the community’s medicinal needs until 1920.
“I think the Babcock building is probably one of the more interesting substantial buildings,” Sequim mayor and architect Ken Hays said of the 3,100-square-foot concrete structure. “The buildings in the center part of Sequim have never been viewed by modern business folks as being all that impressive and I think that’s kind of unfortunate and surprising in a way.”
Research shows that with the Roaring ’20s came new ownership and the drugstore’s first name change, after J.E. Brayton purchased it and the rival Sullivan Pharmacy to create Brayton Pharmacy. Nearly 20 years later, the drugstore changed hands again when pharmacist Bud Nelson bought Brayton’s and opened his Nelson Drug Store in 1939.
“Nelson’s Drug, that was fantastic to go into. They had a soda fountain and Mrs. Emma Olson could make the best milkshake you ever tasted,” Sequim High School Class of 1947 graduate Robert Clark said of the drugstore, which became a popular high school hangout. “She always wore her hair in a bun. She was not the typical soda jerk.”
Al Kaminski acquired Nelson’s at the close of 1954, a time when Sequim reportedly had just two doctors, and re-launched it as the Sequim Drug Store. In its early days, say longtime locals, the Sequim Drug Store employed several high school students to work the soda fountain and retail counter.
The soda fountain was taken out not long after Kaminski bought the store, said Sequim High School Class of 1957 graduate Jeannette Beale Hurd, who began working there at age 16, but the drugstore remained a community gathering place of sorts as a Greyhound bus depot. For several years, bus tickets could be purchased in-house and the store was equipped with a waiting area that led to the back alley where the bus arrived and departed.
“In the old days, we went to the Sequim Drug Store to pick up someone who just rode in on the Greyhound bus,” Sequim High School Class of 1962 graduate Judy Reandeau Stipe recalled. “You knew the bus had arrived by the smell of diesel halfway down the aisles leading to the waiting area with the wooden bench and pay phone.”
After 40 years in business, which included a 1980 expansion that doubled the width of his store, Kaminski closed the Sequim Drug Store upon retirement in July 1994. The building became the new location of Cole’s Jewelers, formerly located at 138 W. Washington St., the following February, ending the Babcock Block’s 81-year run as a hometown pharmacy.