Recently dedicated in memory of former Snoqualmie mayor and city councilman Charles Peterson, Snoqualmie’s unique siren has been a fixture on top of the Mignone Interiors building downtown for years. But the siren, which goes off at noon from Monday to Saturday, hasn’t always been there.
Maintained by electrician Ed Wentz and his son, Russell, since its installation in 2006, the siren has returned to its original location.
The Mignone Interiors building was once a combination town hall and fire department in the ‘40s and according to Lee Briggs, former fire chief of the volunteer fire department, the siren was used at that location before a new station was built in the ‘50s.
The siren was moved to the new fire department, built by volunteers in 1956, on the corner of SE River Street and Maple Avenue SE, the current location of Snoqualmie City Hall.
It stayed there for decades. Briggs said the siren was the only way to contact the firefighters when they had a call.
“We moved to the new fire department where city hall lives today, we took the siren and put it on top and used it from there,” he said.
Russell Wentz, who has taken over maintenance from his father, said the siren was an important element of life in the Valley and was vital to the operations of the fire department. The volunteer firefighters even had the siren hooked into the phone system to be able to sound the siren remotely.
“Some of the guys ran lines from telephone pole to telephone pole to three primary houses, so during weekends when people were out of town, there would always be someone who could set the siren off from home,” Wentz said. “They had a special ring on their phones when a call would come in. It was basically its own 911 network in this town and it worked very well. Also the siren was used many times to alert the volunteers when there was going to be a drill.”
“The only downside to that was the siren kept ringing until someone shut it off,” Briggs added.
The siren was how the fire department was alerted to calls for many years until the 911 system was implemented, Briggs said. With the continued progression of technology, the siren became obsolete for use at the fire station. But in 2006, when the old fire department was being torn down to construct the new city hall, the siren was donated to Kristi Wood of Mignone Interiors and returned to its original location.
Once moved into downtown Snoqualmie, the siren began sounding off at noon from Monday to Saturday to mimic the old Snoqualmie Falls Lumber Company mill whistle. Snoqualmie historian Dave Battey said that when the mill’s whistle was decommissioned, people missed it and this was a way to recreate that impact.
“It was purely to mimic the mill whistle, when the wind was right it could even be heard in North Bend,” he said. “The whole valley was tuned into this whistle.”
Due to a failure in the mechanical clock, the siren was out of commission for the past year before Wentz, with money from the Charles S. Peterson City Memorial Fund, was able to retrofit a digital clock onto it, Battey said.
The siren is now back in action, Monday through Saturday at noon.