Gray Lumber Company
3800 Sixth Ave
Tacoma, WA 98406
253.752.7000 or 1.800.GLC.GRAY
P.O. Box 7126
Tacoma, WA 98417
It all started when...
Claude F. Gray, founder of Independent Lumber Company, was born in Champaign, Illinois, and graduated from the University of Minnesota School of Law in 1901.
In 1902, Claude Gray and his wife Cora Frances Oeder moved to Tacoma, Washington, then, the lumber capital of the world. Having decided against the law profession and having tried unsuccessfully to go into the newspaper business, Claude established employment at the Old Tacoma Mill and sold wagons of lumber to farmers in the Puyallup Valley (i.e. James Sales). He also worked at another mill in Bismark, a small train stop for the Tacoma Eastern Lines, now designated by South Sixty-fourth Street and McKinley Ave.
In December of 1903 the Independent Lumber and Fuel Company was opened for business in a small lean-to located at 3902 South M Street. The land was purchased with a small down payment and minimal monthly payments. At that time all other lumber yards in Tacoma were in a cooperative organization for set prices, and Claude Gray, refusing to join the union, chose the appropriate name for his firm, "The Independent Lumber Company."
The new yard was highly efficient for its time, using the facilities of the Tacoma Eastern Railway and the Tacoma Railway and Power Company, along with his own switch track and trestle with coal bunkers, and a large cut-off saw. Coal was sold by the wagon load or by the fifty-pound sack. Cut slab wood was also sold in addition to lumber, hardware, paint and glass.
During the period from 1905 to 1910, the company added locations in Tacoma at North Forty-fifth and Cheyenne Streets, Forty-seventh and Pearl Streets, 6224 McKinley Avenue, Fifty-sixth and South K Streets, and 3814 Sixth Avenue. A lumber mill and shingle mill were also built in the area of Midland, Washington, on the Tacoma Eastern Railway tracks.
For eight years both Midland mills shipped supplies to the retail yards, which were all located on the Tacoma Railway and Power Co. tracks (T.R&P.) by the way of Tacoma Eastern. Horse-drawn wagons, hand saws, and plenty of labor were standard equipment. Both mills burned to the ground in 1912 and were never rebuilt.
The retail yards ceased the fuel business in 1928, and with the coming of motor vehicles it was no longer necessary to have multiple locations. The company dropped all but the South M Street yard and the Sixth Avenue yard shortly thereafter.
Over a period of nearly seventy years, the Independent Lumber Company successfully operated two large cabinet shops, a wooden box factory, and constructed over five hundred new homes in the Tacoma area. The company supplied the planks used to lay the original roadbed for Sixth Avenue from Jackson Ave to Titlow Beach.
Presently, the company deals in wholesale and retail building products, operating under the same family management since the first of the century… TACOMA'S OLDEST LUMBER YARD!