Our company’s founder, Albert L. Dunn, was born
in 1869 in the small northern Wisconsin town of
Rhinelander. He was the youngest of eight children
born to Edward and Lucy Dunn and his father died
before he was born. As a teen, Albert apprenticed
in a local hardware store. When he finished secondary
school and business college, he was a bookkeeper
and bank teller before becoming a partner in the
Dunn and Woods Hardware Company and marrying Mary
Stevens, the daughter of a local sawmill owner,
In 1907, Albert sold his share in the hardware store
and formed Dunn Lumber Company, in Rhinelander,
where he acted as sales broker for local sawmills.
In 1910, he decided to relocate to Seattle, Washington,
a boomtown with abundant timber and numerous sawmills.
In later years, Albert represented the Phoenix Shingle
Company, located in Ballard, and he sold their output
across the country.
By the time Albert and Mary moved to Seattle, they
had four children, three boys and a girl; a second
girl was born shortly after their move. Mary Dunn,
who had been a schoolteacher before her marriage,
made sure all of her children were good students
and all five graduated from the University of Washington.
The three boys received degrees in forestry and,
during their college years, worked as loggers in
The two eldest boys, Charles and Ed, began their
careers with a lumber retailer in California. In
1927, they returned to Seattle to partner with their
father in creating a retail storefront for Dunn
Lumber. Their first location was in an old barn
east of what is now the shopping center, University
Village. In 1931, they purchased the Holmes Lumber
and Fuel building on the north end of Lake Union.
Seven years later a fire destroyed all the lumber
sheds, inventory, equipment, and offices. Fortunately,
Charles and Ed had excellent insurance and were
able to rebuild immediately. They hired crews of
carpenters to work two shifts a day and in just
twelve working days they had a new 18,000 square
foot building. After many additions and modifications
to the building, it continues to operate as the
busiest Dunn Lumber branch.
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After the fire of July 29th, 1938
Rebuilt Dunn Lumber
Great Depression descended upon Seattle not long
after the relocation of the business to the Lake
Union site. As the economy contracted and business
volume fell, Charles and Ed realized they needed
to either change the way they were doing business
or they would soon be forced to close the doors.
It was common practice for retail lumber outlets
to extend credit to building contractors, but many
contractors became unable to pay their suppliers
as the depression deepened.
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The Dunn brothers decided to take the radical approach
of selling for cash only, and they closed all credit
accounts. In addition, they each cut their own monthly
salaries by half, to just $50 per month. The business
lost money for the first six months, but turned
the corner and remained profitable for the remainder
of the depression. A few years later, the slogan
“It Pays to Pay Cash” was advertised widely and
used for many years until the arrival of credit
cards in the 1970’s.
As the country emerged from the depression and World
War II, the Seattle economy exploded with growth
fueled, to a great extent, by The Boeing Company.
Charles and Ed began expanding the business by purchasing
and building additional locations. The growing affluence
of homeowners brought many do-it-yourselfers into
lumber yards, and Dunn Lumber became known as a
source for good advice and quality materials at
a fair price.
1990’s saw the emergence of Home Depot, Lowes, and
other national “box stores” that changed the face
of the building materials market forever. Many independent
stores and regional chains fell by the wayside as
these national chains rolled into the area. Dunn
Lumber’s response was to focus even more effort
on offering exceptional materials and service. We
work hard to establish and maintain one-to-one relationships
with customers while offering expert advice to help
homeowners and professional contractors finish their
projects on time and on budget.
Today the business remains family owned and operated.
Charles and Ed Dunn are both gone and Ed’s sons
have all retired, but several members of the fourth
and fifth generation continue to work in the business
with Mike Dunn as president.
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Still local and still
family owned and operated for over a hundred