Our Story

Welcome to Columbia City and The Shirley Marvin

The Shirley Marvin apartments were built in 1935 by D. W. (Will) Brown, one of Columbia City's founders. Brown had bought the first lot in Columbia City, back in 1891 when the town was just a freshly logged-off, barely-platted development at the end of a brand new streetcar line. Brown was a motorman on the streetcar line, and by the time he left the company in 1915, he had worked his way up to superintendent.

That same year, 1915, Brown went into business with furniture maker Ed Grayson, who had been renting space in a commercial building Brown had built on Rainier Avenue. "Grayson & Brown Hardware and Furniture" would become a community institution, anchoring Columbia City for over seventy years.

Will Brown and his wife Edith had one child, a daughter named Leora. When Leora married Arthur Anderson, he became part of the Grayson & Brown family, eventually taking over the business from his father-in-law. In 1935, in the middle of the Depression, Will Brown decided to build a four-unit brick apartment building on Edmunds Street. He had to move the house that was located on the property – it is now on the adjacent lot east of the Shirley Marvin. He named the new building after his beloved grandchildren, Shirley and Marvin. The name of the building stuck, even though Marvin is known to everyone as "Buzz".

As Shirley and Buzz grew up, Columbia City continued to thrive, and so did the family business. After spending his childhood sweeping floors and stocking shelves at Grayson & Brown, Buzz joined his father and grandfather in the business, and took over in his turn. Shirley studied music in college, married, and settled in the neighborhood, bringing up four children.

The Shirley Marvin remained a fixture of the family for many years. Buzz and his wife, Joanne, lived there as newlyweds, and grandparents Will and Edith moved into one of the apartments when they retired. They rented the other three units to friends, creating their own close-knit community in the building. After the Browns passed away, first Shirley and then Buzz owned the building until 2009, when Rob Mohn and Shelley Morrison bought and restored it. Rob and Shelley are proud to continue the Brown family tradition of hospitality and community at The Shirley Marvin. 

A Neighborhood Rich with History