It was always a sizzling day at the end of summer, the state fair. An adventurous summer was winding down, a new school year on the horizon. Friends had scattered far and wide. School shopping had commenced, supplies neatly stored in a new backpack, waiting for that first day following Labor Day. It was a last hurrah to summer, the state fair.
It was the same every year. The anticipation of the state fair. Like a ritual of summer.
The rides were always first, but when I’d exhausted all my tickets and before the animal exhibits and favorite women’s pavilion where I could gaze in awe at the blue ribbon recipes and women tatting and spinning, it was about the warm-from-the-oven scones, oozing with sweet raspberry jam.
A quintessential component of summer is the state fair. It’s just… hard to miss. It’s exciting, nostalgic, entertaining… all wrapped up into one summery bundle. And if you haven’t been, you’re in luck. Fairs around the country are just getting started.
I introduced this State Fair article series earlier in the week with a post on a favorite corn dog or Pronto Pup recipe. By the way… do you know the difference? Corn dogs vs Pronto Pup? Only the batter. Corn dogs are, as you know, a corn batter while Pronto Pups are a pancake or waffle batter. Getting hungry yet?
Let’s talk about scones. I was determined to find the scone recipe used at the fair I’d enjoyed so much as a kid.
What I found was so much more than a recipe! It was a story, an American story of extraordinary success and forgotten history and abandoned dreams.
In April of 1911, two brothers, O.W. Fisher and O.D. Fisher had a dream of milling high-quality flour. By June 1 of the same year, the Fisher brothers celebrated the official opening of Fisher Mill and began milling operations on Harbor Island, nestled between what is now downtown Seattle and the nearby neighborhood of West Seattle along the Duwamish Waterway off Elliot Bay.
Where once the man-made Harbor Island was void, soon after a mill with towering cylinders of cement that reached the sky dominated the landscape. The Fisher Mill was one of the first industrial businesses to open on Harbor Island and soon after, became the largest flour mill in the Western United States.
In fact, the Mill became so prominent, it milled 3 million pounds of wheat… every day. That’s the equivalent of an annual average production of 2,500 acres of wheatland… every day.
To promote the Mill’s high-quality flour, they came up with the idea of creating a scone they could serve piping hot and sell at the 1915 Panama Pacific Exposition or World’s Fair in San Francisco. Incredibly successful, president of the Washington State Fair, William H. Paulhamus, petitioned the Fishers to sell the very same scones at their fair and to sweeten the deal, offered to donate raspberry jam from his own farm in Oregon. The deal was struck. And in the same year, in a corner booth under the grandstand, they began to sell their now famous scones.
105 years later, their scones are still sold at state fairs. In 2015, at the Washington State Fair, in the same grandstand booth, 1.6 million scones, piping hot, dripping in honey butter and layered with freshly made raspberry jam, were sold. On Sept. 15, 2011, they sold their 100th millionth scone, from the very same location — the Washington State Fair in Puyallup — where it all began. On average, 1.5 million scones are sold each year.
A spectacular story of innovation, hard work, and American opportunity. The Fisher company would go on to purchase media outlets, eventually owning 20 television and numerous radio stations, forming Fisher Communications, in the beginning, to promote their flour. Fisher would be sold to Sinclair in 2013 for $373 million.
And the Mill? It still stands as a testament to commerce and ingenuity, a beacon still dominating the landscape of Harbor Island where it all began more than a hundred years ago.
But it isn’t where the story ends. In fact, it has no ending. At least not a happy one. Today, the Mill is but an eerie tomb, abandoned, a sprawling catacomb of another day, an era gone by. A structure that stands like a museum, frozen in time. A building now owned by King County and left to wither and waste away. A facility rumored to be designated as a solid waste disposal.
“Around every corner, on every wall, are reminders that this is a boneyard of industry, a place where old Seattle optimism and audacity got old and curled up to die. Graffiti, spray painted pictures of angry faces and adorable animals and everything in between are on every wall of every room.” (KOMO).
And that, my friends, is the story of American greatness and a forgotten history.
But the scones live on.
If you’re still hungry for those piping hot scones and you don’t want to wait for the fair. Here’s how to make them at home.
Fisher State Fair Favorite Scones and Raspberry Jam
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (Originally Fisher Blend Flour)
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons shortening
2/3 cup milk
Preheat an oven to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C).
Whisk flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt together in a large bowl. Cut the shortening into the flour mixture with a fork or pastry knife until crumbly texture. Add milk; mix until just combined.
Turn dough onto a floured surface; knead until completely mixed, about 1 minute. Divide into 2 equal pieces. Roll or pat each piece into a 3/4-inch round. Cut each round into 4 pieces. Arrange pieces on a baking sheet.
Bake in the preheated oven until golden brown, about 12-15 minutes. Until lightly browned.
To serve like they do at the fair; split open but do not cut clear through. Fill with jam and close.
State Fair Favorite Foods Article Series
- 10 Blue-Ribbon Winning Pies To Make This Summer
- Top State Fair Food: Elephant Ears
- Fisher State Fair Favorite Scones and Raspberry Jam
- State Fair Corn Dogs Recipe from Renowned Chef