Our Carnegie Exposed

FEATURED IMAGE: This beautiful pile of rubble was once the “Annex,” sometimes called the “brick addition,” and formally referred to as the “1968 Addition to the Carnegie Library.” It’s the happiest picture I’ve ever made in my life, so far; and today is my birthday! [#78.]

Yet, this picture brings to mind the mess we made struggling for community acceptance to expose our historic Carnegie building.

This story begins 15 years ago when the Snohomish City Council established the Carnegie Preservation Committee, tasked with recommending an architect who would prepare a feasibility study of bringing new life to our small library building. The addition, built with a $150,000 bond issue approved in 1966, doubled the square footage and added twice the shelf space for books. Opened in 1968, it was again too small twenty years later.

Mayor Payson Peterson accepted the soft ochre brick addition for the city. Washington State librarian, Maryan Reynolds, gave the keynote address followed by a public open house for a proud, contented community. But with a man about to land on the moon, along with more people moving to town, Snohomish’s days of innocence were numbered. The Little Building that Almost Could

The Carnegie Preservation Committee selected BoLa Architecture + Planning, a firm homegrown in Seattle, and the choice was approved by all seven council members. With that done, the selection committee was disbanded. However, several members continued to serve on the board of the Snohomish Carnegie Foundation, a non-profit organization with the mission to establish the Carnegie Educational Center — narrowed down with the tag: A Place for Families, — to be located in the renovated historic building.

Although the BoLa people offered planning services they were not called upon to consider the entire site, just the historic building. It seems the contract with the city called for the firm to essentially ignore the Annex (I know, odd) save for specifying cosmetic repairs once the Annex was separated — standing free and needing a new face.

Consequently, the city council asked the Foundation to pay for a feasibility study of what to do with the Annex: sell it to a third party; fix it up and rent it out at market rate; or demolish it. Working with two independent consultants, the three options were presented to the council members.

The third option was accepted by a unanimous vote: to demolish the Annex and create a downtown park. The year was 2008, yet the Annex stood, and stood, still attached to the historic building until February 18, 2020, a Tuesday.

Captured 02.19.20 at 8:30a.

A Leader Founds a Facebook
Group of Responsible Citizens

Snohomish residents grew increasingly restless during this time. Our police chief expressing his love for another male officer in an email was only the beginning.

He resigned and with the new chief the heretical discussion resumed — to contract with the county sheriff and dissolve the entity known as the Snohomish Police Department.

Residents imagined (so no need for facts) the worse: “Our police department is 150 years old!” claimed a misinformed malcontent in a letter to the editor.

When discussing the future of the Snohomish Police Department, let’s be clear about its past — the department is not 150 years old. Looking for the beginning of a paper trail establishing our Police Department led me to the unexpected discovery that legally, the entity called “The Snohomish Police Department” is only 38 years old.
Part 4: Snohomish Police Department.

Looking back, we should have known that the founder of a Facebook group for Snohomish residents practicing willful ignorance – would be the wellspring from which the Leader of the group emerged disguised as a humble truck driver.

At the time, I avoided looking into his eyes, his stare was troubling. He appeared to be a homeless person. My first encounter was at the door of our home, he rambled on about a donation of a historic home that appeared to be abandoned? (Karen and I looked at each other as he walked through the garden gate — how bizarre we both thought — but then non-followers don’t see a Leader.)

Odd too, he was a person of mixed race in a white town; moreover, he came with an incredible story, (learned later, towards the end), that his mother told him his father was white – until he was 10 years old. (So the story goes, yet, it’s a genesis story worthy of a Founding Leader.)

His Facebook Group was growing in members as the restlessness of the community facebooked each other up with the gall of a developer even applying to build small apartments (referred to as apodments) in a neighborhood of single-family homes. Apodments were successful for this developer in Seattle where a half dozen small studios share a kitchen – like a family.

The horror of who-would-live-in-such-a-place stuffed the city council chambers with the largest numbers yet of the gloriously uninformed. One speaker, I remember, stepping up to the lectern testified he was afraid for the family cat! I assumed the man imagined the family pet would be seen as food by people who didn’t want to pay for a normal-sized home. Who knows?

The timeline is fuzzy as it seems like everything was happening at once back in those days. Like out of nowhere came the horror of a cell-tower-in-a-park. An enterprising malcontent even built a mock-up of how tall the proposed tower would be compared to what I don’t remember.

The park in question was once an empty lot alongside the railroad tracks and where, over the years, was born a baseball park of community fraternity. Moreover, from this homegrown park, a tribute to the fertile American past time came Earl Averill: the first rookie in major league history to score a home run his first-time at-bat. Locating Home Plate

snohomish stories image

The ballpark was named Averill Field around the time Earl was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame – Earl is Snohomish’s most famous citizen – even though the ballpark with its homemade stadium seating and lighting towers eventually returned to its beginnings as a vacant lot. For many years afterward, the annual carny rides would use the lot for one week in July.

The outdoor swimming pool was the first thing built on the sacred site, which was eventually brought indoors by the Snohomish School District and named after the revered Superintendent, Hal Moe.

Next, the Kiwanis club finally built a modern playground for kids – a design unimagined by the founders of the Playground Association. Then a skatepark (smoothly poured concrete ritual sites built in even the smallest towns during those days) and finally, the Boys and Girls Club filled out the park known as Averill Field.

Which brings us back to the horror story of the huge cell tower, which was proposed by the city to be tucked in behind the Boys and Girls Club.

Then, the Leader discovered a covenant in the deed of the park lots: #for_playground_purposes_only!

With this imagined coup, the Leader mounted an imaginary white horse and carried a dark banner that read: “Restore the Deed.” From this perch, he led a movement to change the city’s government which would restore the strong mayor — one who lived in Snohomish, (rather than a city manager who lived somewhere on the way to Seattle).

The Leader’s #1 Boy Follower went door-to-door twice, first to gather signatures required to hold an election for the change, and a second time to gather support for his run as the strong mayor. The Leader and his #1 Boy Follower won both elections, even though the Leader’s #1 Boy Follower had not a lick of elected experience. He had never served on a commission. His only city government experience was yelling at council members during his time at the lectern.

The Boy Mayor

Just as the city staff released plans to give the Annex lobby a quick facelift if the 1910 Social Hall was to hold city council meetings — the flat roof of the Annex failed — no one was allowed inside.

Consequently, the city took over ownership of the property determined unsafe, a possible danger to the public. This got people’s attention. Funds were found, a new architectural firm was hired to (again) study what should be done with the (now leaking) Annex!

The numbers required to save the Annex was a million-dollar story. This didn’t stop the Leader, if he had even heard the news. He was still riding around town on his white horse while his followers stayed close to their computer keyboards rather than attend a town hall meeting at the new Aquatic Center.

Following the Leader’s presentation to save the Annex, a member of the audience asked those in attendance for a show of hands: “how many want the Annex removed?” An overwhelming majority of hands shot up.

The Leader’s fantasy plan went down with a cheer, then a second louder cheer when The Leader left the room. He was still on his horse, nearly banging his head on the door jamb.

Word has it that he is living in Texas, but who knows?

Captured 03.09.20 around 8:30a. The pile of rubble is smaller.

. . .

The historic image in the animation is an undated glass plate negative of the famous cherry tree, which appears to be in bloom. (Courtesy Snohomish Historical Society.)