The Grid: Lombard is a street divided

  • Fri Jul 6th, 2012 10:52am
  • Life

By Andy Rathbun Herald Writer

Benjamin Lombard was his name, and capitalism, his game.

Lombard was a friend of Charles Colby and Henry Hewitt. He, like those men, made money thanks to the railroads, serving as a director of the Northern Pacific Railway in the late 1800s.

After talking with Colby and Hewitt, Lombard decided to invest some of his cash in an idea they had: the city of Everett.

Their plan was startlingly simple. The Great Northern Railroad was coming to the West Coast from St. Paul, Minn. The tracks would hit water at a blank spot on the map. They would buy up the land and build a city.

That’s called American ingenuity.

Lombard saw the idea’s potential. He invested, and for that, got a street named after him. However, he probably never saw the block.

“I have no record of Benjamin Lombard ever visiting Everett,” said David Dilgard, historian with the Everett Public Library.

That’s probably for the best. He might not have enjoyed the sight.

By the early 1900s, within a decade of Everett’s 1892 founding, labor organizations were taking hold in the nascent city, using Lombard Avenue for their headquarters. The first Everett Labor Temple was built on the block from wood at the turn of the century, then rebuilt in brick in 1930.

“Everett was so active in labor organizational matters that it was one of the first cities — unusual for a city Everett’s size — to have a labor temple,” Dilgard said.

The street’s union connection has held true to this day. The side of the old building still is emblazoned with pro-union slogans that pit capitalists like Lombard against the true-hearted workingman.

“Use union services — the job you save may be your own,” reads one, echoing an old public service slogan.

Granted, the block has undergone other changes. Notably, it was the only block that got cut in two when Comcast Arena settled like a spaceship on downtown. No longer is the street a true throughway.

In a way, the change was fitting.

Like its ties to management and labor, Lombard Avenue has always been split in two.

Every Monday, we’ll profile a downtown Everett street, as we challenge readers to come up with a mnemonic device to remember their order: Broadway, Lombard, Oakes, Rockefeller, Wetmore, Colby, Hoyt, Rucker and Grand. Readers Linda and Rich Glazier have one idea: “Belt lots of red wine, come home real groggy.” Send ideas to Andy Rathbun at arathbun@heraldnet.com or call him at 425-339-3466 or 3479. Top ideas will win a prize.