Wetmore Avenue balances business and pleasure

  • By Andy Rathbun Herald Writer
  • Friday, July 27, 2012 6:33pm
  • LifeEverett

Charles Whitman Wetmore was the oddball.

Most of Everett’s founders were Baptist. Wetmore was — hmm — an Episcopalian.

Most were Brown University grads. Wetmore was — gasp — a Harvard man.

Most were industrious and engaged investors. Wetmore — why I do say, old boy — wasn’t.

“What he really liked was racing yachts,” said David Dilgard, historian with the Everett Public Library. “I think that was what he would have rather done.”

Nonetheless, like all of Everett’s founders, Wetmore had money. He put enough of it into the upstart city to get a downtown street named after him in 1892.

In the early days of Everett, things could get heated on Wetmore Avenue, particularly at its corner with Hewitt Avenue. Rabble-rousers would set up soapboxes there and start preaching. Not surprising in a city with strong ties to labor, they often had a beef with capitalism.

During the Everett Massacre in 1916 — when several died in a clash between organized labor and the police — the block was the site of beatings and arrests, Dilgard said.

Things quieted down after that, maybe because businesses started shifting one street over, to Colby Avenue, or maybe because of a new law.

“Everett passed an ordinance that made it illegal to speak on that corner,” Dilgard said.

Granted, the street didn’t go silent.

It had City Hall, now on the National Register of Historic Places. Today, the building still hosts City Council meetings, even as much of the city’s business is done across the street, in the Wall Street Building.

It had a string of theaters, like the Balboa and the Granada. Today, it claims the Village Theatre, which operates out of the 500-plus-seat Everett Performing Arts Center.

It had a way of balancing a bit of business with plenty of pleasure, not unlike Wetmore himself.

And it still does.

Notable Wetmore Avenue sites

• Karl’s Bakery &Cafe, 2814 Wetmore Ave., moved to the block in the 1960s and has been serving doughnuts ever since.

• The Everett Performing Arts Center, 2710 Wetmore Ave., is managed by the award-winning Village Theatre.

• City Hall, 3002 Wetmore Ave., is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Fun with mnemonics!

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. Reader Kim Carlson suggests: “Being Liberal Or Republican Won’t Change How Roses Grow.” Send your ideas to Andy Rathbun at arathbun@heraldnet.com or call him at 425-339-3479. Top ideas will win a prize.

One for the roads

Read about other downtown blocks featured in this series at www.heraldnet.com/thegrid.

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