Centennial bricks get tossed in Everett plaza project

Something’s missing outside the Everett Performing Arts Center. The brick entryway is gone — and those aren’t just any old bricks.

They were sold, during a citizen-sponsored effort, to raise money for Everett’s 1993 centennial celebration. Those were bricks inscribed with donors’ names, their loved ones’ or companies’ names, and some with anonymous sentiments.

Each donated brick came with a certificate saying it “will be permanently installed in the Community Theater Plaza in recognition of your contribution to the City of Everett Centennial.”

Those bricks are gone — permanently — to make way for the new City Plaza park on Wetmore Avenue just south of the Everett Performing Arts Center. Why?

“Basically, when the plaza construction began it was discovered the bricks could not be salvaged,” said Kate Reardon, spokeswoman for the city. “To try to remove them, they could not do it without breaking them, the way they were embedded into the ground.

“The city of Everett was not involved in the original fund-raising effort that created the entryway,” Reardon said Thursday. She said the city doesn’t have contact information for brick donors.

The bricks became construction debris, but Reardon said the information was saved. “We created a very detailed record of all the different bricks, with the concept that at some point after the plaza was done, we could create a new way to recognize the contributions all those people made,” Reardon said. Possibilities, she said, include a wall or plaque at the theater.

A month ago, I wrote about the City Plaza. I visited the construction site, but somehow overlooked the missing bricks. After Aileen Langhans read that article, she had a question: “What about the bricks?”

Langhans, 59, is on the board of trustees for the nonprofit group Historic Everett. In 1993, she paid for several bricks to be placed outside the theater, which opened in Everett’s centennial year.

Along with a brick in her name, she made donations for one to be inscribed “Bayside Neighborhood” and another with the names of her grandparents, Aram and Aileen Nazarethian. In 1992 and 1993, according to several articles in Herald archives, bricks were being sold for $45 for one 20-space line of type, and $15 for an additional line of type on the brick.

From the brick proceeds, an Everett Centennial Commission made grants to pay for “centennial projects and activities initiated by private citizens,” The Herald reported in 1992. In February 1993, a public event was held to unveil plans for the community theater’s “centennial brick walk.”

Reardon said there were about 470 bricks. “Many had names, some had sayings, some had logos, and some had stage production titles,” Reardon said. Along with family names, others had these inscriptions: Sovetskaya, Russia Everett Sister City; Iwakuni, Japan Everett Sister City; Sound Elevator, Frontier Bank, Washington Mutual, Fluke, Associated Sand and Gravel, Barbershop Chorus chartered 1948, Happy Anniversary, To my family I love you, and Thank You!

Historic Everett board member Dave Ramstad is also on the Everett Historical Commission. Members of that city commission are volunteers, but are appointed by the mayor and confirmed by the City Council. Ramstad said the issue of the missing bricks came up at the Historical Commission’s meeting a couple weeks ago.

Ramstad is understanding about the loss of the bricks. “I’m an engineer. Maybe they tried to pry some up and they broke,” he said. He said he isn’t happy about the lack of communication from the city about the problem — “how it was handled.”

“If they came out to citizens and said, ‘We know you think a lot of your EPAC (Everett Performing Arts Center) and the families named on the bricks. We did our darnedest to save them. We’ll buy bricks with those same names.’ Instead, they didn’t say anything,” Ramstad said. “The irony is, almost the entire historical community is all in favor of the plaza.”

He hopes the city invites people who bought bricks to have a say in what becomes of those names. “It should be, ‘We’re sorry this happened, now give us some suggestions,’” Ramstad said.

“Having your name engraved on a brick and cemented on a place, that’s next to being carved in granite. You want to take your grandchildren to see it,” Ramstad said.

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460, muhlstein@heraldnet.com.

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