Historic painting, names joined in tribute to Everett history

It’s a sweeping view of the way it used to be, a nostalgic glimpse of 1892 Everett rendered in oil paint on a massive canvas. Long out of the public eye, the painting by Charles Sorensen is also part of a solution to a thorny problem for the city of Everett.

In 2012, bricks inscribed with names of people who had made donations to Everett’s centennial celebration were removed. The bricks were destroyed during construction of a plaza outside the Everett Performing Arts Center. The city promised to find a new way to recognize those contributors.

Late last week, Everett officials hung the newly restored Sorensen painting, called “Everett in 1892,” on a wall in the main lobby of the city’s Wall Street Building. The permanent display includes historical photographs, and interpretive information about the artist and Everett’s early days, including annotated details from the painting itself.

And on either side of the 10-foot-long painting are those missing names — 1,235 of them — and a logo from Everett’s 1993 centennial. That part of the display says “Thank you, Centennial supporters.”

“This is a fantastic solution,” said Dave Ramstad, who is on the Everett Historical Commission and belongs to the Historic Everett preservation group.

With other members of the city’s Historical Commission, a volunteer panel, Ramstad said he heard from many people upset that the bricks had been torn out. He is glad the city heard those complaints and created an impressive tribute.

“We historians are pretty pleased. Now we’re educating the public that it has happened,” he said Tuesday.

That grand painting, showing Port Gardner and early Everett, is what first draws a visitor’s attention in the lobby at 2930 Wetmore Ave.

“This is Everett’s artistic heritage,” said Carol Thomas, the city’s cultural arts manager. On Monday, she explained the painting as an illustrated history lesson.

Sorensen, an immigrant from Denmark who moved his family to Everett in 1894, is believed to have created the image about 1909. It shows the boom year of 1892, a year before Everett became a city.

“It was a wonderful year. By 1894, when Sorensen arrived, 1892 was the good old days,” said David Dilgard, a history specialist at the Everett Public Library. By the following year, Dilgard said, the whole country was in an economic depression known as the Panic of 1893.

In more recent times, Sorensen’s painting was displayed prominently in Everett before being put into storage.

“We had the painting for years,” Dilgard said. It hung in the downtown Everett library’s reference department until the library was remodeled in the early 1990s. Before it was in the library, the painting was in the city’s old City Hall, now police headquarters.

“It was sort of orphaned,” Dilgard said.

For years, the city had the painting in storage in the basement of the Culmback Building on Colby Avenue. It was also stored for a time by well-known artist Jack Gunter in Stanwood.

Restoration work was done by Seattle area art conservator Peter Malarkey. It involved removing the painting from its frame and stretcher, adding new support materials, removing surface grime and discolored varnish and many other steps. The ornate gold-colored antique frame was also restored.

Meghan Pembroke, spokeswoman for the city of Everett, said the work took nine months. Cost for the whole display, including research and design, was about $47,250, she said. The Greater Everett Community Foundation donated $18,500 for the project, Pembroke said.

In style, Dilgard and Thomas said, the painting is both a traditional landscape and an example of primitive or folk art. The perspective, especially on its buildings, has a folk aspect that adds to the painting’s charm.

Everett’s aspirations are seen in the original Hotel Monte Cristo, which was then located near the waterfront. Investors Henry Hewitt and Charles Colby lived in the turreted hotel while they built the town with John D. Rockefeller’s money, according to Dilgard. The first Monte Cristo was also used as Providence Hospital before being demolished in 1925.

The painting shows the fenced property of Dennis Brigham, who in 1861 was the first homesteader to claim land on the peninsula that became Everett. A three-masted ship and the whaleback steamer C.W. Wetmore, which carried machinery for Everett’s factories, are part of the waterfront scene.

With an image from the painting of the Seattle &Montana Railway, the display has an 1892 quote from Charles Colby, calling the route from Everett “The shortest haul between salt water and St. Paul.”

Go see it. The painting and all the history are well worth your time. And although the bricks are gone, the centennial donor names have a fine new home.

“I hear no complaints,” Ramstad said. “When leadership does well, they should be praised.”

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

‘Everett in 1892’

Charles Sorensen’s painting “Everett in 1892” is on permanent display in the first-floor lobby of the Wall Street Building, 2930 Wetmore Ave., Everett. It is displayed with historical information, photos, and the names of people who made donations to Everett’s 1993 centennial celebration. The building is open 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.

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