Restoration for Snohomish’s Carnegie Building?

SNOHOMISH — It’s just an off-white building with a brick chimney.

Inside, chairs are stacked near the wall, and a wooden desk is collecting dust. The dumbwaiter that used to move books up and down sits idle.

The Carnegie Building, built as a library in 1910, now sits quietly with few visitors. Only a few city employees work in the building.

Yet those who grew up with the aging building see it as a source of community pride, heritage and future. In Snohomish, history matters because people take pride in their roots.

“This is the cornerstone of our history,” City Councilwoman Melody Clemans said about the building.

As the city-owned building nears its centennial milestone, supporters are trying to raise $4 million for restoration. The goal is to use the building for multiple activities, including educational programs, meetings and family events.

The renovated library would be a place where people gather, study and socialize, as it used to be, said Clemans, who serves on the Snohomish Carnegie Foundation Board. The plan would have the former library generate revenue to pay for its operation.

The building was built with $10,000 from the Carnegie Foundation, which provided money for many small libraries across the nation. The building was used for its original purpose until the new library opened along Maple Avenue in 2003. The City Council also used to meet there.

The Carnegie Foundation also helped to build two other libraries in Snohomish County in the early 20th century. One is still in downtown Everett and could be leased to the Museum of Snohomish County History. The other remains in downtown Edmonds as a historical museum.

Clemans, 63, grew up in a house a few blocks away from the Snohomish Carnegie Building. She used to study at the library on weekdays and check out books on weekends.

“We have an opportunity to take care of this building,” Clemans said.

The restoration project also includes separating the 1968 annex from the original building. The annex is expected to be demolished to make room for parking and open space.

The Arts of Snohomish now rents the annex to display artworks by local artists.

“It will be a hardship for us,” said Kelly Maier, board president of the nonprofit group. “But we also knew this would be a temporary location, being in the annex.”

The group hopes to move to another location in the downtown, Maier said. The Carnegie Building is an asset to the community.

“Preserving anything historical fits the model of Snohomish,” she said.

The former library sits in the historic downtown filled with old buildings. The city has design standards that regulate how old buildings can be modified in the downtown area.

Century-old homes and buildings are abundant in Snohomish, the oldest community in the county. It was incorporated as a city in 1890 and served as a county seat for 36 years before it lost to Everett in 1897.

What makes the Carnegie Building unique is that it’s the oldest public building in the city, said Larry Bauman, city manager.

“The Carnegie is the soul of the downtown,” Bauman said. “You can’t replace history at any price.”

As Snohomish grows in the future, the city aims to thrive on its heritage, Bauman said.

The Carnegie Building “will preserve the character, but it will also promote vitality because it brings people to the downtown,” Bauman said.

Reporter Yoshiaki Nohara: 425-339-3029 or ynohara@heraldnet.com.

Get involved

Supporters of the Carnegie Building in Snohomish are trying to raise $4 million to restore the historic building in downtown. People are invited to tour the building at 105 Cedar Ave. from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. on June 28.

For more information, call 360-243-9509 or go to www.snohomishcarnegie.org. Donations can be sent to the Snohomish Carnegie Foundation, P.O. Box 1088, Snohomish, WA 98291.

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