There’s a “No Trespassing” sign posted near the entry to Everett’s old Longfellow School building. That didn’t stop a dozen or so bombers out to dress up the place Friday afternoon — heart-bombers, that is.
“Heart bombs,” as they’re explained by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, “are love letters to historic places.”
Paper hearts, balloons and other tangible expressions of love for older places, especially those at risk of being lost, have become a way to encourage historic preservation nationwide.
The Everett School District’s Longfellow Building at 3715 Oakes Ave. is surely at risk.
The district has plans to demolish the 1911 building. An elementary school until 1971, it was later used for offices. Parking is what the district envisions there. It’s next to Everett Memorial Stadium and near the district’s headquarters.
“It’s a building worth saving,” said Paul Popelka, 69, who’s on the board of Historic Everett, a preservation group that organized Friday’s display. Retired from Everett’s planning department, Popelka lives in Snohomish but is keen on Everett history.
With art supplies reminiscent of grade school, he and others involved with Historic Everett met Thursday evening to decorate paper hearts. They printed “Save Everett’s Past,” “This Place Matters” and “Ask Your Neighbors About Longfellow” with markers on big cut-out hearts.
At 79, former Longfellow student Jan Carlson let others tape red signs to the building Friday. Standing near the steps she once climbed to get to class, the Marysville woman recalled her school days. She was at Longfellow from 1944 to 1949, some years in wartime.
“We had blackout drills. The teacher picked students to pull the blinds,” said Carlson, who later taught school in Federal Way and Oak Harbor. “We learned to respect our teachers here, and we learned to respect history,” she said.
Like others Friday, she had nothing good to say about tearing down the old school for parking. “Everett is going in the wrong direction as far as destroying its history,” Carlson said.
The district’s plans, which have been talked about and protested for several years, were held up last July after school board directors failed to pass a proposal to start demolition. A $2 million bid for the work came in about $660,000 more than the district had estimated. The board’s vote was tied, with one member absent.
A school board meeting is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. Tuesday. Kathy Reeves, the district’s communications director, said the board is being asked to approve the surplus of some items from the Longfellow Building. If approved, items would be sold to a contractor, Second Use, Inc., “who would then be able to sell them to the public as a means of preserving items from the building,” Reeves said by email.
Patrick Hall, a member of the city’s Historical Commission, believes removing things would make the building less desirable for sale. He sees no benefit in demolition. “It just doesn’t make any sense financially, how it actually saves us money,” he said.
A couple of years back, the Everett Museum of History, with a donor’s $3 million pledge, sought to buy the Longfellow Building. Yet the district determined it had no viable buyer. The museum group withdrew from those negotiations, and in late 2017 purchased another building in downtown Everett.
“As far as next steps, over the next several months there will be work to remove asbestos from the building,” said Reeves, along with work to remove an underground fuel storage tank. “Anything beyond that work will go to the board again, so there is nothing else definite at this time,” she said.
The late U.S. Sen. Henry M. “Scoop” Jackson and Stan Boreson, who was known as the “King of Scandinavian Humor,” went to grade school at Longfellow. So did local historian Jack O’Donnell, 73, who was among those at the building Friday.
O’Donnell is on the Everett Historical Commission and is active in Historic Everett, a nonprofit that includes the old school on its list of “Endangered Buildings.” The building isn’t on the National Register of Historic Places, nor on the Washington Heritage Register.
Heart-bombing got its start in 2012 when Bernice Radle, of Buffalo’s Young Preservationists in New York, put a big red bow on a vacant building to spread holiday cheer. By Valentine’s Day 2013, she was creating heart displays — and some of those old buildings have new owners, according to the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
On a cold, sunny afternoon Friday, Longfellow Building neighbors Kathleen Hagemeister and Claire Griffith watched as balloons and paper hearts caught the breeze. Someone had left roses outside the building. “My three sons went here. It was a good school,” Hagemeister said. “They should take down the annex and use it for parking.”
District plans have called for 64 new parking spaces — 33 where Longfellow is, another 31 in place of its newer annex building.
“We went and spoke to the school board. We told them we care about this building,” Griffith said. She’d like to see the Longfellow become a McMenamins pub, something like the old Anderson School in Bothell.
“I just hate to see history be gone,” Griffith said. “And then they’ll be sorry.”