EVERETT — Home for Christmas has a significant new meaning for the Everett Museum of History. The group, which has long kept its collection of 50,000-plus artifacts in storage, on Wednesday purchased a building in the heart of downtown.
True to its mission, the museum group that earlier hoped to buy Everett’s old Longfellow Elementary School chose another place with an important past. Built in 1904, the building at 2939 Colby Ave. — the northeast corner of Colby and Wall Street — was for decades home to The Everett Daily Herald.
The James B. Best Publishing Co., then owner of what’s now The Daily Herald, bought and moved into the building in 1905. It housed the Herald until a fire there Feb. 20, 1956. After years of dashed dreams for a permanent home, the museum plans to open its doors as early as 2019.
“It’s a done deal,” said Barbara George, executive director of the Everett Museum of History. “Now we’ll be able to really share the history with the people who own it.”
Made possible by a $3 million donation from the Elizabeth Ruth Wallace Living Trust, the deal officially closed Wednesday, George said. The building was owned by Florida-based Hartmann Ltd. Its price was $1.6 million, she said.
The nonprofit museum group plans to launch a capital campaign to raise $3.5 million more for renovations, operations and exhibits, George said.
Just north of the new Marriott Courtyard hotel, the building has been empty since 2015. It previously housed a title company and two telecommunications firms. It has 10,000 square feet of space for exhibits and curation, and a basement for storage.
“Everett, here’s your museum,” said Dave Ramstad, president of the museum group’s board of trustees. “It hasn’t had a home in 10 or 15 years, and even in the past those were borrowed or small storefront spaces.”
Earlier this year, a then-anonymous donor pledged $3 million for a museum building. The source of that donation turned out to be the late Elizabeth Ruth Wallace, or “Aunt Bette.”
Her niece is Cheri Ryan, of Bothell, who heads the Lynnwood-Alderwood Manor Heritage Association.
A Snohomish County native, Wallace died late last year at her home in Mountain View, California. Her assets, from real estate investments, were put into a living trust before her death. Ryan and her brother Kevin Stadler, a Woodinville Heritage Society board member, chose the Everett museum as one charity the trust would support.
George sees the Colby location as ideal, much better than the Longfellow building near Everett Memorial Stadium. “We feel like it defines the cultural district,” she said. “Now we’ll have the Schack, the Imagine Children’s Museum and the new museum.” Downtown parking, she acknowledged, may be the only drawback.
Ramstad learned the seller’s name through Brian Stuchell of Everett’s Eclipse Real Estate Group, which handled the sale. Helped by Mindy Van Wingen, an historian at the Everett Public Library, Ramstad discovered the Everett roots of Hartmann Ltd., the seller.
The late Rudolph Hartmann, whose descendants own the Florida firm, was an Everett builder. In the early 1900s, he built the Mitchell Hotel. It’s now the Cascadian apartment building on Hewitt Avenue, where the Brooklyn Bros. pizza place is located. Hartmann, who died in Everett in 1973, also built the brick Mayfair apartments on Hoyt Avenue and many homes here.
The Everett Museum of History, once known as the Snohomish County Museum of History, has had several locations since its start more than 60 years ago — but never its own building. Established in 1953 as the Snohomish County Museum and Historical Association, it has had exhibit space at Everett’s Legion Memorial Park, on Rockefeller Avenue, and in a storefront at 1913 Hewitt Ave. It’s been closed to the public since 2007.
Before the recent attempt to buy the Longfellow building, George said, the museum had an agreement with Snohomish County to use the old Carnegie Library building near the courthouse. That hope wasn’t fulfilled, and the museum lost storage space there in 2011.
Since then, the massive collection has been stored all over town — in the downtown Culmback Building on Colby, in a storage facility on Smith Avenue, and in a 5,000-square-foot space on the second floor of the Everett Mall. There, the museum has paid $1 a year for storage.
Without a home, museum curator Amalia Kozloff, archivist and registrar Heather Schaub and many volunteers have worked to keep the collection in the public eye. Informal displays have been seen at the Everett Farmers Market, the Schack Art Center and other sites.
“We’re excited,” said Bill Degroodt, of Mill Creek, who serves on a museum board development committee. The plan is to expand the board to include people with a range of professional skills — standard business practices and marketing — along with leaders “to represent what the community wants,” he said. A board of advocates is likely to focus on historical issues.
“We really have to shift gears to setting up and running a museum. It’s a lot different than what we’ve been doing in the past,” Degroodt said.
“I want to say kudos to those who have stuck with us so long,” he added.
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; jmuhlstein@herald net.com.