EVERETT — Until recently, the youngest Everett building that Steve Fox could find on any historical register was the 1925 Monte Cristo Hotel on Wall Street.
Fox, a member of the Everett Historical Commission, attended a talk last year about mid-century modern design. The speaker stressed the need to recognize and preserve architecture from that era.
Fox considered the “wonderful arches” of the Cope Gillette Theatre in the arts plaza.
The building opened in 1963 at 2730 Wetmore Ave. It was the second Bank of Everett, after the first one failed. Back then, the crossing of Wetmore and California Street was the heart of the downtown shopping district.
Fox compiled his research in a packet he submitted for the Everett Register of Historic Places.
“In its day, and more than 50 years later, it stands out as a one-of-a-kind relic of the 1960s,” he wrote.
The City Council approved the nomination in August.
The bank was designed in the “New Formalism” style, according to Fox’s research. He noted the brick walls, the arch motif and the “umbrella shell roof overhang.” He also cited a vintage Herald story, which quoted someone saying the building was “the last word in modern banking.”
These days, the former bank is owned by the city and leased long-term to the Village Theatre. The news of its historical status was shared with Saundra Cope and Walt Gillette, the building’s namesakes who live in town. The couple are retired Boeing executives and longtime supporters of the arts.
The Cope Gillette Theatre houses Village Theatre’s Kidstage program. Year-round classes and camps are held for ages 3-20, along with several productions, said Kati Nickerson, who oversees youth programs. The focus at Kidstage is building the skills of acting, singing and dancing, along with social and emotional learning, she said.
Exposure to the arts is important for children, Gillette said. Even if they don’t become professional actors, they gain confidence in expressing themselves, he said. He thinks of it as preparation for “the theater of life.”
The timing for the old bank’s recognition seemed serendipitous. The couple’s painstakingly renovated home on Grand Avenue was added earlier this year to the National Register of Historic Places. The 1905 structure, known as the Charles &Idalia Fratt House, dates back to Everett’s Mill Town days. It also is included on the historical lists for the city and the state.
Before Fox’s research into the theater building, much of its past was not widely known, Cope said. She considers his efforts a tribute to the city’s history.
“It’s unique architecture, and there is very little left of that in downtown Everett,” she said.
Cope recalled the efforts in 2008 to turn the property into a parking lot. Now, the plaza is “a whole city block of art and beauty,” she said.
Gillette was in college when the bank opened. He went on to become the lead engineer on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner project. He’s fond of the look of buildings from that era, with elements inspired by the Space Age.
“They look like they’re ready to take off and go somewhere,” he said.