The historic Longfellow School was built in 1911.

Donor pledges $3M for history museum to buy Longfellow building

EVERETT — A mysterious donor with $3 million might have just solved two lingering problems in Everett.

The first is the Everett School District’s Longfellow building, a historic but rundown former school whose alumni included the late U.S. Sen. Henry M. Jackson and comedian Stan Boreson. The district has been planning to demolish the building to expand a parking lot.

The second problem concerns the Everett Museum of History, which has been little more than a collection of artifacts in storage since it closed its last storefront home downtown in early 2007.

All that might be about to change. A donor, who wishes to remain anonymous, has pledged more than $3 million to the museum to purchase and begin the process of renovating the Longfellow building.

“It’s a win-win for all of us,” said Barbara George, the museum’s executive director.

“We’re the best option for them to have in that space,” she said. “We’re both in education, we’re both community-minded.”

The district has made no promises at this point.

The gift comes with a pledge from the donor to match funds in a capital campaign to raise money to complete the process of renovating the Longfellow building.

The donor was moved to action after reading a column in The Daily Herald in December that focused on many alumni’s remembrances of the school, George said.

The museum is still in negotiations with the school district over the sale. Among the issues under discussion are how much parking could be included in the transaction, George said.

Mike Gunn, executive director of facilities and maintenance for Everett Public Schools, confirmed the district had received an offer of $2 million to buy the Longfellow building.

The offer had some incomplete information, Gunn said, and the district was waiting for the museum to provide that.

The district is still moving forward in its plans to demolish the Longfellow building and build a parking lot on the site, he said. The comment period for the project closed Monday.

”At this point, our plan if everything stays on schedule would be to ask the board to authorize a call for bids on April 11,” Gunn said.

The Longfellow building at 3715 Oakes Ave. was built in 1911 and used as an elementary school until 1971. It later was used to house some of the district’s administrative offices.

The building has sat vacant since the administration moved into the new Community Resource Center in 2013. It’s occasionally been used for police training exercises.

The district has estimated that the building and its property are worth about $2 million to $3 million, but it would cost up to $8.5 million to bring it up to modern building codes.

The district’s efforts to sell the building were unsuccessful, so it has been preparing to demolish it.

That plan has been opposed by historical preservation groups, but there has not been any legal way to prevent the demolition from going forward.

“We’re getting support from the Washington Trust and the Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation,” said Jack O’Donnell, chairman of the Everett Historical Commission. O’Donnell also attended Longfellow Elementary.

“There’s several groups who think that’s a mistake, but maybe that will all be a moot point now with the good news,” he said.

The building is not on either the state or national Registers of Historic Places, but it does qualify for inclusion, O’Donnell said.

Renovations would be extensive and expensive, George said, because of the amount of asbestos in the building. The museum would try to preserve as much of the historical structure as it can, however.

The initial donation should be enough to buy the property and begin the renovation process. She couldn’t yet estimate when the museum would finally be able to reopen.

“We’re anxious to have a permanent home,” George said.

Chris Winters: 425-374-4165; cwinters@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @Chris_At_Herald.

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