The Everett Museum of History still needs a home, but it won’t be the old Longfellow Elementary School building.
That’s the bad news, but there’s an upside.
A donor, whose identity is no longer a mystery, is sticking with a pledge to help the nonprofit Everett museum group buy another building for its ample collection.
Barbara George, executive director of the Everett Museum of History, said the organization recently let the Everett School District know it was withdrawing from negotiations to buy the Longfellow building. The decision followed “a unanimous and painful vote” by the group’s board of trustees, she said Wednesday.
After months spent seeking agreement on terms of a sale, the deal went nowhere.
Hopes seemed high in March, when George revealed that a donor — wishing to be anonymous at the time — had pledged $3 million to buy and renovate the 1911 Longfellow building. The Everett district, owner of the former school at 3715 Oakes Ave., had previously said it had no viable buyer. District plans called for demolishing the building, later used for offices and storage, to add more parking.
About that donor, “she’s not anonymous anymore,” George said. It is the Elizabeth Ruth Wallace Living Trust, established after the death of a 92-year-old California woman raised in Snohomish County.
“I call her Aunt Bette, she’s my aunt,” said Cheri Ryan, 61, of Bothell, an executor of the trust. Wallace died Dec. 4 at her home in Mountain View, California.
A widow whose maiden name was Stadler, she was a 1942 Edmonds High School graduate. One of eight children, she grew up in Alderwood Manor. She and her pharmacist husband, Bryan Wallace, owned a drugstore in the Bay Area. Her wealth arose from sales of property in what became California’s Silicon Valley, home to tech companies and billionaires.
“My aunt liked to buy things. She had rentals, mostly duplexes,” Ryan said. “She didn’t set out to be an investor in real estate, but was buying at the right place at the right time.”
Ryan said her aunt’s assets were put into a living trust before her death. Wallace had chosen several charities, but left decisions on other nonprofits that would benefit to Ryan, her husband, Pat, and her brother, Kevin Stadler. Cheri Ryan is president of the Lynnwood-Alderwood Manor Heritage Association. Her brother is a Woodinville Heritage Society board member.
They chose the Everett Museum of History as a recipient after reading in this column about Longfellow’s illustrious alumni, including the late U.S. Sen. Henry M. “Scoop” Jackson and Stan Boreson, the “King of Scandinavian Humor,” who died early this year.
“I think the school district will turn it into a parking lot,” George said. “We went back and forth on a lot of issues.”
Negotiations were handled by Michael Finch of CenturyPacific, LLLP, a commercial real estate agency in Seattle. Finch could not be reached Thursday.
George said the museum group’s offer was $2 million for the building and another $1 million for renovations. She believes the district wanted to see more money for post-sale renovations and maintenance. And there were parking and other issues.
“There were so many rules,” George said, adding that the museum group didn’t really get to talk with Gary Cohn, superintendent of the Everett district, or the school board.
Mike Gunn, the Everett district’s executive director for facilities and maintenance, was also unavailable to comment Thursday.
“There were some minimum proposal requirements,” district communications coordinator Diane Bradford said. She said there was a gap of $4 million to $6 million in what the museum group offered and what the district required — “what it would take to get that building up to code, and show they could maintain it.”
Issues also arose over how land adjacent to the building would be used, Bradford said Thursday. The district now has nothing on its schedule related to the old school, she said.
“It’s a beautiful building. We’re very sad not to be able to save the Longfellow,” George said. That said, the fight to spare the century-old building isn’t over.
Dave Ramstad, president of the museum group’s board of trustees, is also a member and former board member of Historic Everett, a nonprofit that supports preservation efforts. Historic Everett leaders, he said, are working on a campaign to save the Longfellow building. “There are so many things that building could be to contribute to that neighborhood,” he said.
“Historic Everett will continue to battle. That’s their mission,” George agreed.
Ramstad and George said the vote to end negotiations was made in the museum group’s best interest. The donor, they said, is still willing to help find a new home for the museum that has hundreds of artifacts stored in the basement of the downtown Culmback Building, at the Everett Mall and in other spaces.
“We’re ready to move forward,” Ramstad said. The museum group is eyeing several possible homes in central Everett, “where the foot traffic, the excitement and the buzz are,” he said.
“This is a wonderful, wonderful city, warts and all,” Ramstad said. “I’ll spend the rest of my days to promote the love of Everett, and the preservation of it.”
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; jmuhlstein@herald net.com.