Everett’s first park comes to life

From labor protests to family picnics, Everett’s first park was a chestnut-tree-lined hub of civic life for many years.

Amateur filmmakers Elle Ray and Lloyd Weller bring Clark Park’s past to life in a documentary debuting tonight at the Everett Performing Arts Center.

“It’s a documentary about Everett’s first park and the people who gathered there,” said Weller, who is also a digital photography instructor at Everett Community College.

Weller’s previous work includes an oral history on the late Sen. Henry M. “Scoop” Jackson and a piece on Tulalip salmon-fishing culture.

Ray and Weller use old photographs and digital editing to weave interviews with 13 people together into a narrative on Clark Park.

The married Everett couple and an assistant took about two years to complete the half-hour documentary, “Such A Special Place: Clark Park.”

It was funded through a $10,000 grant that the Everett Office of Neighborhoods awarded to the Bayside Neighborhood Association.

The park’s history includes a girl’s unsolved 1948 murder, summer concerts and ice skating on tennis courts flooded by the fire department.

The park’s Stumphouse, a shed made from the stump of a fir tree that was more than 11 feet across, represented Washington’s timber industry at the 1902 World’s Fair in St. Louis.

The park was built in 1894, a year after the city was founded. It was the height of a depression, yet residents voted 613-26 in favor of floating a $30,000 park bond.

While the fledgling city had fallen on hard times, then-Mayor Norton D. Walling challenged the City Council to buy land anyhow.

“One of the most influential and profitable educators among civilized nations is the elevating influence of public parks and grounds,” he said at the time.

The same year, the city bought the block bounded by Oakes Avenue and Lombard Street and 24th and 25th streets for $21,535.

Everett Mayor Ray Stephanson said the purchase illustrates the city’s strong commitment to parks from its beginning.

Everett now has more than 40 parks, including trails and two PGA-rated golf courses, a rarity among smaller cities.

“It’s important to remember the days when just one park stood strong at the center of our community as its heart and soul,” Stephanson said.

The park was first named City Park and was later renamed in honor of businessman John J. Clark in 1931.

Clark left Wisconsin in 1892 to pursue riches in the West. He moved to Everett and invested $100,000 in one of the city’s first commercial buildings, according to “The History of Everett Parks,” by Allan May and Dale Preboski, both former reporters for The Herald.

Clark overcame adversity in business, and unlike city founders Henry Hewitt and Charles Colby, he lived and worked in Everett, city historian David Dilgard said.

Clark died in 1922.

The film highlights the memories of ordinary people who enjoyed the park.

It features interviews with longtime residents such as Fern Neatherlin, whose grandparents lived next to the park.

City Councilman Drew Nielsen is also featured in the documentary. He recalls playing in the park’s gazebo.

Weller said the documentary will help prevent the voices of ordinary people from being lost in the shadows cast by the city’s industrialist founders.

“It’s easy to remember Everett as the lumber mill town whose existence was mapped out by wealthy Eastern men,” Weller said. “What’s often overlooked are the lives of the children and the mothers who provided the stability that is the foundation and the heart of any community.”

Reporter David Chircop: 425-339-3429 or dchircop@heraldnet.com.

Clark Park film tonight

What: “Such a Special Place: Clark Park,” a documentary about the city’s first park.

Where: Everett Performing Arts Center, 2710 Wetmore Ave.

When: 7 p.m. tonight

Cost: Free

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