EVERETT — Until a few months ago, the remnants of Art Deco glam were the only evidence that 1611 Everett Ave. was once a grand gathering space: an original chandelier, dustily glittering overhead, or mirrored paneling reflecting off itself in the entryway.
The imposing brick building has served many functions in its 102 years as a fixture of downtown Everett. It was built in 1921 as a community center and gym for the local Knights of Columbus chapter, then in 1928 became a Masonic temple for most of the rest of the 20th century.
It became Club Broadway in the 1990s. But for the past 15 years or so, the only tenant left in the National Register of Historic Places-listed building was an off-track betting site. The rest of the formerly glorious community hub sat frozen in time, draped with cobwebs.
Now, the building’s new owner hopes to transform it once again into a vibrant center for the whole community (and beyond) to gather, dine and drink and take in all Everett has to offer. Its new name is the Apex Art and Culture Center, but Apex spokesperson Sherry Jennings affectionately refers to the old structure as simply “1611.”
Jennings said 1611 was built with the intention of drawing Everett’s residents together in the midst of the city’s worst growing pains. The Knights of Columbus, who used the building as a meeting hall and a gym, dedicated the building upon its construction to group members who had died in World War I. The city was still reeling from the Everett Massacre of 1916, too, in which seven people died during a confrontation between labor unions and police.
“It was kind of sad, really, that this beautiful old building that was created to be a space for Everett to come together, to heal, was not living up to that purpose any longer,” Jennings said. “We’re trying to bring it back to its roots in that way.”
In mid-January, the building was abuzz with construction workers and designers working to bring its old charm into the modern age. A bricklayer was restoring a wall in the building’s grand entryway. Interior decorators worked to transform one of the building’s disused bars into a classy new cocktail spot to be named El Sid after Sex Pistols frontman Sid Vicious, a favorite icon of the owner’s.
Downstairs, a massive space with a wraparound ’50s-era mural of the New York City skyline was being transformed into a high-end steak and sushi spot. Chef Joel Childs, most recently of The Chef Behind the Curtain in Snohomish, has been tapped to helm the project, which Jennings said will feature top-notch steaks alongside creative Asian fusion offerings. The skyline mural might end up being adapted for the modern age, Jennings said, but the original 1920s plush green velvet booths will remain unchanged.
Upstairs, around several twisting corridors and labyrinthian staircases, a high-ceilinged hall once probably used for banquets and Masonic gatherings now plays host to a dozen vividly colored canvases bearing the work of top graffiti artists.
Apex owner John Carswell has amassed one of the world’s largest collections of graffiti on canvas, known as the Dogtown Collection, Jennings said. The center will serve as a museum displaying the works pride of place, with the curated displays in the banquet hall moving as needed to transform the space into a wedding venue or party spot.
Pieces of the collection hang throughout the building’s many rooms, just steps from paintings and murals that have been part of the building since the start. Several pop brightly off the dark walls of Kings Hall, a cavernous room that once played host to a disco-themed nightclub. The space is named in honor of the renowned graffiti artists, known as “kings” among their peers, whose works are housed within.
Live music will return to the restored stage on Feb. 18, with all-female AC/DC tribute band Hell’s Belles headlining the launch party. The opening show was originally set for mid-November, but Jennings said the building sustained some minor damage during a freak windstorm early that month that required some time to regroup.
Everett Music Initiative founder Ryan Crowtherhas big dreams for Kings Hall. His group, which has promoted local acts and events since 2012, is partnering with Apex to put on the opening show.
Crowther said the 800-person hall is the only one of its size in town besides Angel of the Winds Arena, and he believes it’ll draw bigger acts than ever before to Everett with the added bonus of a more intimate, exclusive-feeling space. The Seattle-based, nationally touring Hell’s Belles are just the beginning.
“Folks imagined something like a McMenamins setting up shop in this building when it was empty, they were excited for a big group to come and activate this piece of history,” Crowther said. “But nothing is more exciting to me than someone from this area coming back, investing in the city and throwing everything they’ve got at drawing folks to our town.”
Crowther said Everett has “a long way to go” in the recreation and nightlife scenes — that’s why he founded Everett Music Initiative over a decade ago. He feels the Apex Center will be a big step in the right direction. The graffiti museum alone is unlike anything else in the region and could bring people from all over the world just to see it, Crowther said.
Plus, Kings Hall is the perfect venue to serve as center stage for the initiative’s annual Fisherman’s Village Music Festival. Now in its eleventh year, the festival is expected to draw thousands of attendees to see local and national acts perform around downtown Everett from May 18 to 20. A festival lineup announcement show will be held Feb. 4 at Black Lab Gallery, 1805 Hewitt Ave.
With its central location and so many other reasons to stop by, Crowther thinks the Apex Art and Culture Center will show everyone what Everett is capable of. And it’s only going to grow from here, he said.
“What John (Carswell) is doing here is building the opportunity,” Crowther said. “He’s creating the space we need to get the community activated, to support the space going forward and whatever else may come of it. Apex really has something for everyone — I don’t know if there’s anywhere else in Everett that can say that.”
Riley Haun: 425-339-3192; email@example.com; Twitter: @RHaunID.
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