If nothing else, orders to stay home from Gov. Jay Inslee, Everett Mayor Cassie Franklin and others have an upside beyond the aim of preventing more COVID-19 cases. They’ve given us new appreciation for the places and pastimes we normally take for granted. A day in the park, enjoying people’s company, is one of those simple springtime pleasures.
Not this spring, at least not anytime soon. How delightful, then, that when visitors — children especially — do return to Everett’s Forest Park, they’ll soon find a massive new friend, albeit one made of concrete.
“Instead of a rock, like many playgrounds have for kids to climb on, here they’ll have the elephant,” said Bob Leonard, assistant director of the Everett Parks & Community Services Department.
On a recent day, before Inslee signed his stay-home proclamation, the 3,500-pound beast made of glass-fiber reinforced concrete was seen penned in a parking area near the roadway exiting the park. Nearby, workers were still on the job of renovating the Forest Park playground.
That’s where the whimsical looking gray pachyderm with the wonderfully crafted ears will find a home when the play area project is completed. The sculpture will be placed near the center of the playground.
“We like that piece,” said Leonard, adding that the 9-foot-long elephant was created by Themed Concepts, a Minnesota-based company that makes features for playgrounds, amusement and water parks, zoos, museums and resorts.
In January, The Herald’s Ben Watanabe reported that the Forest Park playground was undergoing a $900,520 renovation, including the addition of features to make it more inclusive. It was last updated in 1997, and in 2013 the Rotary Centennial Water Playground was added.
While it’s hardly crucial news these days, the addition of an elephant-shaped climbing sculpture is notable perhaps to park visitors with long memories.
Wait, a zoo? Yes, newcomers might be surprised to learn that the park housed more than 200 zoo animals beginning in 1914 until the attraction closed in 1976. The story was told in 2015 in an Everett Public Library podcast, “Requiem for Rosie,” written by librarian Cameron Johnson.
“The History of Everett Parks,” a 1989 book by Alan May and Dale Preboski, said a 1923 census of the zoo listed a kangaroo, four bears, two bison, three coyotes, a marmot, rabbits, mink, three elk, goats, a badger, raccoon and skunk. Later came lions, leopards, monkeys, an eagle, owls and free-roaming peacocks. Only those peacocks are still around.
Rosemary “Rosie” the elephant was donated to the city by Harold Rumbaugh, a prominent merchant who owned Everett’s Rumbaugh-MacClain Department Store. His business was at Wetmore Avenue and California Street, where Funko is today. Rumbaugh also co-owned circuses, and Rosie was brought to Everett after her time as a circus act.
“Rosemary Is Here and the Children of Everett Will Be Happy for Many, Many Years to Come,” said a Herald headline on June 13, 1951. Van Ramsey, who narrated the library’s podcast, told how the elephant’s long life here wasn’t meant to be.
The elephant died of an infection known as “foot scald” in October 1955.
Is Rosie buried in Forest Park? That’s something folks in Everett have heard for years.
“Yes, I’ve heard the rumor too,” said Leonard, who’s not sure whether or not the park became an elephant’s final resting place. “That was way before my time,” said Leonard, who’s been in Everett 23 years.
For now, no interpretive signage is planned to tie the concrete critter, as yet unnamed, to Everett’s old friend Rosie. “Maybe at some point,” Leonard said.
Before the coronavirus crisis, plans had called for the playground to be finished around Memorial Day. Now, we’ll have to wait and see.
When our world opens back up, surely that old headline will once again be true — children of Everett will be happy.
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; firstname.lastname@example.org.