Outside Everett’s old Longfellow Elementary School building in 2016, local historian Jack ODonnell recalled his time attending the school in the 1950s. The Longfellow building, where Henry M. Jackson attended school, is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Outside Everett’s old Longfellow Elementary School building in 2016, local historian Jack ODonnell recalled his time attending the school in the 1950s. The Longfellow building, where Henry M. Jackson attended school, is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Longfellow building on National Register of Historic Places

The listing is an honor, but it wouldn’t save the old Everett school if the district decides to tear it down.

The Everett school building where future U.S. Sen. Henry M. “Scoop” Jackson learned his three Rs is now on the National Register of Historic Places.

Targeted for demolition several years ago by the Everett School District, the 1911 Longfellow Elementary School building was listed on the National Register July 30. That’s no guarantee the building at 3715 Oakes Ave. will ultimately be spared, but it lends weight to preservationists’ untiring efforts to save it from the wrecking ball.

“At least it does put people on notice,” said Jack O’Donnell, a local historian who attended Longfellow in the 1950s. “This is an important building. It’s associated with important people, primarily Senator Jackson and, to a lesser degree, Stan Boreson.”

As a boy, Jackson lived in a house at 3602 Oakes Ave., just a block north of Longfellow. The senator died in 1983 at age 71. Boreson, an entertainer known as “the King of Scandinavian humor,” was an Everett native and Longfellow alumnus who died in 2017.

The National Register listing came a month after State Historic Preservation Officer Allyson Brooks announced the building’s inclusion on the Washington Heritage Register.

Patrick Hall, who submitted the National Register nomination on behalf of the nonprofit Historic Everett group, received confirmation of its listing in an Aug. 6 letter from Brooks. That followed a May 25 vote by the city’s Historical Commission recommending the building be listed on the National Register. It was last used as a school in 1971.

“The school represents a rare surviving example of an educational facility from Everett’s boom time in the early years of the 20th century,” wrote Brooks, also director of the state’s Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation. The building represents the work of local architect Wesley W. Hastings.

“Being on the National or state register does not offer protections. The only protections would be at a local level,” Brooks said by email. The National Register, overseen by the National Park Service, and the Washington Heritage Register “are honorary,” she added.

Several years ago, Hall was part of an effort to fight an Everett district plan to demolish the Longfellow building to make way for added parking near Everett Memorial Stadium. And Hall was on the district’s Longfellow Property Advisory Task Force in 2019.

Although Hall said the task force’s work was unfinished, due to the pandemic and a change in district leadership, the group ranked possible uses for the building: school district programs, district-related athletic programs, community use, housing and demolition.

Mike Gunn, Everett School District chief strategist for facilities and planning, said there are currently no plans to tear down the building. “Patrick Hall did a really good job” in preparing the National Register nomination, Gunn added.

“It wasn’t just me who worked on it,” Hall said. Among helpers were Historic Everett President David Chrisman, the group’s board member Paul Popelka, and Abby Nelson, a high school student from Snohomish.

In 2018, the Everett school board was split over the issue and failed to pass a proposal to start demolition. The lowest tear-down bid had come in at about $2 million, $660,000 more than district estimates. According to the Longfellow task force webpage, the three-story building and its annex, built in 1956, “are in poor condition and need significant interior, exterior, mechanical, electrical, structural, ADA and life safety reinvestments.”

In the distance from I-5, the cream-colored edifice appears sturdy and impressive, an Everett landmark next to the stadium. After its school days, it was used for district offices and support facilities until 2013.

A National Register listing places no restrictions on what a non-federal property owner may do, up to and including destruction, according to the National Park Service — unless a project receives federal help.

Locally, the 2010 demolition of the 1926 Collins Building on the Everett waterfront, once the North Coast Casket Company, still stings among those who fought for years to save it.

“It was a shame losing it,” O’Donnell said of the three-story, old-growth timber, post-and-beam structure. The Collins Building was listed in 2006 on the National Register.

As of Tuesday, Brooks said there were 2,936 sites in Washington on the National Register, but in terms of individual buildings that’s an undercount. A historic district, counted as one, could include hundreds of houses, Brooks said.

There are about 50 Snohomish County listings on the National Register, among them Everett High School, the Marysville Opera House, Stanwood’s D.O. Pearson House, the St. Anne Mission church at Tulalip, and historic districts in Everett and Snohomish.

Gunn said the future of the Longfellow building is “ultimately up to the school board.” Right now, he said, the district’s focus is on “bringing kids back.”

Julie Muhlstein: jmuhlstein@heraldnet.com

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