Saving Stanwood’s ‘little gem’

STANWOOD — In the Great Depression, Stanwood got a new city hall.

Now, as the effects of the current recession slowly lift, the city is repairing the old building to the tune of $92,000 from the city’s capital savings fund.

It’s a cost-saving measure, since a new building would have taken closer to $1 million from city coffers. The repair project also preserves history at a time when city officials are asking other property owners in the old downtown area to do the same.

“City Hall is a little gem,” said Pearl Schaar, an architect, a former planning commissioner and a volunteer with Design Stanwood. “It has nice forms and is worth saving.”

Works Progress Administration employees helped build the Art Deco-style City Hall, which was dedicated on Sept. 30, 1936.

According to “The Stanwood Story” by Alice* Essex, it included a stage, ballroom, orchestra pit, kitchen, council chambers, jail, offices, and indoor restrooms, at a time when many people still had outhouses.

Some people remember City Hall’s use for grange dances and others remember that the city also leased space there to Twin City Foods for administrative offices.

Earlier this year, Mayor Dianne White enlisted the help of Schaar and Planning Commissioner David Eldridge, a trustee with the Stanwood Area Historical Society, to guide the city in its approach to the restoration project.

Community Development Director Rebecca Lind was pleased.

“Historical restoration is part of our economic development plan,” Lind said. “The city is investing in the draw to downtown, too.”

Though City Hall’s roof and exterior stucco were in major disrepair, its basic structure was in good shape, Eldridge said.

“We’re trying to restore it to its original glory, and I think its going to look pretty good,” Eldridge said. “It’s nice that we are seeing rehabilitation of older buildings in town. It just adds to the character of our community.”

Schaar did a quick study of the Art Deco architecture of the 1930s. She suggested a new font for the signs on the building, along with cream and beige exterior colors accented with metallic gold on the building’s arrow-like decorative elements. The city plans to go out for bid on new signs, a new entrance railing and new landscaping more appropriate to the 1930s, Lind said.

After the roof, the primary focus of repairs has been to the stucco exterior. School district officials, who had similar work done to Stanwood Middle School, directed the city to Tom Regney of Snohomish. As a contractor for Garland Industries, he and Pioneer Masonry of Seattle have repaired all the cracks on the building and applied waterproofing.

“A lot of maintenance on City Hall had been delayed because of the economy,” Lind said. “We’ve been frugal with this project. We’re getting a lot of positive comments.”

Gale Fiege: 425-339-3427;

* Correction, Aug. 6, 2012: This article originally used an incorrect name for Alice Essex.

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