Photo courtesy of Gail Chism
The Lowell community comes out for an American Red Cross fundraiser at the Lowell Drug Store in the first half of the 20th century.
Lowell searching for its history
Photos, artifacts needed for neighborhood’s 150th project
EVERETT - Lowell has grown a lot over the years, but it has kept its fierce independent spirit and its roots still run deep.
Lowell will celebrate its 150th anniversary in 2013 (Everett annexed the area 50 years ago).
Longtime Lowellite Gail Chism is leading the effort to create a book to commemorate the area’s sesquicentennial anniversary. The project may expand into a DVD of what doesn’t make it into the book.
With a band of fellow Lowellites, Chism is asking people to search their homes for pictures, artifacts and text related to Lowell. The Lowell Civic Association she’s building the book for is a nonprofit. Donations are tax deductible.
“History taught us what we save is what we value” and people “lament what’s gone,” Chism said.
In Chism’s old family room, stacks of Lowell history line the walls. The group has some of the book’s contents already figured out and the rest is yet to come from contributors.
“We don’t know yet” what we have, project volunteer Jaime Ste. Joan said. She’s a second-generation Lowellite.
The group set up a Facebook page at Facebook.com/LowellWA-150 for people to contribute stories and history. Former library historian Margaret Riddle is conducting interviews with people.
A brief history
“The early history of Lowell is the story of one man’s ambition and energy: (Lowell’s founder) E.D. Smith,” writes Don Berry, author of “The Lowell Story.”
Smith fostered Lowell’s growth for 20 years before newly arrived land magnates such as Henry Hewitt and Everett Colby came calling. Hewitt and Colby saw growth for the Everett peninsula and made their fortunes there, but not before Smith sold them his northernmost land.
Smith brokered a deal with Hewitt to build a paper mill in Lowell. The Everett Pulp and Paper mill lasted 80 years, eventually becoming the Simpson Lee mill. The mill closed in1972 because of state Department of Ecology cleanup requirements, Berry wrote. Lowell’s economic base plummeted.
The city of Snohomish, which early Lowell residents associate with almost as much as Everett, was founded a few years later. The first baseball game between Lowell and Snohomish happened in a field along the Lowell-Snohomish River Road.
A number of residents stayed in Lowell for generations. Chism, Ste. Joan and fifth-generation Lowellite Beth Buckley can tick off dozens of family names.
Lowell has an independent grit to it, Chism said. “We like our small town feel.”
In 1962, Lowell fought hard to stay independent from annexation.
Why exactly Lowellites fought it is unknown. Ste. Joan thinks it was because Lowell was happy with its septic system and didn’t want to switch to sewer. Buckley thinks it’s because of increased taxes. Both women were young teenagers at the time.
Buckley said she thinks she remembers her family had a “No Everett” sign in her front yard.
At the time, nothing was around Lowell except the Pinehurst area just north of it. Everett mostly didn’t grow southward until the 1980s.
“It was woods all around,” Ste. Joan said.
An all-volunteer Fire Department kept the population safe, and the roads were dirt.
Buckley remembers she would ride her bicycle to Snohomish. Nobody worried about the kids playing baseball at night. An alleged ax murderer lived across the river, but nobody worried.
Driving from Lowell to Everett was like driving to Seattle, Ste. Joan said. Her father used to joke that the entire Seattle-Everett corridor would become one contiguous clump of urban growth, but 50 years ago nobody thought it would actually happen.
Today, Lowell has a growing arts scene and has retained most of its historic homes, albeit some recent duplexes have been built.
Chism came to Lowell in 1964, two years after Everett annexed it and two years before Interstate 5 demolished through the western side of Lowell. She’s no stranger to Everett politics and protecting Lowell.
She fought against a microwave tower Burlington Northern Santa Fe wanted for communication operations in 1992. Later, she fought against development at the former Simpson mill site. That battle is ongoing, as the city contracted with a developer to build a large multiuse development there.
To learn more about the book project and contribute to the history project, check out the Facebook page at Facebook.com/LowellWA-150 or call Gail Chism at 425-258-9381.
By MICHAEL WHITNEY
Published Jan. 18, 2012