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Renewed Snohomish Carnegie Building nears its debut

Michael Whitney photo

The interior of the main floor of the Carnegie.

SNOHOMISH — It’s been a long time coming.
A hometown group spent years of resolve to restore the Carnegie Building, at First Street and Cedar Avenue, into a community center. 
Now, the Carnegie has a date for its unofficial debut. 
The public can get a tour Thursday, May 6 from 3 to 7 p.m. Rental requests are actively being taken and a few have already toured, city economic development manager Wendy Poischbeg said.
As of April 8, fewer than three dozen people had toured it. “When folks come in, they can’t believe it,” Poischbeg said.
Immediately coming into the upper room, look up and find the crystal chandelier that glows with new LED lights. Look around and find warm, cream-colored walls and walk on the original 1910 flooring. The city bought new, custom tables and a kitchenette to let the room be configurable for functions.
Downstairs, there’s space for meetings and more.
Both rooms received modern sound systems and televisions.
Snohomish Carnegie Foundation president Melody Clemans “never, never gave up,” said her friend and fellow Foundation member, Candace Jarrett.
This 18-year journey started with a vision to create a community space.
“It’s beautiful and breath-taking,” Clemans said of the finished product. The restoration is “an incredible statement to the city’s and community’s commitment to our history.”
Foundation members put in time and effort. Foundation Foundation members put in time and effort. Foundation members painted the interior and buffed the woodwork to its original luster.
They painted the main room’s tall walls by using scaffolding. All that painting? “We were tired, we did it one day,” Clemans said with reminiscent cheer.

Michael Whitney photo

The front exterior of the Carnegie.

The restoration project for the city’s oldest public building made it almost identical to its 1910 appearance. 
Today’s exterior paint, Hubbard Squash, replicates a period-correct color, Jarrett said. Building decorations known as printer’s marks and a line of tiles were exposed for the first time in more than 50 years after a chemical treatment removed a few old paint layers.
The group isn’t resting as there’s more to accomplish.
City project manager Brennan Collins, who led the reconstruction project, is working to bring the veterans memorial to the lawn. The memorial is temporarily placed at the G.A.R. Cemetery in west Snohomish. 
It moved so crews could demolish a one-story addition that was grafted onto the building in 1968 to expand the library.
The old-growth cherry tree at the corner made way to open a large lawn. It could serve as a park for downtown, Clemans said.
Jarrett highlighted that community members revived a large copper beech tree in the back by yanking clumps of invasive ivy out.

Michael Whitney photo

The fabulous chandelier inside the main floor of the Carnegie which is a visual centerpoint from up high.

Everybody talks about the chandelier, which stands almost seven feet tall and is made of Czechoslovakian crystals. It practically fell into their lap.
It was obtained from an Everett funeral home that was closing, but it first hung in Everett’s Carnegie Building. Rose Brittain of Snohomish’s Bauer Funeral Home alerted the group about it being available and intact; Keith Rasmussen and nephew Enoch pulled it for the Foundation, Jarrett said.
Each crystal was delicately taken off for restoration; some were boxed in Jarrett’s garage before being ready for cleaning and reassembly in March. Sharon Bates of Snohomish’s TroyBeck Antiques gave a few replacement crystals to fill in gaps, Jarrett said.
By the way, it’s now on a mechanical system that lets it now be raised and lowered.
It took working with the city to find more than $2.5 million in grants, and consistency from elected leaders to continue devoting attention to the Carnegie, but also much work behind the scenes.
It was seismically retrofitted in the early 2010s through a federal grant. A roof leak found in 2017 posed a major setback and closed the building indefinitely.
The building may look small, however “it’s the right size for our community,” Clemans said.
The city plans to rent the building for conferences, gatherings and wedding receptions, Poischbeg said.
The Carnegie was Snohomish’s public library for decades. It was one of some 2,500 which Scots-American industrialist Andrew Carnegie paid to build across America, and one of about 1,150 still standing.
For the restoration group, though, “Day One” was July 30, 2002, when past city manager Larry Bauman learned Sno-Isle Libraries would
relocate to today’s bigger library on Maple Avenue, Clemans said. 
A group coalesced with a vision to restore it. Some have passed, such as founding member Bill Bates and consultant Fred Lighter. Other founding members, such as Anne Eason and Cathy Reines, have stayed on during the long journey. 
The Snohomish High Class of 1962, which Clemans, Jarrett and many other locals graduated from, is certain to hold its reunion here.
The city plans to rent the space out and will soon introduce software to automate booking the rooms and billing events, Poischbeg said. The city plans to rent the upper and lower floors simultaneously, with events running into the evening. When people book a room, they get half the parking lot designated for their event, Poischbeg said.
Foundation members can imagine what the Carnegie will host for its next 100 years. It will get a lot of use, Jarrett said.
And as the group says for their motto, they hope all will tell a friend: “Meet Me at the Carnegie.”

Public gets first glimpse inside Carnegie

Doug Ramsay photo

Carnegie Foundation member Terry Lippincott points out prominent historical features that were restored on the front facade of Snohomish’s Carnegie building during public tours on Thursday, May 6 of the recently restored building. Tours went inside the building, too. The city plans to use the Carnegie for private event rentals and small public meetings.





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