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Port’s huge installations call on history
EVERETT - Years after the contentious demolition of the Collins Casket Building, the Port of Everett opened $400,000 worth of historical interpretive elements to the public this week.
“It was a very long, creative process,” port spokeswoman Lisa Lefeber said.
The historical installation was designed to showcase the three early economic drivers for the city­—lumber and shingle production, commercial fishing and boat building.
There is a huge sawmill rising up near the port’s headquarters, a huge boat at the Jetty Island boat launch and interactive displays.
The exhibits are essentially designed as a walking tour and are incorporated into different areas in the port, Lefeber said.
“It’s important for every place to honor its heritage,” said Valerie Steele, a former Historic Everett president. “Every place matters for a number of reasons, but it matters for the people who came before and built it, for the people who live here today and for the people in the future who will come here. How else will people know why Colby Avenue is Colby Avenue? Or what the Rockefellers have to do with anything? Or why the Wall Street Building is on Wetmore?”
(Because Everett’s forefathers wanted it to look like New York City, Steele disclosed.)
“You wouldn’t know it if you looked at the waterfront now, but it was covered in lumber mills,” Steele said. “Everyone’s livelihood was tied to the mills, even the merchants’ livelihoods were tied to the mills.”
The port commissioned local historians and brothers Larry and Jack O’Donnell to pull together the information used in the project. Their work, accumulated in a 153-page book, was then translated into the signage, Lefeber said.
“We had to look at what kind of content tells the best story,” she said. “How do you tell it in a cohesive manner? How do you connect it with the site?”
Under an agreement approved by the Port Commission in 2009 between Historic Everett, the port, the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation and the state’s HIstoric Preservation Officer, the installation would help offset the historical loss of the Collins Building to the waterfront.
When the port wanted to develop the North Arena, an area that included the Collins Building, many residents became deeply involved in saving the building.
“Because there was federal permits involved, certain things had to occur,” Steele said. During the permit process, the port agreed to install interpretive historical signage.
Additionally, part of that process was identifying places of historical significance, she said.
“People at the time correctly identified the Collins Building as one of those things,” she said.
The Collins Building, which was built in 1926 and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was acquired by the port in 1991 and later removed after it could not be repurposed or moved by the port.
The installation includes a number of art installations, interactive displays and also includes the informational website, www.historiceverettwaterfront.com.

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