Carnegie library building: Part two

then and now animation
The historic image this month continues our celebration of the Carnegie library building’s 100th Anniversary with a wide view of what else was happening around town in 1910 — and it was not the sleepy Snohomish suggested by this photograph.

We wrote last month that the library opened for business on May 28, 1910, but it was dedicated two months earlier on April Fools Day. Governor Marion Hay attended the ceremonies held in the Eagles Hall on First (now vacant), along with Snohomish Mayor Wood, other elected officials and E. C. Ferguson, who presided as chair of the library board. The Governor spoke at length about the conservation of natural resources – an odd choice for a small lumber town enjoying a record year for earnings — but no report of how it was received. Following the speeches, the ceremonies moved to the new building itself that was still without lighting fixtures.

In the April 8, 1910, issue of The Snohomish County Tribune, it was reported that the city council approved an early release of the library board’s quarterly allowance of $250 since “tax collections are coming in fast.” (One condition of the city’s acceptance of the Carnegie $10,000 gift is that it would allot $1,000 per year to maintain it as a library.) The article also reports, “that the park board be allowed to expend some of [its] funds in fixing up the library grounds.” At the same council meeting, the women’s Cosmopolitan Club asked council members for a drinking fountain on the library grounds, which was still in place, but not working, when Arts of Snohomish removed it to make room for their sign.

Above the fold news, week after week, was the arrival of the Milwaukee Road to town and the construction of a new steel bridge at Avenue D.

Since the train would be running alongside the north bank of the Snohomish River, it would have to cross Avenue D at the bridge site, and the choice was between a crossing at grade or “undergrade.” The Chamber of Commerce held a second “mass meeting” on April 15, 1910, to reconsider the consensus reached at the first mass meeting held several months earlier. Seems that community feeling was shifting toward a crossing at grade, rather than going under the new bridge. May we imagine that the considerable savings for the Milwaukee Company to cross Avenue D at grade had some influence on the community’s change of heart?

Sadly, 1910 was the year that the iconic early Snohomish Atheneum building was deconstructed. Begun in 1876 by the local literary society, it was to be the city’s first library, a museum and meeting hall. The economy crashed, the society ran out of money, and the unfinished building was sold to Isaac Cathcart. For the next 30 years, the building was referred to as both Atheneum Hall and the Cathcart Opera House, depending on the activity I assume. Isaac Cathcart, once the county’s richest men died penniless. His son William built the brick building we see today at 1019 First with its storefront windows currently sporting large “For Lease” signs.

Outside of town, to the east, the corner stone for the Monroe reformatory was laid on May 28th with a potluck picnic ceremony. And to the west, the famous evangelist Billy Sunday brought his revival campaign to Everett in the summer of 1910. Don’t you love how the random events of history are the makings for a story?

And for the next 50 years the elegant, cozy building held our collection of stories comfortably until the 1960s when it became increasingly apparent to the library board that it was too small, and expensive expansion plans were proposed for taxpayers’ approval. This is where we will pick up the story of our Carnegie library building next month.



One of the earliest photographs of the Carnegie library building, an informative wide shot, is from the Maughlin collection given to the Society by Rebbecca Dickinson. The unknown photographer was standing in the intersection of First and Cedar Ave, just before sunset, to judge from the long shadows. The date could be determined once we learn when the new concrete sidewalks and curbs were added; while the sidewalk across Cedar Ave is still made of wooden planks. The building on the left is “Patrick’s Second Hand Store” — Emma Patrick was the first librarian when the library was located a former residence on this site — and the store was owned by her son Bill.

Today the old library building is hidden behind mature trees and an addition dedicated in 1968, which is currently home to Arts of Snohomish. On the left is the first gas station in town, and behind it is Bob Hart’s building of condominiums and storefronts that he named “Patrick Plaza.”

Published in the Snohomish County Tribune, June 23, 2010

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