SNOHOMISH, Wash. – Snohomish’s oldest public building, the esteemed 111-year old Carnegie Building on First Street and Cedar Avenue, finished its recent restoration without leaving the city a penny in debt thanks to two state-issued grant funds.

In 2017, Snohomish council directed staff to develop a restoration project for the building utilizing $1,650,000 of existing city funds but state and other funds were needed to fully actualize the vision.

John Kartak
John Kartak, Mayor of Snohomish

Senator Steve Hobbs (D) helped secure a $500,000 grant from the state in 2018, to be used for his project. Other local representatives, including then State Representative Jared Mead and Representative John Lovick, helped secure a second $500,000 grant in 2019 for a total of $1 million, enough to add to existing funds to the cover the cost of the restoration without the city going in debt – a tremendous feat.

“This was a very difficult, exciting and rewarding project to see through to its end,” Snohomish Mayor, John Kartak told the Lynnwood Times. “The building is beautiful and enhanced with modern amenities. I am very pleased with the hard work from my city staff, Accord Contractors, and ARC Architects for preserving a piece of Snohomish history.”

History of the building and restoration process

The historic building was erected as the Carnegie Public Library in 1910, funded by the national Carnegie Foundation, which remained a library until 2003 when the city built the Snohomish Public Library on Maple Avenue. Following the construction of the library, the building was used as an event space for the community until 2007 when it was found to be unsafe.

Snohomish held multiple public hearings to determine the future of the historical site. The council and residents were overwhelmingly in the favor of restoring it back to its glory.

Ideas and public input were introduced at the September 12, 2017 public meeting, and at the October 17, 2017 meeting, the City began working with ARC Architects to assist in public outreach, and provide: preliminary design, plans and cost estimates.

At the January 11, 2018 meeting, the project conducted a community open house to review and comment on building concept development.

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Steve Schuller

“When we held our first town hall, we had a room that fit over 100 people, which is a lot for a city of our size. It was so full that we had people pouring out of the hallways. The community engagement from the beginning was tremendous,” Steve Schuller, City Administrator for the City of Snohomish, told the Lynnwood Times.

The preferred concept plan was presented and approved by council in Spring of 2018. At that time consultants completed preliminary construction drawings and cost estimates.

The city and nonprofit Carnegie Education Foundation underwent an extensive process to plan for the restoration of the old Carnegie Library resulting in three master plans: the first published in 2005, one in 2011, and an updated and final plan later that same year.

Snohomish Carnegie Educational Center Building Addition Design. Source: BOLA Architecture + Planning & The Berger Partnership.

The extensive Carnegie Building outreach efforts showed a strong public interest in preserving and improving the original 1910 library building, removing the 1968 Annex, and restoring the surrounding property to provide public gathering spaces.

Upgrading the building involved bringing it to be up-to-date with current earthquake codes, involving seismic retrofitting, and, replacing the roof. It was also upgraded to be ADA compliant providing wheelchair ramps and elevators.

Perhaps one of the building’s most intriguing and historical qualities are the printer’s marks, which were often used for buildings like libraries in the 1800’s through the early 1900’s, including the Congressional Library in Washington, D.C.

The printer’s mark is that of William Caxton, the man who first printed the Bible in English. The four tiles, located under the roof on the westside of the building, were restored by removing multiple layers of paint during the removal of the old annex.

“It really was a neat way of rediscovering these marks. It might be the first time anyone living today has ever seen those,” Schuller told the Lynnwood Times.

City Project Manager Brennan Collins began the Carnegie building’s restoration in November 2019 beginning with a study of the property. The annex, which was added in 1968 to allow additional meeting and office space, was removed upon realizing it would be more expensive to restore.

“I feel so lucky to be a part of this. It was so exciting getting to work on a project like this. You just don’t see many opportunities like this in one’s career and I’m really looking forward to see the community being able to enjoy it,” Collins told the Lynnwood Times.

After construction began in 2020, the restoration of the Carnegie Building was fully completed in 2021 under budget and on schedule. The renovation preserved the building’s 1910 charm with the addition of four new bathrooms, air-conditioning, ADA accessibility, a 90-inch presentation screen, built-in speakers, microphones, and central heating.

“Operating costs will actually be less now. The bill in the winter-time was over $1,000 a month for heating. And now we have a much more energy efficient building and a much more energy efficient heat pump,” Steve Schuller told the Lynnwood Times.

One of its most impressive features is the 7-foot 1915 chandelier consisting of over 1,000 Czechoslovakian crystals that were cleaned, one-by-one, by the members of the Carnegie Foundation after receiving the chandelier as a donation from the city of Everett. The outdated electrical parts were replaced with LED power at the base to be more energy efficient and prevent from flickering.

“There’s some folks from the Carnegie foundation that have been pushing for this for over a decade. I’m so happy to see those guys, who have wanted this and dreamed of this for so long, to see it actually come to life. It’s been really exciting, it was a super exciting project to be a part of,” Brennan Collins told the Lynnwood Times.

Current state and public availability

Now that one of the oldest building’s in Snohomish’s long-awaited restoration is complete, City Administrator Schuller told the Lynnwood Times that people travel from all over to see it, sharing memories they had of the building growing up. 

Carnegie Building. Source: City of Snohomish.

“It’s a very rare opportunity for any community to be involved in a project like this. It’s been just a very special project. And people really have strong feelings about this. People come from all over to see this project and they have tears in their eyes,” Schuller said. “It’s been a beautiful thing to see the building come back to life, in a new way, after 50-plus years,”

The State Historic Preservation Office awarded the project the Valerie Sivinski Award for Outstanding Rehabilitation in 2021.

The Carnegie Building is available to rent for private events and gatherings. For more information on renting, including pricing and reservation availability email bender@snohomishwa.gov or visit https://www.snohomishwa.gov/Facilities.

Kienan Briscoe

Michael Kienan Briscoe (referred to by his middle name 'Kienan') has a BA in Journalism from Arizona State University and has worked as a freelancer for a variety of publications and organizations throughout New York City and Seattle. Journalism, to him, is one of the most important public tools to ensure an educated and aware society of events surrounding them. When he is not reporting he enjoys writing fiction and poetry, playing guitar, reading classic literature, and getting outdoors. He lives in Seattle with his two dogs.

Kienan Briscoe has 87 posts and counting. See all posts by Kienan Briscoe

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