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Group hoping to save doomed Longfellow Building

EVERETT — About one dozen preservationists on a special errand fought icy winds at the old Longfellow Elementary building at 3715 Oakes Ave. on Friday.
They taped and retaped bright red and pink poster board love letters onto the old school building as the wind tried to pry them off: “This place matters,” “save the school” and “love me, don’t leave me,” they read.
Paul Popelka of the group Historic Everett, plus Longfellow alumni, neighborhood residents and other members of local historical societies were “heart bombing.”
A “heart bomb” is a modern technique to show appreciation for historic buildings, and in this case, a peaceful protest against demolition.
The Longfellow may not stand much longer, and community members are doing everything they can to convince the Everett School Board to preserve it for posterity, though the winds of change, too, are against them.
Jan Carlson, a Longfellow student from about 1944 to 1949 remembers it fondly as the place she learned “respect and compassion for one another,” a place where “individual differences were tolerated and understood.”
Jack O’Donnell attended Longfellow too, from 1950 to 1957.
“I remember everything,” he said, from the mandatory naptime that never suited him to the “wonderful” teachers. Even the rumor that the principal kept an electric chair in his office for misbehaving kids.
The threat of demolition has loomed over Longfellow for several years. Despite its age, it’s on no historical register that might shield it.
One barrier is the cost to modernize the 1911 structure.
The Everett School District estimates it would cost $9 million to refurbish the building and another $5 million over the next 20 years to maintain it.
Torn down, the building and its annex would net the district 64 purposeful parking spots adjacent to Everett Memorial Stadium, where the AquaSox play.
A 2017 purchase offer from the Everett Museum of History offered only a short reprieve; it fell through within months. In 2018, plans to raze the Longfellow were moving ahead until the lowest bidder came in at $2 million, which gave pause to district leaders who’d estimated the demolition at $600,000 less.
The school board was scheduled to vote March 5 after press time on whether to allow surplussing of the Longfellow’s contents for sale to a contractor. Doing so would make the building less attractive to developers, strengthening the case for demolition, fears Patrick Hall of the city’s Historical Commission.
Preservationists envision the Longfellow not as a district holding but a vibrant community hub, whether a McMenamins-style eatery and inn or modern condominiums within a nostalgic frame.
The love notes put Popelka in a musing mood, and said he was
reminded of the poignant Joni Mitchell lyrics: “Don’t it always seem to go That you don’t know what you’ve got ‘till it’s gone They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.”
But despite the winds, the valentines stayed up. The preservationists persist.

 

  

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