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Backed by John D. Rockefeller and other Eastern capitalists, Everett, Washington burst into existence in the early 1890s as a planned industrial city. The Port Gardner peninsula, on which the new city was situated, saw its population balloon from a few dozen in 1890 to several thousand a couple of years later. Easterner Charles Colby and Tacoma industrialist Henry Hewitt, known as the "Father of Everett", were foremost among the founders. Two major streets which cross to form the main downtown intersection carry their names and the city itself was named for Colby's son Everett.
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During the early boom period prominent buildings of the diversified industries were erected, along with downtown business structures and hundreds of residences. Perhaps the most striking edifice was the Hotel Monte Cristo, named for the newly discovered Cascade Mountain mining district that contributed to Everett's formation. With a commanding view of Port Gardner Bay, this ornate wooden structure of towers, turrets and a vast wrap-around porch symbolized the optimism of the city's founders. Today there are few traces of the early industrial buildings and the Monte Cristo site at Pacific and Kromer avenues now houses a new hospital facility. Many houses from the era have survived. Among the most significant are the Swalwell Cottage (2712 Pine Street), the McManus House (2528 East Grand Avenue), Sumner Residence (2328 Cleveland Avenue) and the Clark Home (2129 Rucker Avenue). Also, many of the brick business buildings are still standing today; the Swalwell Building (2901 Hewitt Avenue), McCabe Block (3120 Hewitt Avenue), Brue Building (3410 Everett Avenue) and McCrossen Building (1814-20 Hewitt Avenue) are examples.
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The early boom period ended with the national financial panic of 1893 and the city suffered through economic doldrums until the turn of the century. Then "Empire Builder" James J. Hill, who had brought his Great Northern Railway to the Port Gardner peninsula in 1893, picked up the remnants of the Rockefeller enterprise and transformed Everett to a mill town. Soon, Port Gardner Bay and the Snohomish River, which frame the peninsula, were lined with lumber and shingle mills. City population tripled from less than 8,000 in 1900 to nearly 25,000 in 1910. Everett gloried in its "Mill Town" reputation, which was further enhanced when the massive Weyerhaeuser Mill B opened on the river front in 1915. The mills from the era are gone today but several significant downtown buildings are still standing. The Everett Theater (2911 Colby Avenue), Carnegie Library (3001 Oakes Avenue), Commerce Block (1801 Hewitt Avenue) and Everett High School (2416 Colby Avenue) are a few of the structures erected during that period. Many fine homes were built during the time, as well. The Rucker Mansion, arguably Everett's premier residence, was erected in 1904 by the Rucker family on the hill that carries their name. Still standing, this elegant home provides a splendid view of Port Gardner Bay and much of the city itself. Another prominent house which survives today is the Butler/Jackson home (1703 Grand Avenue). It was built in 1910 by William, a powerful banker who virtually controlled Everett for nearly half a century. Later the house was purchased and occupied by U.S. Senator Henry M. Jackson and his family.
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Mill Town Everett prospered with the rest of the nation through most of the 1920s. This prosperity was reflected in a major downtown building boom. The crown jewel of this construction period was the newer Monte Cristo Hotel (1507 Wall Street). Built in 1925, this beautiful brick structure became a center for civic, social and cultural events. The Medical and Dental Building (2730 Colby Avenue), Everett's tallest building to that date, opened the same year. The main floor tenant, J.C. Penney, was a signal that Colby was replacing Hewitt as Everett's main retail street. While their uses have changed, both buildings have survived into the 21st century. Among other buildings still existing from that era are the YMCA (2720 Rockefeller Avenue), Central Building (1719 Hewitt Avenue), Hodges Building (1804 Hewitt Avenue), Everett City Hall (3002 Wetmore Avenue), and the Knights of Columbus Hall (1611 Everett Avenue). Everett General Hospital (1321 Colby Avenue) and Everett Providence Hospital (916 Pacific Avenue) also were built during this time. Providence has been demolished to make way for a new structure. The General building exists now as a part of the Providence Medical Center Colby Campus.
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Everett suffered through the Great Depression of the 1930s with the rest of the nation. Two of the few highlights in downtown were the openings of the new Everett Public Library (2702 Hoyt Avenue) in 1934 and the Everett Civic Auditorium (2415 Colby Avenue) in 1940. Both still serve the public today and the library has been significantly expanded. Also, Floral Hall, a rustic structure of unhewn timbers, was a W.P.A. project completed at Forest Park in 1940. Paine Field, south of Everett, was created with W.P.A. funds in 1936. Though it was dismal decade for business, two local pulp mills, Soundview in 1931 and Weyerhaeuser Mill A in 1936, were built on the Everett bay front. Along with Everett Pulp and Paper Company, a vestige from the Rockefeller years, they marked the city's emergence as a prime pulp producing center.
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World War II brought major changes to Everett in the 1940s. A huge naval shipyard was constructed on the Everett bay front. With more than 6,000 employees, it was far and away the largest industrial plant to that point in the city's history. Two downtown buildings were used for the construction of parts for the Boeing airplanes being used in the war effort. Paine Field was taken over by the U.S. Army Corps and experienced a multi-million dollar expansion. Federally funded housing projects were developed in the city to serve the influx of new families. With most eligible young men heading for military service, a serious labor shortage developed. As a result, women entered the labor force in unprecedented numbers. "Rosie the Riveter" was proof that females could do jobs previously performed exclusively by men.
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Following the war, the military/industrial factories disappeared and Everett returned to its lumber based economy. The population surge that came during the War years continued. The official census of 1950 showed 33,849 residents, which was misleading because much of the growth was occurring beyond the city limits. Hemmed in by its peninsular geography the city grew the only way it could - to the south and southwest. Vacant tracts soon were covered with houses in suburbs such as View Ridge, Madison and Claremont. The school district responded with seven new elementary schools in the period from 1947 to 1957. In 1947 the district also built Everett Memorial Stadium on a 20-acre site southwest of 38th Street and Broadway. In 2006 it is still the largest outdoor athletic facility in Snohomish County. Downtown, the Medical and Dental Building received a mid-1950s addition that virtually doubled its size. Scott Paper Company bought the Soundview Pulp Mill in 1951 and added a large paper making facility. Weyerhaeuser built a new kraft mill in 1953 and vied with Scott as the city's largest employer, each having approximately 2000 employees. Significantly, B & M opened Everett's largest grocery store ever on a site at 4800 Highway 99 South. It was a forerunner of the shift of the shopping venue from downtown Everett to points south.
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The late 1950s marked the beginnings of large suburban annexations that would bring the city population to more than 50,000 in the mid 1960s. The new K Mart in 1966 was the first of the mega markets that would spring up along Evergreen Way (previously Highway 99 South). The interstate freeway between south Everett and Seattle opened in 1965 and ushered in a new commuter age. Downtown Everett changed in the mid-1960s with a new Seafirst Bank building at the southeast corner of Hewitt and Colby avenues; a multi-story parking garage across from the Bon Marche, downtown's biggest department store; and a large annex to the Snohomish County Courthouse.
On July 25, 1966, the Boeing Company announced that it would produce its new 747 airplane in a gigantic plant to be built adjacent to Paine Field. Boeing already employed more Everettites than any other company and now it would become the dominant Everett industry. By the late 1960s, the company was assembling the world's largest commercial jetliner in a Casino Road facility billed as the world's largest building by volume. There had not been such a cataclysmic shift in Everett's economy since the creation of "Mill Town" in the early 1900s. Soon the freeway was expanded through north Everett. In 1969 the Sears Roebuck department store moved from downtown to a new facility on south Everett's Broadway Cut-off. It was the beginning of the Everett Mall, which would become the community's largest shopping center.
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The 1970s brought challenges. The aircraft industry took a nosedive. Puget Sound Boeing employment plunged from over 100,000 to less than 40,000 by late 1971. The forest products industries were in rapid decline. The venerable pulp and paper plant in Lowell was among the mills that disappeared when it closed its doors in 1972. Unemployment reached levels not seen since the 1930s. The economy had improved by the end of the decade but certain truisms emerged. "Mill Town" Everett was largely gone, perhaps best signified by the closure of Weyerhaeuser's giant Mill B plant in 1979. Downtown was in a downward spiral with the closing of businesses creating an increasing number of vacant store fronts. South Everett was growing as a residential, commercial and retail area.
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By the 1980s, Everett was familiar with the cyclical nature of the aircraft business and actively seeking additional industries to stabilize the city's economic base. Through the actions of Senator Henry M. Jackson and community leaders like Mayor Bill Moore, the city put itself in the running for a U.S. Navy base. Jackson passed away in 1983 but momentum continued and in mid-decade the Navy announced that a new station would be built on site of the old World War II shipyard. Ground was broken officially on November 19, 1987 and the facility was finished in the early 1990s. Despite its dwindling retail presence, downtown was firmly established as a governmental, financial and professional services center in the 1980s. The 10 story glass faced Wall Street Building on the northwest corner of Wetmore Avenue and Wall Street opened in 1980. It was Everett's tallest building to that date. A year later the 254 room West Coast Everett Pacific Hotel was built on a site east of downtown and adjacent to Interstate 5. The local hospitals, General and Providence, were undertaking major expansions in the 1980s, as were the Everett School District, Everett Mall, Port of Everett, City of Everett, and General Telephone Company. The Seaway Center, a 4,000 + acre industrial park, was taking shape near Paine Field and the number of retails establishments around the Everett Mall continued to grow.
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Everett entered the 1990s on a roll that, to a large degree, is still manifesting itself today (in 2006). The completed Navy base became the home port for the U.S.S. Lincoln aircraft carrier and several support vessels. By the mid 1990s, Boeing had completed a mammoth expansion project for completion of its entirely new 777 airplane. At the same time significant new structures were going up in the downtown area. The 14-story Everett Mutual Tower on the southwest corner of Colby and Everett avenues would usurp the Wall Street Building as Everett's tallest. On the northeast corner of Hewitt and Colby avenues the Colby Center would house Frontier Bank, an eminently successful financial institution, and other professional offices.
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The first years of the 21st century have resulted in more change and growth. After a vigorous recruiting effort by the state, county and city, Boeing announced it would build its new 787 Dreamliner aircraft at the Everett plant (by 2008). In 2002 a classy new 3-story Everett Station designed to bring ground transportation facilities together in one location, opened on Smith Street adjacent to the railroad tracks. Shortly thereafter, the Everett Events Center, covering two full city blocks along Hewitt Avenue from Broadway to Oakes Avenue was completed. Professional sports, top flight entertainment, business expositions and conferences now occur in a facility that can hold up to 10,000 for performances. The Everett Events Center (renamed Comcast Arena in 2007) is credited with revitalizing downtown Everett. Snohomish County government solidified its downtown presence with a $170 million expansion on its three block campus. To date, it is the largest single construction project in downtown's history.
As of this writing in 2007, Everett's population has edged over the 100,000 mark, and the city seems poised for more growth. Work has begun on a $300 million North Marina enterprise with additional boat moorage for the west coast's 2nd largest marina, commercial and retail businesses, condominiums and other amenities to the Everett bay front. There is talk of a similar development on the former Nord Door factory site to the north. Plans are underway for mixed development along Everett's Snohomish Riverside; there are hundreds of acres of vacant property that once housed mills and Everett's landfill. The Skotdal family, responsible for many recent downtown improvements, plan to build a 19-story skyscraper, Everett's tallest, on the northwest corner of Hewitt and Wetmore avenues. Other downtown and south Everett high-rises are on the drawing board.
Interestingly, exactly 100 years after its incredible "Mill Town" growth spurt, the city is experiencing another period of growth and change. There seems to be the resources, energy, vision and geography to make this change as dramatic as that which happened a century ago.
Updated by Larry O'Donnell 8/07. Historic photos courtesy Everett Public Library NW Room.