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Wednesday, March 31, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.
Southwest Snohomish County
By Lynn Thompson
LYNNWOOD For years the old, half-timbered Tudor building stood next to the freeway, its stucco-and-brick walls covered with graffiti, its windows used to advertise cut-rate appliances.
Amid the modern scene of strip malls and gleaming franchise stores, the Wickers Building was something of an eyesore. It was moved, twice, to make room for Interstate 5 expansion, propped up beside a freeway overpass and nearly destroyed by arsonists in 2000.
That it stands today as a centerpiece of the city's nearly completed Heritage Park is nothing short of "a miracle," said Marie Little, a founder of the Alderwood Manor Heritage Association and a longtime advocate of saving the remnants of Lynnwood's rural past. The building's timbers have been restored to rich tones, its brick facade cleaned and pointed, its stucco repainted.
"Someone called me who'd driven by the park and seen the building," Little said. "They said they had tears in their eyes. They (had) thought the old building was gone."
The park, on nearly 3 acres just off I-5 at Alderwood Mall Parkway and Poplar Way, may itself seem an improbable feat. Through much of its young history, Lynnwood, which incorporated in 1959, was dedicated to all things modern: automobiles and their showrooms, malls and their shoppers, and wide roads that, until they became congested, sped drivers everywhere else.
In 1996, faced with the need for a new freeway offramp, the City Council authorized bulldozing 10 of 14 old farm buildings across from where the park stands today.
When the cost of moving the remaining four was determined to be more than the farm buildings were worth, the council sold all but a water tower. The heritage association later bought back a historic cottage from a man who had purchased it from the city and moved it to Arlington.
The structures dated to the early 20th century, when the recently logged area was sold as chicken farms to "gentlemen farmers" who lived in the rural setting and commuted to jobs in Seattle and Everett on the Interurban trolley. After preservationists and longtime residents lobbied the city, the council agreed to add the water tower and superintendent's cottage to the planned park.
The city spent $1.8 million on the first phase of the park and hopes to open it sometime next month.
Given its proximity to the freeway and so-called big-box stores, the setting is surprisingly tranquil. A parking lot opens onto a grassy courtyard edged by blossoming pear trees and benches.
At the south end of the plaza stands the 1919 Wickers Building, featuring a new porch that replicates the one it had when it was Alderwood Manor's first general store and post office. When the interior work is completed, the Snohomish County Tourism Bureau's visitors center will be on the building's ground floor. A service counter, historic photos and displays will be arranged much as the general store's shelves once were.
At the rear of the open-air plaza, a restored car from the Interurban, which ran between Everett and Seattle from 1907 to 1939, stands under a cedar-and-wrought-iron trolley barn. Though the car is partly restored, the city is still trying to raise money and locate original fixtures to add seats, luggage racks, a whistle, a cowcatcher and bells. The train's mahogany interior features inlaid floral patterns above the doors. Stained-glass windows arch above passenger windows.
"People who rode the Interurban still talk about how luxurious it was," said Little, who noted that the trolley ran during the Depression, when most residents lived in modest farms or in shacks.
At the north end of the park stands the 1917 superintendent's cottage, built for the man who oversaw a 33-acre demonstration farm that showed newcomers how to work their land and raise livestock. The building is owned by the heritage association and is being restored by volunteers with the help of a state grant.
Much of the siding was moved in pieces and remains unpainted; the interior walls still aren't up. When completed, the building will house archives and displays of the heritage association, and will be a historical-research center for the public.
The park and its restoration projects have inspired some longtime residents to contribute artifacts. Mountlake Terrace resident Ed Schoenholz, who was postmaster of Alderwood Manor from 1946 until 1964, recently donated his former postmaster's desk, a heavy library-style table that will likely hold a computer terminal for the public's use in the visitors center.
Walt Shannon, a former motorman on the Interurban and a Lynnwood resident, donated a collection of railroad schedules and an iron bell before he died in November.
The city hopes to find money for a second park construction phase that would add a historic water tower and small barn. Both buildings are badly weathered. The wooden water tower is propped at a precarious angle just yards from the superintendent's cottage, a reminder of how close all of the structures came to being destroyed.
"People thought we were crazy for saving them," said Laurie Cowan, a city parks planner. "Now I think they'll appreciate it. This is what means something to Lynnwood."
Lynn Thompson: 425-745-7807 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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