On June 16, 1938, the title "Making Way For Progress" summarizes the viewpoint expressed in an editorial in the Snohomish County Tribune supporting the demolition of the old portion of the high school that once served as county courthouse. The purpose of the proposed demolition is to make room for a new building. "There is much sentiment connected with the bricks and mortar the wreckers will start disturbing next week, but we must forget sentiment when we think of the beauty and utility of the structure which will replace it," the editorial reasons.
The First Courthouse
The graceful Masonic Hall, which, beginning in 1886, stood on the corner of 2nd Street and Avenue C, was serving as the temporary county courthouse when construction of the first courthouse began in 1890. Snohomish was so broke at the time that restaurants were refusing to extend any more credit even for prisoners’ meals. Voters had failed to approve a bond issue for the new courthouse, so county commissioners issued their own bonds and built a handsome two-story structure on land donated by the Ferguson brothers on Avenue D, between 5th and 7th streets. A majority share of the $24,000 cost stayed in town with the purchase of brick from the local Bast Brickyard.
Snohomish County records were proudly moved into the first courthouse in 1891, but the records were barely properly filed in their new home when a series of hotly contested votes, appeals, and court rulings began and continued for years between Snohomish and Everett over which town would be the county seat. The contest finally ended in January 1897, with the removal of the county records from the six-year-old Snohomish courthouse in the middle of the night.
The Puget Sound Academy
The structure played host to new life almost immediately when the 12-year-old Puget Sound Academy moved from Coupeville, on Whidbey Island, to Snohomish in order to take advantage of the town’s rapid growth. Indeed, the school prospered and by 1902 its enrollment had increased by 100 percent. However, with increasing competition from expanding state institutions, and decreasing funds, the academy fell on hard times and four years later sold the building to the Snohomish School District for $7,500.
In 1938, federal officials condemned the old courthouse section of the high school. Investigators listed it as one of the most extreme hazards in the state and refused to permit federal funds for any other campus building until the conditions in the old section were remedied. Of course, skeptics wondered if the investigators arrived on the scene purely-by-chance, or were the timely inspections arranged in order encourage community support for a new building?
In any event, consensus seemed to be that the courthouse section was a firetrap because of an open furnace room under the oil soaked floors and an open attic of wooden rafters above; plus, the building was considered unhealthy due to poor ventilation and overcrowding. So, for many in the community it was way beyond time to demolish the old section.
A cornerstone, located in the southeast corner of the building since September 1890, held a time-capsule containing a “History of Snohomish County” written by Eldridge Morse, a list of county officers, statistics, business cards, an 1883 coin, and copies of the three local newspapers.
The new cornerstone was put in place June 1939, and its time capsule contains a roster and history of the old Puget Sound Academy, tax receipts from 1891, papers and documents of school district faculty, students, and directors of 1939; but no mention of a copy of the one local newspaper with its supporting editorial.