Preservation Stewardship: Startup Event Center, Startup (Snohomish County)
The Preservation Stewardship Award goes to the Sky Valley Arts Council for the rehabilitation of the Startup Gymnasium. The building was constructed in 1937 as a Public Works Administration project but had outlived its functional capacity for the Sky Valley School District and fell into disrepair. For five years, volunteers contributed thousands of hours of hands-on labor to restore this building. Their work included a new roof, siding, and windows, followed by new plumbing, electrical, HVAC, insulation, and dry wall. Today the building is serving the community once again.
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In the middle 1930s, an able group of community volunteers in Startup, Washington pooled their skills and built a brand new multi-story school classroom building, and a talk of the town gymnasium complete with lunchroom for the kids from the adjacent classroom building.
Many a generation graduated from that school, many of whom still live in the local area. Many met at school, got married and they and their kids are still in the community.
The gym saw dreams of basketball championships come true........and fade away with all the cheers still echoing from the stands. And the building's massive stage saw many a school play, band concert, and graduation ceremony.
Then came the declining years, the District build new schools and this once proud and vibrant campus was left to the starlings, pigeons.......and rats. Along the way, the classroom building was demolished and removed from all but fond memory. The grass is mowed regularly now where it once stood in its gleaming white, like a young bride.
But the District continued to use the gym for storage of everything imaginable. And the years crept every by and finally the new building had given its all and the structure began to fall apart.......the roof leaked and the lathe and plaster was coming down from the lunchroom ceiling.......and the rats had taken over.
The District didn't have the budget to fix the building........and they lacked the funds to demolish it..........it was the topic of debate for years. In fact, on several occasions, I stopped for a look through the broken windows to see it perhaps I should consider purchasing the place for some yet undefined purpose.
Then in 2015-2016, I happened by to see someone actually working on the very Chinese stylized main entryway outside woodwork. This was my first encounter with Rick Cross. It turns out that Rick lives a few miles away, is a Boeing retiree.........and is a woodworking magician.
That meeting was followed by my introduction to Debbie Copple, who was managing the huge project of bringing this lovely Lady of a building back to a proud and productive new life under the auspices of the Sky Valley Arts Council. At last, with the nominal lease to the Arts Council, the District had solved its long term dilemma.
Debbie manages the Sky Valley Visitors' & Information Center in nearby downtown Sultan. She's been around the area since Moses, and knows Everyone worth knowing!! She is a one of a kind, dynamite package of a woman. If you want it done........just ask Debbie.
While grant money was funding the new roof and siding........Debbie was organizing volunteer work parties who knew how to handle a shovel and take basic instructions. And how to eat a hearty lunch provided for all hard workers!
Now, That sounded interesting.......sandwiches, pizza, donated main dishes, cookies, pop and country conversation with all sorts of new people who were all there to donate part of their soul so that this building could continue to live on to serve the community once again.
It didn't take me long to become aware that what this group needed was Mr. Demo Man......and with my Contractor blood racing through my veins........well, I didn't need to be told what to do.......I just took over the interior demo part of the project.
Even my company, Pest Control Northwest, was called into action to rid the building of a parade of rats. With the building a veritable sieve, the rats had free rein for years.......until I showed up to bring the hammer down!!
Now......this was the very first volunteer work project I had ever sunk my teeth into......and somehow during 2016 I worked over 400 hours and was selected as the Sky Valley Volunteer of the Year!! What an unexpected honor!
So with this achievement, I was initiated into the local community, as now........one of them!! And over the years, just a handful of us are still working on repairs and upgrades to this wonderful structure that is now serving as the Startup Event Center.
And after becoming so involved with all the details, the personal reward for being 'married' to this Lady, is so much more than I ever imagined the satisfaction could ever be. Knowing that our group labor.......our personal investment in our community that will be enjoyed for generations to come, is almost a tearful awareness. I am so grateful I had the fortunate opportunity to step in and help when I could.
My upcoming project is to warm up the large stage area. So, armed with a case of caulk to seal the underside of the tongue and groove wooden stage floor I will once again set off to create some perfection where none was every called for in the past. Then insulate that area.
And to complete this job, I will go down one more level into the crawl space and do the same........seal the ceiling in-between the massive joists (in this case) and insulate it, too. Then on the long term list, is to demo the back stage wall of its lathe and plaster, seal the wall, perhaps add more electrical outlets to the walls, then insulate the back wall some 14' tall, and this job will be close to complete.
No pay, no applause, the deafening roar of one hand clapping........doing it because it's My project, and I'm going to do it right for all those to come after me to enjoy. Thanks for letting me be the loose cannon on deck, Debbie.
Living a life that's going to keep on giving long after I'm gone..........