Citizens commemorate centennial of 1909 courthouse fire and rededicate the refurbished Snohomish County Courthouse on August 2, 2009.

  • By Margaret Riddle
  • Posted 11/30/2011
  • Essay 9972

On Sunday, August 2, 2009, Everett citizens celebrate the renewal of the 1911 Snohomish County courthouse with a tour of the facility, a display and program about its history, and a ribbon-cutting ceremony to mark the building's rededication. The date also marks the 100th anniversary of the fire that destroyed Everett's first county courthouse, which was replaced by the current Mission-style building. Both the old and the new courthouses were designed by architect August Franklin Heide (1862-1943). Sponsors of the commemoration are Historic Everett, the Snohomish County Historical Commission, and the Everett Public Library. 

The 1909 Courthouse Fire

The event recalled the catastrophic fire that destroyed Everett's first Snohomish County courthouse, built in 1897. At 3 p.m. on August 2, 1909, sparks from the J. K. Healy blacksmith shop at 3014 Wetmore Avenue ignited a pile of loose hay on the floor below. The wooden building was soon fully aflame. A strong northwest wind spread the fire quickly, and it soon damaged the Wetmore Avenue fire station, located only a few feet away. Flames next engulfed buildings of the Everett Livery and Transfer Company, the Northern Transfer Company, and the Iles and Newman Carriage Works. The blaze then ignited moss on the wood-shingle roof of the Snohomish County Courthouse. Within a few hours all were in ruins. In the final toll, 12 buildings were lost and three damaged.

Architect August Heide, who had designed the original Chateauesque courthouse that was destroyed, was hired to draw up plans for a new building. Retaining three arches that survived the fire, Heide designed the new courthouse in Spanish Mission Style.

The new Snohomish County Courthouse was under construction throughout 1910 and into the early months of 1911, during which time the county's official business was conducted out of a small annex that survived the flames. There seems to have been no official dedication of the new building, but it opened for business on April 1, 1911. Most of the furnishings were still not in place at that time.

Courthouse Rehab

The ceremonies celebrated completion of a project paid for in part by two grants from the State's Historic County Courthouse Rehabilitation program. The grants -- the first in 2007 and the second in 2009 -- provided $273,502 of the final cost of $862,588 needed to rehabilitate the historic building. Funds from a partnership between Snohomish County, Washington state, and Everett paid for replacement of the roof, structural stabilization of the clock tower, and repairs to the building's façade.

The Snohomish County Courthouse is on the National Register of Historic Places. Snohomish County was granted $119,174 for courthouse roof restoration in the State's 2005-2007 biennium. Rehabilitation work included removal and salvage of the original clay mission roof tiles, which were cleaned and reinstalled. Broken and missing tiles were replaced, in part from a stock of surplus tiles that had been stored by the county. The roof work included soffit and sheathing repair, underlayment, and flashings. In addition, the County funded structural stabilization of the building's clock tower and replaced membrane roofing on a 1952 courthouse addition.
In the 2007-2009 biennium the project received a second grant from the State, in the amount of $154,328. This was used to fund window rehabilitation and to restore the exterior stucco masonry, which was patched, repaired, and painted.

The Day's Events

The ceremony began at 10:00 a.m. with a courthouse tour conducted by Everett Public Library historian David Dilgard, followed by a talk on "The Historic County Courthouse Rehab Grant Program" presented by Allyson Brooks, director of Washington's Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation. At noon participants met outside the courthouse for a ribbon-cutting ceremony and the symbolic presentation by the state of an oversized check, representing the second funding grant. Display panels, designed by David Chrisman of Historic Everett, were on display in the courthouse, recapping the building's history and detailing the restoration project.  

Participants included County Councilman Brian Sullivan, Snohomish County Executive Aaron Reardon, Everett Mayor Ray Stephenson, Everett City Councilman Drew Nielsen, Falken Forshaw of the Snohomish County Historical Commission, Valerie Steel from Historic Everett, and Allyson Brooks, representing the Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation. Relatives of architect August Heide traveled from out of state to attend. The commemoration ended with a slide show at 2 p.m. presented by David Dilgard at the Everett Public Library. 

Sources: Noah Haglund and Diane Hefley, "A Century Has Passed Since the Snohomish County Courthouse Burned Down," Everett Daily Herald, August 1, 2009 (; Online Encyclopedia of Washington State History, "Fire Destroys the Snohomish County Courthouse in Everett on August 2, 1909" (by Margaret Riddle), (accessed November 29, 2011); David Chrisman (Historic Everett), email to Margaret Riddle, November 24, 2011, in possession of Margaret Riddle, Everett, Washington; Chris Moore (DAHP), email to Margaret Riddle, November 23, 2011, in possession of Margaret Riddle, Everett.

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