Have you seen the new sculpted artistic metal plaques that have been cropping up in downtown Edmonds? The ones that look like theater stages?
It’s all part of the “Stages of History” walking tour, the newest addition to the Edmonds Arts Commission’s ongoing Fourth Avenue Cultural Corridor project, and it’s a great way to learn about local history yourself and one more way to show off Edmonds to visiting guests.
Three years in the making, the project includes not just the plaques, but also a brochure with a map showing their location, and website with in-depth information and stories from Edmonds’ past. Many of these stories were collected from interviews with long-time residents who lived this history, and include personal and anecdotal information not available elsewhere. From early schools, to the introduction of the automobile, to the establishment of the Edmonds South-Snohomish County Historical Museum, each plaque introduces you to the flavor of life during different stages of Edmonds history.
“It’s taken three years, 23 pieces of stainless steel, 107 bronze castings, 53 pieces of etched brass, and countless hours of working with the City, the Arts Commission, and the citizens of Edmonds…and there’s still more to do,” said artist Judith Caldwell, who conceived, designed and constructed the plaques, and was the creative force behind the project.
“I wanted to make something special and enduring for the citizens of Edmonds, something more than just words on brass,” she said. “Edmonds has such a rich history, and I wanted this project to be a catalyst to help citizens understand and enjoy the story of how Edmonds came to be the place that it is.”
Edmonds Cultural Services manager Frances Chapin oversaw the project, and worked closely with Caldwell and other contributors to make it a reality.
“It’s been my hope from the outset that this project would bring together art, history and culture in a way that will enhance understandings of our past and appreciation of our present,” she said. “It has been extremely rewarding to work with Judith and all the others involved from the outset, and to watch the project progress from ideas to plans on paper to the actual physical reality we see today.”
The project was partially funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Preserve America program, which seeks to strengthen regional identities, local pride and preservation of local cultural assets by providing matching funds for projects that enhance heritage tourism, education, and historic preservation planning. Additional funding came from the Edmonds Arts Commission, the City of Edmonds Lodging Tax Fund, the Edmonds Arts Festival Foundation and the Hubbard Foundation.
Learn more about the Edmonds Stages of History project and download a brochure and walking tour map here.
— Story and photos by Larry Vogel