Council decision to remove funding for information panel at former high school portico angers Salish Crossing owner

A decision by the Edmonds City Council Tuesday night to remove funding for an informational panel at the old Edmonds High School portico located at the edge of the Salish Crossing parking lot has drawn the ire of Salish Crossing owner Lindsey Echelbarger.

In an effort spearheaded by Councilmember Dave Teitzel, the council voted 5-2 last November to authorize the spending of up to $4,000 for the information panel, with money coming from the council’s contingency fund. Teitzel, who is no longer on the council, said at the time the panel would educate passersby about the significance of the 1909-era portico, which Echelbarger saved from the landfill when the former high school was remodeled to house the Edmonds Center for the Arts.

Echelbarger developed the Salish Crossing complex at 190 Sunset Ave. after purchasing the former Antique Mall property in 2012. He also founded the Cascadia Art Museum, which is located in the complex.

Echelbarger funded construction of a support structure for the portico and placed it at the southeast corner of the Salish Crossing parking lot, with the idea of showcasing it as part of the city’s history. But Councilmember Kristiana Johnson has consistently expressed her opposition to having the portico at Salish Crossing, and also strongly opposed the city’s funding of signage for it.

The portico structure before it was removed from the high school.

During the Nov. 19, 2019 meeting when the informational panel was discussed, Johnson called the portico structure “fake history” because of the distance from its original location at 410 4th Ave. N. Council President Fraley-Monillas also opposed the panel signage, stating she didn’t believe the city should provide signage for private property. (At the time of the discussion,  city staff indicated there are several examples of the city getting an easement to locate city signage on private property.) Both Johnson and Fraley-Monillas were the two no votes on the proposal.

So on Tuesday night, Johnson had her chance to revisit the portico signage when the council was asked to approve a carryforward budget amendment ordinance — in which the council votes to roll over already-budgeted, but not-yet-spent items from 2019 into 2020. She asked Finance Director Scott James if the council could make changes to budgeted items that had already been approved last year, and James replied the council could. Johnson then proposed an amendment removing the portico signage from the carryforward list. The amendment was seconded by Fraley-Monillas and approved by a vote of 6-1, with Councilmember Diane Buckshnis voting no.

In an email Wednesday night, Echelbarger was livid, stating that “words barely express my anger about the council’s action.”

He noted that the $150,000-plus cost to re-erect the portico “was borne by my family as a tribute to our many relatives and all residents who graduated from that institution and walked through that doorway. Surely it is churlish and short-sighted for the city to refuse to fund a $4,000 historical sign for this landmark,” he added.

During Tuesday night’s meeting, Johnson said that she had been approached by members of the city’s Historic Preservation Commission, who were upset about the way the portico signage decision was made, believing that it should have been an effort they approved and coordinated. But at the time of the November 2019 council discussion, Teitzel said he had taken the matter to that commission and was told the decision was outside their charter — and for that reason they could not take a position for or against the sign. Instead, Teitzel said the commission asked him to take the proposal to the Edmonds Museum Board. Teitzel added he did present it to the museum board, which supported placing the portico signage at Salish Crossing.

— By Teresa Wippel

19 Replies to “Council decision to remove funding for information panel at former high school portico angers Salish Crossing owner”

    1. The portico structure now standing at the southeast corner of the Salish Crossing parking lot was originally located at the entrance of the old Edmonds High School, which was demolished to make way for the parking lot to the north of the ECA building.

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    2. The Jr High started as the high school, in 1957, when Edmonds High moved up to the new high school on 212th. I know, I was in the 8th grade in 1957. The Auditorium, offices, were added to the 1909 bldg in the 1930’s. I had my 8th grade block class on the 2nd floor of the old 1909 bldg.

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  1. Interesting when politicians become history experts…”Johnson called the portico structure “fake history” because of the distance from its original location.” Begs the question: how far away does a museum have to be away from its source material to be a just a building full of “fake history”?

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  2. $4000 seems like a small amount for such a great piece of Edmonds history – and to think the council just approved a new director of the parks and rec dept. with an outrageous salary of over $165;000 and their moving costs from the east side!

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  3. The memorial to the fallen Edmnds School District 15 boys lost in our wars has been moved 3 times. Four thousand dollars is a small price to pay to preserve and properly display a piece of our History.

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  4. $4000 is a joke. You gave your word and now stick by it. I wouldn’t have voted to give the money to a private property..that in itself could be a legal mistake…BUT..you already “gave” them the money so stick by your morals, give them the money agreed upon, and don’t do it again.

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  5. After reading the first post concerning the Salish Crossing portico, I have spent two hours looking up Edmonds history to hopefully make accurate statements concerning the history, location and moves of some of our Edmonds structure heritage. Granted I have lived in Edmonds for only 49 years. I have been blessed through the years of knowing several of the decedents of Old Edmonds. As one reads the Historical Society’s dedications on buildings and locations, one realizes that they are not always placed at the exact location they started out. For example, the Log Cabin where the Chamber of Commerce is located use to in North Edmonds. The Edmonds School District’s Veterans who died in a war obelisks have been moved three times. I was at the dedication of the Yost Shingle Mill’s plaque. Now that a part of the old mill is no longer at that location, will it be placed back after the new building is completed? Is any of this “fake history” simply because it is not near the original location?

    Even though I did not attend Edmonds schools, I have been proud of living in Edmonds. When a historical piece of Edmonds has been preserved such as the old Edmonds High School by Lindsey Echelbarger, I want to thank him and people like him for their caring and dedication to history.

    However, I do not understand why the city council has taken the stand they have. One would think that they would want to support a decision that has been made and support it.

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  6. This sign that was approved and funded should be allowed to go ahead. The ‘fake history’ claim is laughable, except that reversing a decision to support the signage is not a laughing matter. Saving and repurposing the portico has been accompanied by great public enthusiasm. The project fits beautifully with the small-town, historic ideals Edmonds says it values!

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  7. A promise from the city for funding should be honored. The portico does have historical significance and is part of a legacy worth saving. The claim of “fake history” is laughable, except for the fact that this is no laughing matter. The owners of Cascadia Museum have served us well by having the forethought to dredge the portico from the rubble of demolition and create a suitably artistic structure by which to highlight it. How shameful of the city council to even consider withdrawing this meager amount for interpretive signage!

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  8. As the sponsor of the proposal to create an informational panel for the portico structure, there are several facts that should be mentioned now. First, while a decision could have been made years ago to repurpose the portico structure at the original site of the old high school, the city leaders at the time the building was demolished decided not to repurpose the structure at the ECA site. Therefore, it was placed in storage and was destined for the landfill had the Echelbarger family not claimed and restored it. Fortunately, the item still exists for past and future generations to enjoy as an important element of Edmonds’ history. The informational panel (which will be similar to the one now displayed at the southern end of Sunset Ave) will feature a photo of the portico structure in its original location as well as a description of its history for passers by to read and enjoy. Second, our legal team has confirmed placement of the informational panel near the structure does not constitute a gift of public funds to a private entity. The property owner has agreed to provide an easement to the city for placement of the informational panel and the city will retain ownership of the panel. Third, the informational panel concept was presented to the Historic Preservation Commission to determine whether they would support it. Since the item is not now located in its original location, the Commission determined it would need to remain neutral about the proposal and recommended it instead be presented to the Edmonds Museum Board. That Board recognized the significance of the portico structure to Edmonds’ history and endorsed the proposal. Finally, in 2019, a City Council majority determined the proposal had been fully vetted and approved funding for the proposal on a 5 – 2 vote. Voting in favor were Mike Nelson, Neil Tibbott, Diane Buckshnis, Tom Mesaros and Dave Teitzel. Since a super majority approved the concept, it seems inappropriate the 2020 Council would now choose to overturn that vote. It is my sincere hope Council reconsiders its decision to withdraw funding for this worthy project.

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  9. This appears to me to be a “get even” proposal by the 2 no votes from the original passage. The other 5 are no longer on the council to defend their stance.

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  10. This decision represent the worst of Edmonds “small mindedness” on the part of our city council.

    Consider: Edmonds being the center of Washington States first “creative district;” rapidly becoming a destination location for people from around the state and overseas (check the zip codes of visitors at, say, the Cascadia Museum); over 2 million cars boarding the ferry every year now — every one of which has to go past the SR 104 & Dayton intersection; etc. What, pray tell, has the City Council done that has support these realities?

    To think that a pitiful $4,000 would be stricken from the budget allocation to help service and support the incredible investment that Lindsey Echelbarger has made and, in so doing, so radically upgraded the whole area between SR 104 and the train station is mind numbing. Further, he has invested an enormous sum of money and remarkable energy to bring Edmonds its first, world-class museum which already attracts visitors from around the world. As a 52 year resident, I’m ashamed at this action and implore the council to come its senses.

    At extraordinary personal cost and effort Mr. Echelbarger ‘saved’ the old school portico from the dump, stored it for years, and underwrote the cost of restoring/placing it where it is — memories for thousands of Edmonds residents who walked through that portico over the years.
    Admit you’re wrong City Council and take a redemptive step toward demonstrating a greater vision and understanding of what the spirit of Edmonds really is!! Is a $4,000 investment too great to encourage vital creativity and initiative on the part of our residents?

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  11. I believe all of the above comments, particularly Dave Teitzel’s, correctly outline the history of the portico since the demolition of the old high school building. The fact is, that piece of Edmonds history would be lost without the singular efforts of the Echelbarger family who saved the portico and paid for the reconstruction only after determining the city didn’t have the funds and/or inclination to do so. My three brothers and I attended Edmonds Junior High in that building and I’d like to add my voice to those calling for the city to mark its historical significance with a plaque.

    Also, as a longtime volunteer at Cascadia Art Museum I can also add an “on the ground” perspective as to how the people of Edmonds have reacted to the reconstruction of the portico. While of course this is completely anecdotal, I can say categorically that the initial construction piqued a lot of interest and anticipation, especially after people learned what it was and why it was being put up at Salish Crossing. Since the unveiling we continue to get questions about it and near-universal approval and support for it. I believe the people of Edmonds are justifiably proud of their community, concerned about the rapid pace of development, and applaud any efforts to preserve a piece of its history.

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  12. I too am a volunteer at the Cascadia Art Museum from its beginning five years ago and can attest to the interest and applause of visitors who are impressed with Edmond’s historial perspective and the value added to our commuonity of its preservation.

    I remember when the portico was just disjointed pieces of concrete lying on a floor of an unoccupied store next to the Cascasdia Art Museum when the museum was still under construction in the old Safeway store, and thinking what a huge gift it was that the Echelbargers had planned to estblish this facade as as a part of the Salish Center. And what a huge project it would be to undertake.

    I found it beyond embarrassing to read that our city council does not see its value to the city, does not honor the gift the Echbargers gave us in the reconstruction, and has taken this thuoghtless action. Hopefully they are reconsidering the decision.

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