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NORTHWEST HISTORY ROOM
 

From the high peaks of the "Boeing Boom" to the low valleys of the "Boeing Bust," the 1970s was a time of dramatic, irrevocable change in Everett history. This tumultuous transition period of economic boom and bust, south-end expansion, population change, public works projects and a retail exodus from downtown is expertly documented in this collection of images by City of Everett photographer Neil C. House.

The 1970s in Everett

Everett enjoyed a period of remarkable economic and population growth in the 1960s. Several south-end communities like Edgewater, Lowell, Pinehurst and Beverly Park were annexed in 1961 and 1962. The geographic reach of the city doubled and the population soared. On July 25, 1966, Boeing announced it would build its 747 jumbo jet plant in Everett. Thus began the short-lived but jubilant period known as the "Boeing Boom." 

The late 1960s was a time of unprecedented growth and optimism in Everett.  By 1965, Boeing was the region's major employer. The aerospace giant employed 101,000 people in the Puget Sound region in mid-1968. The stretch of Interstate 5 from Everett to Marysville opened in 1968, and many other new highway projects—such as the Boeing Freeway (Highway 526) between the 747 plant and the Eastmont Exchange—were completed at this time.

However, as the airline industry declined, orders for all aircraft—including the Everett-produced 747—fell dramatically. By October 1971, Boeing employed only 37,000 in the region. In Everett alone, Boeing employment fell from 25,000 to just 7,000. The economic blow ricocheted through the community. People moved out of Everett in droves in search of opportunities elsewhere. The Everett School District shut the doors on three of its 14 elementary schools. Unemployment was at its highest since the Great Depression. The economy slowly started improving again in 1973. Boeing introduced new models and received more orders for the 747.

As the local economy rose and fell with Boeing, it became clear that Everett's "mill town" past was just that—a thing of the past. Everett's shingle plants were gone. Many lumber mills closed, and the entire lumber mill era, which had long defined Everett, ended in 1979 when Weyerhaeuser closed Mill B after 64 years in operation. The Simpson Lee Company closed its pulp and paper mill in 1972. Only three pulp mills survived until the end of the decade. Of those, only one—the Scott Paper Company—made it to the 21st century.

As further evidence of Everett's dramatic change, the once vibrant downtown retail core was destroyed by competition from the new Everett Mall in South Everett. The mall opened near the old Broadway cut-off on October 9, 1974. It boasted 2,8000 parking stalls and 550,000 square feet inside "Snohomish County's first climate-controlled shopping center."

Mayor Robert Anderson tapped some federal funding for public works projects, including parks improvement and a downtown beautification program. Nevertheless, the fight to keep a robust retail core downtown was in vain. Most shops within a six block radius of Hewitt and Colby Avenues closed. Even the dime stores like Woolworth, Kress and Newberry disappeared.

The Photographer & the Collection

Neil C. House was employed as the official photographer of the City of Everett from February 1975 to October 1977. Using a Nikon F2 camera and seven different lenses, House documented an era of change in Everett. As a city employee, he was tasked with recording the official functions of several city departments such as Police, Fire, Planning, Public Works (including Streets, Water, Sewer and Engineering), Parks, Transit and City Council. House learned about many diverse municipal government functions—from the water system to arson investigations—with the aid of his camera. In 1977 House began working as an on-call photographer for the Police and Fire Departments. He shot evidence photos of fires, crime scenes and autopsies. House was there with his camera to "help the police do their work." These photos are not part of the Everett Public Library collection and are not available online.

In addition to documenting the work of city government, House also captured the hustle and bustle of everyday life in Everett, such as shopping, parades and Salty Sea Day celebrations. Photos taken to document street and sidewalk conditions are included in this collection. They are a unique source of documentation on many houses and neighborhoods throughout the city. He captured both the new growth along Evergreen Way, the waning retail scene on Colby Avenue and efforts to revitalize Everett's struggling urban core.

House has described his work with the City of Everett as "an amazing experience."

Using the Collection

A selection of several hundred of House's photographs are presented here.  Photos taken to document street and sidewalk conditions are included in this collection, as they provide documentation of many houses and neighborhoods throughout the city. Pictures dated prior to 1975 are the work of other City of Everett employees.

Because of the sheer volume of photographs, we recommend you use the predefined searches from the drop-down menu on the left to explore the collection. These searches are organized according to subject and geographic coverage:

Everett North of 41st—172 views of streets, neighborhoods, businesses and houses in north Everett.
Everett South of 41st—49 views of streets, neighborhoods, businesses and houses in central and south Everett.
Houses—87 views of houses and residential areas in Everett.
People—99 views of people in Everett enjoying parks, parades, festivals and daily life.
City Council—72 views of city council meetings, members and special events.
City Employees—79 views of City of Everett employees other than City Council members.
Public Works—50 views of various streets, water, sewer and other public works projects.
Photographs of Public Works personnel are generally included under City Employees.
Police and Fire Departments—52 views of Police and Fire Department personnel, activities and events.
Parks Department—12 views of the Parks Board and parks in the city.
Other photographs of park department events and people in the parks may be found under People.
Transit Department—11 views of city buses and Transit Department personnel.
Waterfront—33 views of the Everett waterfront, port, marina, boats and ships.
Industrial Areas—15 views of industrial areas in Everett, including the city dump.
Maps & Drawings—17 aerial views and sketches of neighborhoods and projects in Everett produced for the Planning Department.

Special thanks to Jack O'Donnell, Larry O'Donnell, Clay Parks, Georgia Perez and Dale Pope for their assistance identifying so many of the places and faces documented in these photographs.

 

David Dilgard
History Specialist
2702 Hoyt Ave.
Everett, WA 98201
T: 425-257-8005
F: 425-257-8016
E:

 

Lisa Labovitch
History Specialist
2702 Hoyt Ave.
Everett, WA 98201
T: 425-257-8005
F: 425-257-8016
E: