Stanwood's 'big place' making comeback

STANWOOD — The score of the big high-school game that autumn day in 1913 was Stanwood 32, Arlington 6.

The score is still scratched on the wall of a downtown building here. Neither the numbers nor the building have been erased in the nearly 90 years since.

The building, now the Floyd Norgaard Cultural Center, is being restored by the Stanwood Area Historical Society. No one is sure when it was built.

"We don't actually know who built it," said Dennis Conroy, the project manager.

Research shows the building apparently was constructed about 1905 and in 1907 was sold to the Odd Fellows, who used it as a meeting hall until 1939. It was then sold to a hardware-store owner, who used it as a warehouse for 60 years.

The result is that it was both neglected and preserved — no one tried to "modernize" it.

That's why the scores from long-ago high-school games are still on the walls, along with scribblings like one that says Al's Dance Band played there Feb. 11 and March 3, 1933.

"This was the big place in Stanwood," Conroy said.

Many area families recall going to prizefights, vaudeville shows, dances and basketball games there, he added.

Vestiges of those events are preserved. A ticket booth and coat-check room are just inside the main entry, which leads to a striking room of 2,720 square feet, about 80 feet long with a ceiling two stories high.

There's another floor above that room, and it was there that the Odd Fellows met.

Ceiling stencils remain from a 1922 remodeling, along with murals by local artist Karl Hultman, which bear the date of April 20, 1922.

After 1940, the building filled with debris, and photos taken 60 years later show stacks of tires, lawn mowers and hardware piled nearly to the ceiling.

"It took about a year to get the junk out," Conroy said.

That's also when the restoration project began. It resulted partly from the cultural center's location next to buildings that had been acquired by the Stanwood Area Historical Society in 1978 and now form its museum.

In 2000, the society bought the hall and began a $1.3 million restoration project, with much of the money coming from the Norgaard family. Stanwood native Floyd Norgaard, for whom the center is named, was a teacher and photographer. He now lives in a Stanwood-area retirement center.

Other major contributions came from the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust of Vancouver, Wash.; a local retired builder, John Jensen; Paul Allen's Foundation for the Arts; and many others.

Work still is under way, but the hall already is being used for some events. A Stanwood High School reunion took place there last weekend.

"This is awesome," George Carter said during a recent visit to the building. Carter is a member of the Camwood Players, a theater group that plans to use the facility.

"Last time I was in here, the inside was a disaster," Carter said. "This is perfect."

Conroy said the society still needs about $250,000 to complete its plans, which include interior work and moving a neighboring 1888 house to allow completion of a courtyard for outdoor presentations. The center also will include museum displays.

Also included in that money would be funding for a part-time manager who would oversee and market the building.

The setting is ideal for weddings, performances, trade shows and other gatherings, Conroy said. It can hold 160 people for a dinner, 200 for lectures or 320 for stand-up occasions.

"There's nothing else like it in town," Conroy said.

Peyton Whitely: 206-464-2259 or

Check out the center

The center is at 27130 102nd Ave. N.W., Stanwood. For information, call 360-629-6110 or 360-629-3352.

To see the center, visit the Stanwood Area Historical Society, 27112 102nd Ave. N.W.

Hours are from 1 to 4 p.m. Sundays and Wednesdays and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Fridays.