Well, more as a matter of history than nostalgia, let’s point out that Enumclaw’s First National Bank opened at the corner of Cole Street and Griffin Avenue in 1941. The rear of the building housed three other independent entrepreneurs, one of which was Art Lafromboise’s real estate office. As his name reveals, Art was part of our town’s early aristocracy. His brother, Sam, was president of the bank.
Art’s office and the other two businesses were taken over by the bank when it expanded in the mid-1950s and was extensively remodeled in the early 1960s. Then, about 1970, under the guiding hand of Rufus Smith, the entire enterprise moved into a newly constructed cement monstrosity that’s the KeyBank today. The old, vacant building, even though it was probably the most strategic chunk of property in the downtown area, stood empty for several years.
Eventually, Ken MacRae purchased the place and opened MacRae’s Indian Bookstore. The beautiful old vaults with their foot-thick steel doors were ideal for storing Ken’s collection of priceless Indian artifacts.
Ken died around 2006 and his family inherited the building and the business. For the next few years, his relatives slowly emptied the place, moving the books to a new store in Tacoma.
The building again stood empty. Then along came Jonathan and Kate Lazarus, former residents of Sunnyvale, Calif. Jonathan is a retired nuclear engineer – the first such critter I’ve ever met – who, with his full gray beard and unruly hair, resembles the musician originally known as Cat Stevens. He’s spent many years devising methods for handling radioactive waste; for instance, turning the waste into fused glass that, in turn, still has to be disposed of, but at least it doesn’t leak. He claims Hanford is one of the most toxic sites on the entire planet, which shouldn’t come as a great surprise to anyone.
Anyway, Jonathan and Kate bought the empty building from the MacRae family and started remodeling the place, intent on making it a proud asset for the community. They replaced the roof, installed a new heating element, wired a new electrical system, did a lot of Sheetrock work and repainted everything, inside and out. They’re currently working on the floor.
They hope to finish the overhaul in the next few months and rent the space to two or three businesses. I’ve always felt it’s an ideal location for an art gallery but, of course, we already have a really excellent gallery in Studio 54.
Jonathan plans to reserve a small space in the back of the building for his private sanctum where he can pursue his dreams and equations, uninterrupted. He’s quite fascinated by cosmic rays and feels there must be some way to harness some of their energy, which could dwarf the power of every other energy source we have.
God knows, most anything would be better than oil and coal.