Historic downtown big asset to Sumner

Word on the


May is National Historic Preservation Month so I thought I’d focus on our great downtown buildings this week. I just got back from our state Main Street Conference which featured presentations on this very topic.

I’ve mentioned before how much I enjoy the great comments we get at our events about the look and feel of our downtown. If they’re locals, it’s because they like the fact Sumner has a sense of place, a vital heart that is host to a diverse array of activities with inviting sidewalks and buildings where greeting lifetime friends is the norm.

If they’re visitors, they are drawn to the friendly atmosphere, the historic architecture of the business district that harkens back to a simpler time, and our unique blend of independent businesses that make shopping and eating a fun experience.

Our inventory of historic downtown buildings is a huge asset that makes Sumner an authentic place to visit and come home to. Each of our downtown buildings represents a lifetime of stories that make up the unique book that is Sumner. I was lucky enough to work for almost 30 years in one of those buildings. Built in the early 1930s, the Puget Sound Power and Light building at 1207 Main St. (now Hammermaster Law Offices) is a great example of art deco architecture.

Being part of the interior remodel in 1993 was a true experience of adaptive reuse, though I didn’t recognize it at the time, nor did I expect to become a preservation cheerleader down the road. And as I look back, when we started taking down the layers of history inside, the building began speaking to us about what to do.

When I heard Donovan Rypkema, this year’s featured speaker at the Main Street conference, say something similar about letting the building’s history lead you to its new use, I wanted to jump up and yell “Bingo!”

The next time you drive down Main Street look closely at the Hammermaster building. It has a great façade with a transom and arched windows above the door as well as a generator and lightening bolt design at the center of the parapet. Inside, the interior floor is terrazzo with brass inlay and we uncovered leaded glass windows in a star burst design as well as some gorgeous walnut beams and decorative wood trim common to that era.

We also found the original glass panel front doors which we repurposed as the interior doors to the new law library and conference room in the center of the building. Then we went shopping for antique light fixtures and paint colors that were authentic to the period.

Just like your home, these valuable downtown assets need tender-loving care to meet the needs of its tenants. Electrical panels and wiring need updating to meet today’s technology demands, just as roofs, windows and plumbing need to be maintained.

So a special thanks to my “second dad,” Gene Hammermaster, for being a great steward of one of our town’s many treasurers, though he is only one of many landlords downtown who value the history and potential of these charming buildings that welcome so many to town.

Sumner truly is a community that values its history, and that’s the real reason so many come to spend some time here.