Excitement is building for the opening of McMenamin’s Anderson School in Bothell. That excitement was etched into the faces of the McMenamin brothers at the beginning of September. The building is the centerpiece of Bothell’s downtown redevelopment nearly 10 years in the making.
“It’s getting close, you can kind of feel it now,” Mike McMenamin said.
The Bothell Reporter was given a tour of the facility to showcase some of the details of the building, including a bit about what it took to get the construction completed – including the miles of wood and wiring that went into the Anderson building.
“It seems like a long time ago. You kind of lose it when you go through the demolition stage and you get discouraged because you’re tearing stuff apart,” said Brian McMenamin. “But then the construction starts and then you start to see it. The next step, obviously, will be to have people coming onto the property, coming on and seeing all the things.”
And the completion is close. The company has been hiring all the staff, from the hotel to cooking staff and brewery workers.
“Just to see the finishing touches come out of the woodwork, it’s good,” Brian said.
While the vast majority is mostly completed, it’s the details that are being finished currently. Details such as the final headboards being hand-painted by local craftsman.
“The designs are based on stories, the history of the area,” said artist Andy Eccleshall of the farm headboard.
Each of the boards is uniquely different and many take cues from local Bothell history, though others are just decorations. One of the boards, featuring a farm scape, is from a piece of Bothell history. A wealthy Italian, who knew nothing of golf, came to Bothell in the 40s and purchased a golf course to turn it into a farm.
“It’s been so much fun. The space is a little cramped, I guess, but outside of that it’s been a huge amount of fun,” Eccleshall said. He started his artistic career in illustration. “You start off with a story and design the piece around it – it’s pure illustration. It’s good fun.”
Other areas are also getting the final touches. In the bathrooms of each hotel room, the wall’s decorative borders are being hand-painted, as well.
“I do one color at a time, so it goes quicker that way. It’s really exciting to see a project like this come to fruition,” said Olivia Behm, one of the lead artists. “The physical aspect of border painting, trying to get around with a ladder that doesn’t fit in here. I’ve been with [the McMenamins] for a long time and I’ll be with them for as long as they have me.”
Those are not the only hardships that the McMenamins have faced in the months leading up to and going through the construction phase.
“I’d like to sing the praises of the Seattle artists that have come and helped out,” Behm said. “They’ve been putting their own stamp on the borders, and they’ve done a whole bunch of beautiful artwork that will be hung and framed in the hallways. I’m very pleased to have the group I’ve got; the crew is fabulous.”
Artwork will be coming from numerous locals, from the “really wacky” to the more traditional artistic styles.
However, one of the biggest difficulties may be the room without a window. It ended up making for a unique experience.
“Finally we figured out that you could put a round window in without doing all the structural stuff, because it’s self-supported,” Mike said.
Workers just drilled a circular hole in the wall and install a stained glass piece of art that will be the room’s window, the perfect centerpiece for this western facing room.
“We didn’t even know you could core a hole that big, but you can. And we had a window that perfectly fit. It’s pretty cool. It’s the only one,” Mike said.
And that’s not the only unique piece in the complex. The bar in the game room was taken from an old cigar shope and still boasts the hidden compartments behind the displays. The bar in the community room, near the theater, was taken from the old Portland Hotel, which was torn down in 1951. Other components were also salvaged from the Portland Hotel and old buildings like it to give the building a unique flair.
“This is the woodshop, where the sports bar will be.
This is where they kept all the secret things, the booze and stuff,” Brian said as he opensedone of the secret cubbies in the turn-of-the-century cigar bar. “We’re going to do some leaded glass along the outside.”
Just behind the wall behind the cigar-bar is the brewery with McMenamin’s copper distilleries. While the ‘Brew-Crew’ has been chosen, those in the crew have yet to be named. The distilleries were built in Canby, Ore., keeping things Pacific Northwest local, just like the new brewmaster.
“We just hired someone of some renown up here to be the brewmaster,” Mike said.
However, the Brew Crew will be hard at work prior to the opening of the Anderson School, as McMenamin’s beers will be at the Bothell Oktoberfest, though they are keeping those specific brews for the festival classified ‘Top Secret’ by the McMenamins brothers.
“It’s starting pretty soon, around Sept. 11 or 12,” Mike said. “We have to have a good stash, a good bunch of beer to open with. Hopefully eight or 10 beers.”
The attention to detail has been taken to the next level. The art-deco style fixtures perfectly blend with a pseudo-steampunk atmosphere, blending old school styling with modern motifs.
“This is stuff that we’ve been purchasing and storing for up to 30-years,” Mike said. “There’s probably a thousand fixtures here.”
The first-run movie theater is decked out with movie posters from the Golden Age of Hollywood, seats comfortable enough to take a nap and giant chandeliers gracing the ceilings.
“We’ve got a huge stash of these cast iron fixtures from England, I think almost all of them are ending up here, somewhere on the property,” said Mike. “We emptied a whole wing in a jail we own in Edgefield. It’s designed like a pinwheel and each wing, which is about 90-feet long or so, is filled with something, whether it be windows, or lighting, or burl storage for whiskey, chairs, wine…”
McMenamin’s owns a closed jail where they house all their antique findings. Located in Multnomah County in Oregon, the former Multnomah County Correctional Facility is a 11,000 square-foot jail the brothers turned into a hotel. Some of the wings are used as storage for the McMenamin’s many antiques.
“We’ve been buying glass, like light fixtures, over the years. Just buy collections, it’s just collecting 100-year-old stuff that has quality andcraftsman and adds to the place,” Brian said. “It adds to the flavor. There’s a bunch more things coming out. There’s pieces from a lot of different pubs going in here.”
However, nowhere has been such a point of contention as the state of the pool. The McMenamins have already stated that Bothell residents can use the pool for free. Many residents have voiced concern in the past that it is not the kind of pool they were expecting.
“Grab a mai-tai and hang out there, but the next step is getting the interior in here,” said Brian of the pool room, which still needs the plants and trees that will make the pool building an oasis.
The pool is accentuated by Asian-inspired bamboo siding that turns the old building into a tropical experience for everyone. The interior was inspired by an island and watery feel, but comes from multiple societies.
“It’s more just kind of an island-feel in general. There’s going to be Africa, Indonesian, Chinese, Egyptian, Moroccan, Indian, Americana… Every kind of art, but they all feel kind of primitive-water island. It lends itself to that I think,” Mike said. “It’s actually starting to get there. [The pool has] been the hardest space in the whole place to do, and how to make it fun. We’ve been through so many iterations that we have plans [inches] deep, but we’re happy with where it’s come.”
All in all, the Anderson Building will still have the old ‘school house’ feel, but with a flair for worldly antiques from across the globe. Everything from age-old European embellishments all the way to more modern features.
“At this point, we’re so close, we just want to get it open,” Brian said. “It’s taken its toll on us.”
All photos by Robert Isaacs, Special to the Reporter.