Downtown Everett’s Ghost Town

There is a dissonant feeling I always get at the Everett YMCA. It’s the feeling of walking in a labyrinth, the feeling of climbing up a staircase with many doors and passages.

Like a dream.

Nowhere is this disorienting feeling more palpable than the chilly passages of the YMCA’s “Ghost Town.” Ghost Town is two floors of dormitories in the original 1920s building— one floor for ladies, the other for men.

You have never seen Ghost Town because it is locked up.

The floor is littered with crumbled plaster, peeled wallpaper, and discarded brochures.

Each floor of Ghost Town has about thirty rooms that line narrow corridors. The dormitories have internal interconnecting doors that have been removed.

You’re never quite sure where one room ends and another begins.

I kept turning around to discover another drafty passage behind me.

I saw abandoned kitchens with vintage refrigerators left ajar, old shower rooms with cracked tile, and jumbled piles of discarded chairs. Some of the rooms have great views of the cityscape and the Cascade mountains. Other rooms are windowless, dark, and shoved full of cardboard boxes spilling glossy old YMCA camp photos.

Richard Porter

Richard Porter

Ghost Town transports you to a different era, a time when you could arrive in Milltown and put down a few dollars for a room at the Y.

A shower, a television, steam heat, an indoor pool, and a place to lay your head.

Ghost Town was renovated in the 1960s and closed in 1978. I am not sure why it was closed. I can't seem to find a reason. The old building has been cut up many times for renovations, resulting in those confusing passages, random-seeming corridors and a few staircases that lead to nowhere.

The closed dormitories of Ghost Town were used as a haunted house in the 1980s. There is graffiti on some of the walls, holes intentionally punched through the lathe and plaster, cracked sinks splattered in red paint to simulate blood.

I’m not sure why this historic structure was turned into a corny teenage funhouse.

The ultimate fate of Ghost Town is uncertain. The YMCA building at 2720 Rockefeller is now on the market. A new YMCA is being built in the Glacier View Neighborhood and is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2019.

Ghost Town, long a temporary residence for transitory souls, may be razed to build condos. It occupies prime property in the heart of Downtown Everett, within a two-block radius of Funko, Narrative Coffee, and The Village Theatre.

Let me say: I hope that doesn’t happen. To tear down this beautiful building would be a crime against our own history.

What’s a building but a receptacle for people’s stories?

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Join Richard Porter for a reading of his book “Smokestackers! A History of Everett Washington” at 2 p.m. January 12 at the Everett Public Library. Learn more about this free event here.


YMCA EVERETT

2720 Rockefeller Avenue

(425) 258-9211


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Richard Porter is a writer for Live in Everett.