At McMenamins Anderson School in Bothell, you can sleep in class, drink beer in the cafeteria, and watch movies in the gym.
The historic Art Deco-style school, which was built in 1931 as Bothell Junior High, has been converted into a homey oasis in the center of downtown. The McMenamin brothers, Mike and Brian, who are known for revamping old buildings throughout the Northwest and turning them into restaurants and fabulous destination hotels, took on the Bothell project in 2010.
Today, the 70,000-square-foot property features a 72-room hotel, movie-theater, pub and brewery, full-size pool, restaurant, and more.
But to say that McMenamins Anderson School is a new community hub for the city would be wrong. Long before the tiki bar, the craft cocktails, and the concert venue, the school was a vibrant community center swarming with students and dedicated faculty. While the walls of McMenamins Anderson School now have new coats of paint, carpeted floors, and hotel rooms that were once classrooms, the character of the school lives on.
When the McMenamin brothers bought the school, they had their staff historian conduct interviews with those who attended it or had family that worked there. Judy Edmonds was one of them. Her father was Charles Asbury, an inspiring music teacher who conducted the Bobcats’ marching band in the ’50s and ’60s. When she walked down the school’s halls for the first time as a McMenamins guest in October, she was searching for something familiar.
“Here’s my father! Right here!” she said, pointing up to a framed picture.
Throughout the hotel there are paintings of former teachers, coaches, and staff. They’re still the eyes and ears of the former school. McMenamins hired artists to preserve their legacy in the space where they dedicated so much of their time.
The likenesses of influential Bothell natives decorate the walls as well. A portrait of U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, who grew up in Bothell, is posed as Rosie the Riveter in one painting. The hotel rooms are named after noteworthy folks, including the Charles Asbury room on the third floor.
“It really is amazing. The lighting and the pictures are really incredible,” said Edmonds. “This is history in the making. It’s so good that we cherish the past.”
Visiting the old school’s halls was a sentimental trip down memory lane for many Bothell locals. When Donna Knorr saw her late husband’s portrait hanging over the stairwell, she was overjoyed.
“He looks just like his picture!” she said.
Bob Knorr was a teacher, a counselor, and a principal at the school in the ’50s and ’60s. His love of education proved to be infectious. Out of his seven children, six went on to be teachers. His daughter Marit Krueger got her first job as an English teacher at the school in the same building her father’s portrait now hangs.
The McMenamins brothers are pros at preservation, and turning old and cherished neighborhood spots into something new again. It’s what they look for.
“(The property) has to have the spaces for gatherings, ceiling heights for performance, but one of the main things we like to get involved in are places with historical value because that deep reservoir of history is the soul of the place,” said Mike McMenamin.
McMenamins has already hosted hundreds of new guests at the new Bothell establishment. It drew some people to travel northeast of Seattle to visit Bothell for the first time, a city expanding at rocket speed.