Resident Glenn Parker started plastering on the arch above the Startup Gym’s stage last year, which Debbie Copple said had an indoor waterfall cascading through it in the recent past.
Resident Glenn Parker started plastering on the arch above the Startup Gym’s stage last year, which Debbie Copple said had an indoor waterfall cascading through it in the recent past.

Originally constructed with support from the community, Startup’s vacated commons is being revived in the same spirit.

Nearly a thousand volunteer hours went into restoring the rotted yet sturdy walls of the gym in 2017 alone, the unmistakable white building visible from U.S. Highway 2. The Sky Valley Arts Council has been leading the renovations that began nearly three years ago.

SVAC president Debbie Copple said the efforts have been so successful because of the skilled hands of residents, many having not charged a dime for their labor. For years now groups have gathered to steadily chip away at the old exterior.

The Startup Gym was largely built using old-growth timber, and many of the materials were donated. The strong wood — which is more “beautiful than anything you can buy now,” Copple said — allowed the structure to sit for decades through the elements and remain sound.

Plumbing and electrical work in the restrooms, kitchen and old lunchroom area was the main focus in 2017, according to arts council president Mary Ritzman. A Snohomish County Community Heritage grant helped fund the necessary purchases and efforts added up to about 700 volunteer hours.

“These are all artisans,” Ritzman said. “These are local people who have pride in their work.”

Extensive window restoration led by Dick King also continued throughout last year. Painting began on the interior of the main space, which is attached to the kitchen and future meeting area. Glenn Parker started plastering on the arch above the stage, according to Ritzman, which Copple previously said had an indoor waterfall cascading through it in the recent past.

Richard Cross and King helped the project save thousands of dollars by redoing all of the window frames and cut panes by hand, according to Copple. The wood was “all just completely rotten and laying there like sponge,” and the glass was in various stages of breakage.

It took about 1,400 hours to replace siding on the building. Discarding of old wrap and plastic, concrete removal and demolition is being completed by resident Trey Shelton.

Cross contributed close to 500 unpaid hours last year. He has headed nearly anything that has had to do with woodwork. His most recent project was to create replacements for the five-panel front doors.

“You don’t want it to look like a bad remodel,” Cross said. “You want it to look like it’s supposed to be there.”

For Cross and many others, working on the Startup Gym has been much more than trying to update a dilapidated building. He said he needs to feel driven, even in retirement. He always has some construction project or another in the works.

Cross was first recruited to restore the main entrance. He dedicated the work to his wife, whom he met at the gym decades ago. It was supposed to be his contribution, but hundreds of hours later he is still a regular volunteer chipping away.

Sultan artist Kevin Pettelle created the sign installed at the edge of the property that sits flush up against the highway and was erected last month. The gym’s colorful logo, designed by another local artist who modeled it after the trim that Cross restored above the front doors, stretches the width of the tall marker.

The groundwork was done by Sky Valley Excavation, Copple said. Fabrication was the only part of the process that cost the nonprofit money. Volunteers between the ages of 6 and 60 turned out for an all-day painting party in May. Doors are unlocked nearly every Saturday morning at 10 a.m., ready to invite in any extra help.

The gym was most recently used as a preschool, Copple said. The last gatherings took place at least 20 years ago. The property is owned by the Sultan School District, which agreed to lease it to SVAC for an initial 25-year contract, she said.

Pettelle said when he met Copple decades ago, she was talking about the potential of the gym. He said at the time he thought she was someone who dreamed very big. She says some believed the building would not be salvageable.

The restoration has seen setbacks.

The bulk of the construction equipment used for work on the gym was stolen in 2016. A sound system, Hitachi 10-inch chop saw, Bostich nail gun, Porter screw gun, two Titan electrical distribution boxes and a WORX trimmer — all belonging to volunteers — were taken. The project was able to bounce back.

Eventually the structure is expected to pay for itself, Ritzman said. Once it is up to code it can be rented out to community groups and for weddings, meetings, fairs and other events.

Ritzman wrote that the focus for this year is on opening up the doors. A few more large-scale efforts are planned, such as construction of an ADA-accessible ramp that will go on the western side of the building. Perhaps the biggest project will be finishing the restrooms and kitchen with drywall, for which they are still in need of a local expert and funding. Painting and costly electrical work will continue in the main room, according to Ritzman.