By Joe Smillie
Peninsula Daily News
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SEQUIM –– Seattle has its Space Needle, New York City the Empire State Building and Dubai has the Burj Khalifa.
In Sequim, the city's skyline belongs to the 85-foot defunct Clallam Co-op grain elevator, and some want to make sure the landmark stays there.
“It's our skyscraper,” said longtime area well-driller Louie Rychlik.
“We want the whole town to help buy it so the whole town can own it.”
Rychlik and photographer Ross Hamilton have kicked off a “Save Our Elevator” campaign to try to buy the Dungeness Valley's most prominent landmark out of foreclosure.
They've taken advertisements out in local publications seeking donors from the community.
“We've heard from a lot of people already,” Rychlik said.
“They don't want that tower taken down or the restaurant to be disturbed.”
Both Hamilton and Rychlik are trustees for the Museum and Arts Center of the Sequim-Dungeness Valley.
Rychlik initially suggested the MAC sell off some of its property and purchase the elevator to use as an exhibit center.
“But we really can't sell off any of our property,” he said.
“So we started up this effort. This isn't the MAC. This is me and Ross.”
The elevator, and the building at its ground flour that last housed El Cazador Mexican Restaurant at 531 W. Washington St., are now owned by Heritage Bank, which merged with Whidbey Island Bank on May 1.
The bank took ownership of the building after Hilda Rodriguez, former co-owner of El Cazador, used it to secure a loan she later defaulted on. She now owes more than $912,644.11.
It was set to auction off the building May 6, but that was delayed a month as part of the merger, according to Kerry Wake, a commercial loan officer with Heritage Bank.
Wake advised Rychlik and Hamilton to contact Rodriguez and her agents about buying the elevator before the auction.
Rychlik said he contacted them, but had not heard back as of Friday.
He expects to talk to the bank June 2 to get an estimate on the auction price.
Rychlik envisions the building being used as a sort of community center, where yoga and art classes can be taught and local artisans can display their wares for sale.
“We've had a lot of interest in that. A lot of people see those big rooms as good space,” he said.
He and Hamilton are taking pledges from community members who want to save the building.
He said they won't take any money until they have enough to present an offer to its owner.
To pledge, call Rychlik at 360-457-8388.
El Cazador was sited in the building for 33 years before closing March 3.
Prior to that, it was home to the Landmark Mall. It was built in 1942 as a stock store for Clallam Co-Op.
The elevator was built on the Seattle, Port Angeles and Western Railroad, a subsidiary of the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific, in the early part of the 20th century and was used primarily to store incoming feed for Dungeness Valley dairy farms and outgoing produce, particularly peas that boomed in the valley in the 1930s.
Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Joe Smillie can be reached at 360-681-2390, ext. 5052, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.