McGrath building a big winner

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NORTH BEND - When Dale and Susan Sherman got their first look at the inside of the McGrath Building they had purchased on North Bend Way, they saw potential.

But they had to look pretty hard.

"When our contractor first walked in and looked at the place, he said it was a case of 'demolition by neglect,'" Susan said.

The Shermans, who had experience fixing up a building in downtown Snoqualmie and running a tile business out of it, were even more resolved to make the once-proud McGrath Building beautiful again.

They had little to go off of. Having no surviving pictures of the building's interior, which once housed a hotel and several restaurants, the Shermans gathered most of their ideas from longtime residents who remember frequenting the building.

When they started knocking down walls and peeling away decades of paint and wallpaper, they found a wealth of surprises, including a secret window that looks in on the former lobby, the original woodwork that decorated the ceiling of the lobby and a painted mural behind what was once the hotel's registration desk.

They took every pain and paid every expense to make the building as close to the original as they could in the hopes it would qualify for the National Historic Register.

"It was a like an archaeological dig," Susan said.

More than a year, several delays and $1.65 million later, they opened what is arguably the most impressive building in downtown North Bend in May 2001.

It was an extraordinary effort, but it was one the Shermans believed was worth giving. They saw their building as interconnected with other businesses in North Bend, and their efforts as a benefit to all the other shops in the downtown area.

"We have a vision for this building and there are people downtown who share that vision," Dale said. "This is what pride of ownership is."

Their efforts have not gone unnoticed. They had leases signed for the building's downstairs and office spaces before they were even done with the renovation. Robertiello's Ristorante Italiano took up quarters downstairs, a lawyer moved his practice from a high-rise in downtown Seattle to one office space and an Edward Jones office was located around back.

The Shermans were also recently given three awards by the state of Washington and King County. They received the State of Washington Historic Preservation Officer's Award, the Washington State Office of Trade and Economic Development's "Excellence in Downtown Revitalization Award" and the King County Executive's John D. Spellman Award for Exemplary Achievement in Historic Preservation.

"We have won every award they give out," Susan said. "We sort of won the triple crown."

The Shermans are in the process of building a patio in the back of the building to give diners at Robertiello's an opportunity to eat outside.

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