Less than an hour ago, I arrived home from attending the annual meeting of the Friends of Gladish. It’s some years since I was actively involved as part of the group who raised the money and bought the Pullman building, and it’s been a while since I’ve seen much of the later improvements to the interior. I was delighted. Sadly, I had to drop out of the group when my aging husband needed my full-time attention. That involvement is probably the most satisfying work, next in line after raising my daughter, that I’ve ever been involved in. I did not return to the group after he died.
When we bought the building from Pullman Public Schools, they had been neglecting it for years. We immediately had to make major repairs to the windows, roof, heating and electric systems, to name only a few of the problems we faced. We started with almost nothing. We had to scrounge and borrow tools, find artisans and experts to do the skilled work, much of it donated or at less than usual cost, and we did much of the grunt work ourselves such as scraping years of accumulated wax from the terrazzo floors in the main hallways with our own putty knives. One member paid regular visits to WSU surplus stores. I think we were one of their best customers for a while.
Our members did most of the general janitorial work ourselves at first, gradually adding employees for those jobs as we had funds. From the beginning of our involvement, we had to clean restrooms regularly for the tenants we inherited such as River Masters, Royal Garrison School and several day cares including Montessori.
Thank heaven we had them and they stuck with us so we had some income to cover costs of utilities and the like. It was a steep learning curve for most of us. Few had ever been landlords, for instance, and fewer still with training and skills to do jobs like electrical or plumbing. Some of us had some experience scrubbing and painting but little else. What we did have was willing hands. I remember we had to ask the teachers to teach their little boys not to write their names on the walls with pee.
There is still a lot of unfinished business fixing the place up. About one hundred windows and two segments of the roof still need to be replaced. Some areas still need sprinkler systems added. The wish list includes lighted signage outside announcing coming events. These additions and replacements don’t come cheap.
Today, it was so very gratifying to see that our visions for the building had been fulfilled and then some, and they haven’t quit dreaming of more improvements and additions for the future. I sincerely hope the residents of Pullman and beyond appreciate what a wonderful facility it has been, not only a home for agencies such as Alternatives to Violence, small businesses, The Washington Idaho Symphony, Pullman Civic Theater, the Community Band, child care and education and so much more.
It has two theater venues, one with a large stage and seating and the other a theater in the round type, a gymnasium, a large meeting room with a kitchen for catering service, all that the public can rent by the hour for parties, meetings and gatherings.
The Friends of Gladish have been fortunate in receiving grants from federal, state and private sources that have enabled much of these improvements and they have not had to rely entirely on private donations as we did early on.
For those who are unfamiliar with the Gladish building, I urge you to watch the monthly Pullman Chamber of Commerce publication and the Daily News for ads and news of coming events. Also, don’t be afraid to go there during working hours and look around. I really think you will be pleasantly surprised. It is a treasure.
Harding lived her first 20 and past 43 years in Pullman. A longtime League of Women Voters member, she served on the Gladish Community and Cultural Center board. Reach her at email@example.com.