Historic Buildings within Washington’s State Parks

Status: SAVED!

Year Listed: 2012

Headlining 2012’s roster was a thematic listing including the Historic Resources of Washington’s State Park System. With over 600 historic buildings and structures, Washington State Parks is the single largest owner of historic buildings in the state. The inventory of historic buildings, structures, and sites under the jurisdiction of State Parks includes territorial forts, coastal military fortifications, lighthouses, artillery installments, CCC picnic shelters, a seminary, and numerous others listed in local registers of historic places, in the National Register, and as National Historic Landmark Districts. Recent economic woes have made it increasingly challenging for the agency to sustain the needed level of maintenance at parks statewide, let alone address mounting capital needs. In the current biennium, the capital budget for buildings and structures is less than one-third of funding levels provided in the recent past. Moving forward, the State Parks operating budget will rely entirely on the success of the Discover Pass, a visitor fee-for-use program, the revenues of which have thus far fallen short of projections. Without adequate funding for capital projects, mounting deferred maintenance could lead to more serious building deterioration in the near term. Park Rangers, who already do double duty in performing a variety of maintenance tasks on buildings, will be going to seasonal employment, leaving dozens of structures unattended for periods of time.

The poster child for this thematic listing was the Seminary in St. Edward State Park, an impressive Renaissance Revival style building that has been largely closed off to the public since State Parks acquired the site from the Seattle Archdiocese in 1977. As the largest underutilized building in the State Parks system with rehabilitation costs far exceeding Parks’ financial capacity, the Seminary was at the forefront of our advocacy efforts. Thankfully, after several years of planning and negotiations, a public/private partnership emerged to adaptively reuse the Seminary as a lodge-style hotel.

Led by Daniels Real Estate, the plan required cooperation with Washington State Parks, the City of Kenmore, Bastyr University, preservation advocates, and hundreds of supporters who understood the value of a historic building situated within a state park. The plan even required legislative action to give State Parks the authority needed to negotiate a long-term lease of the site. On December 7, 2018, project partners and advocates, including Washington Trust staff and board members, convened at St. Edward State Park for a ceremonial groundbreaking, a culmination of many years of effort and cooperation. Construction is now under way and is anticipated to last two years. The campaign to save the Seminary demonstrates the positive impact of partnership and shared goals. While there were challenges and some disagreements along the way, the great majority of those involved truly believed the building could be saved and worked together toward that end.