40 for 40: Stimson-Green Mansion
Donation of the Stimson-Green Mansion

By Mary Thompson & staffprevious story | next story | all stories

Stimson-Green Mansion c.1901

This week’s story features one of the most significant events in the history of the organization, the donation of the Stimson-Green Mansion fifteen years ago. We dug into the Trust News archive to transcribe this letter from Mary Thompson, the Board President at the time, from the 2001-2002 Special Issue to commemorate the donation. If you have not heard the story about how the Trust got the Stimson-Green, and even if you have, enjoy this stroll down memory lane.

From Mary’s Desk:
All my life I’ve heard about people that win the lottery, or other preservation organizations that have an anonymous “angel” fall from out of the sky to save the day. Like others associated with struggling non-profits I fantasized only briefly about that possibility. The day-to-day work of building membership and delivering programs took precedent. But you never know what the fates have in store.

In April I was told that Mrs. Priscilla “Patsy” Collins wanted to speak with me about the Washington Trust. I knew of Mrs. Collins’ reputation as a philanthropist, businesswoman, and preservation advocate in Seattle, but I did not know her personally and had only met her on one or two brief occasions. I, of course, was anxious to speak with her, but got the surprise of my life when we finally connected. After introducing herself as the owner of the Stimson-Green Mansion in Seattle, she casually asked if, “I wanted it.” Not being sure of what I heard I asked her to repeat what she’d just said. “Would you like the Mansion?” she inquired. “It won’t cost you anything.” After picking myself up off the floor, I suggested that perhaps I should go to Seattle the next day to talk with her about this proposition.

The Stimson-Green Mansion was built in 1900 as one of the earliest mansions on First Hill in Seattle. Over the years it fell into considerable disrepair and was finally rescued from the wrecking ball first by the efforts of Historic Seattle and then by Mrs. Collins.

I knew Patsy Collins by reputation only. I knew she had been a part owner of the KING Broadcasting Company. I knew she and her sister had sold the company and had done wonderful things in philanthropy. What I didn’t know was what a warm, down-to-earth, and generous person she is. When I visited her the next day I spent 2.5 hours talking with her about all kinds of things – her grandparents who built the house, Kirtland Cutter, who designed it by reversing the plans he had developed for the Campbell’s House in Spokane, the business operation and the weddings, parties and events that have been held there over the years, her wishes for the future of the Mansion. She talked about wanting to keep the Mansion open and available for the greater Seattle community. She talked about the enormous restoration efforts she undertook in the 1980’s to save this important landmark. As we talked, I realized that this landmark home on First Hill was much more than a venue for parties. I realized it was a life’s work.

We talked about the Washington Trust. That we were a small, entirely volunteer organization, that still managed to provide important leadership and programs to the state preservation community. We talked about how the Trust was a working board that relied on people across the state giving time and energy, never expecting much in return, except the chance to protect the important places in Washington State history.

Something must have resonated because in the course of that conversation, Mrs. Collins offered to gift the Stimson-Green Mansion, the catering business and a generous reserve fund for the ongoing preservation of the mansion, to the Washington Trust. I left that meeting and headed for a Trust Development Committee meeting. When I arrived late, those in the room thought something terrible had happened to me. I was white as a sheet. I blurted out the news, hardly believing what had just happened. I had met an angel.

Since that meeting in April, the Trust has been very busy developing a business plan and model that can not only support the ongoing preservation of this significant landmark, but also support the Trust’s preservation of this significant landmark and efforts across the state. We’ve received assistance from an extraordinary team of volunteers to make it all happen. As of September 1, 2001, I am proud and pleased to announce that the Washington Trust is the owner of the historic Stimson-Green Mansion.

The Trust is much indebted to attorney Judy Andrews, accountant Carol Watson, and business planner Misha Halvorsson for the many hours they have provided to make this transfer happen. Great thanks go to board members Deborah Vick, Hollis Palmer, and Eugenia Woo who all gave countless hours to this incredible opportunity.

What does this mean for the Trust? It means we fulfill a key piece of our mission, which is to preserve Washington’s heritage. It means the Trust has a permanent office within this well-known structure. It means that the organization has a source of earned income, which will allow us to hire a full-time executive director and provide more programs and services. It means that the face of historic preservation in the state is forever changed.

I don’t think Mrs. Collins quite understands what she has done. And perhaps I don’t quite understand yet either. But I know that things are different now. I know that there’s a future for the organization, and for historic preservation in the state. I know the Trust has taken on an enormous responsibility in the care of the Stimson-Green Mansion, but I also know that we’re up to the challenge and welcome the future. Thank you, Mrs. Collins, for your stewardship, your business savvy, and your faith in the Trust. I have no doubt we will live up to your expectations.

So you see, miracles happen and angels exist. I’ll never doubt it again.

Mary Thompson, President

This story is part of a series celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation. This story highlights the donation of the Stimson-Green Mansion and the organization's transition as a result. The Washington Trust maintains both a fund and an endowment for the preservation and maintenance of the Mansion, and earlier this year we were awarded $100,000 from the 4Culture Building for Culture grant program. This grant will be used later this year for a much-needed plumbing update but we need your matching support! Please consider making a special gift to the Washington Trust to support the maintenance of this architectural gem. Continuous stewardship is needed to protect the irreplaceable legacy of the Stimson-Green for future generations – we appreciate and look forward to your ongoing participation and support.

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