40 for 40: Grays Harbor
Finch Building

By Holly Chamberlainprevious story | next story | all stories

Politician, lumber magnate, real estate developer, and philanthropist Edward C. Finch opened his eponymous building in downtown Aberdeen on April 1, 1910 about 20 years after the town’s incorporation. The Finch Building was the first in town with an elevator and the first commercial building to make use of reinforced concrete. At five stories deemed a skyscraper and for many years one of the tallest buildings in town, the building’s concrete foundation rested on 1200 wooden pilings. The building’s Renaissance Revival design by the noted Seattle architect A. Warren Gould featured terra cotta details, and six storefronts which were active into the 1970s.

Significant architect. Significant local history. Statewide help offered. National Register-listed. But, city officials were resistant to rehabilitation. Unfortunately, this is a vignette with many uses of the past tense.

The Finch Building was largely unaltered on the exterior when first listed as Most Endangered in 1992 and again in 1999, but by the latter date all the storefronts were boarded up. The interior had suffered a great deal of deterioration. Other Washington Trust efforts to save the building, led by treasurer Les Tonkin, a Seattle architect, included city council testimony and the filing of an affidavit supporting preservation. The affidavit stated that the city was not paying heed to the options for preservation stated in the 1998 Final Environmental Impact Statement. Recognized city needs, such as a library and downtown affordable housing, were among the possible uses, and developers had expressed interest. However, the city of Aberdeen declined to accept any renovation proposals.

Though Aberdeen preservationists were galvanized by the impending loss, and attempts to highlight the threat such as installation art were mounted, little balanced civic discourse had taken place at a logical time to consider alternatives. The Finch Building was demolished on April 5, 1999 at age 89 years and five days. The site where it stood at Heron and H Street remains largely unused today.

This story is part of a series celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation. This story highlights many of our programs and shows just how much need there is for strong preservation connections across the state. If you would like to support our work and spur more positive outcomes for Washington's historic resources, please consider making a special gift to the Washington Trust to support the advocacy work we do. Continuous stewardship is needed to protect that irreplaceable legacy for future generations – we appreciate and look forward to your ongoing participation and support.

Here's to 40 more years of saving places that matter across Washington! Please sign up for our special weekly e-newsletter to recieve stories like this in your inbox all year long.

previous story | next story | all stories