2018 Most Endangered Places
July 1, 2018 | 9:00 am
from Washington Trust
By Jennifer Mortensen, Preservation Services Coordinator
The Washington Trust for Historic Preservation announced our 2018 list of Most Endangered Places in May at Seattle’s Georgetown Steam Plant during our annual fundraiser, Vintage Washington. In addition to bringing attention to our featured historic places, we were also thrilled to shine a spotlight on the Steam Plant as our venue. Seattle City Light recently issued a request for proposals, seeking to partner with an organization interested in managing day-to-day operations of the facility with a focus on continued stewardship and arts and educational uses. Seattle City Light has shown dedication to preservation, creativity, and public access by accommodating events like Vintage Washington.
Since 1992, the Washington Trust has used our list of Most Endangered Places to bring attention to over 160 threatened sites nominated by concerned citizens and organizations across the state. Successful preservation requires the collaborative efforts of many. The purpose of our list is to elevate the discussion, encourage partnership, and find positive, preservation-oriented solutions.
Historic places contribute to the quality of life we enjoy and shape the daily experiences of living in small towns, large cities, and rural countrysides across the state. Historic places not only represent our history, but are part of our collective cultural identity. Efforts to connect with that history and identity through the preservation and reuse of our built environment should not be confused with nostalgia for a lost past. Rather, historic preservation allows us to build our future on a meaningful identity and the rich culture and resources already at hand.
We have an obligation to respect our built environment, an irreplaceable shared resource, which was entrusted to us and must be passed on to the coming generations. Since our founding over 40 years ago, the Washington Trust’s basic commitment to advocate for the preservation of historic and cultural resources has been unwavering – we remain your “Voice for Preservation in Washington State” – and our list of Most Endangered Places perhaps best exemplifies this commitment.
We invite you to join our efforts this year through Washington’s Most Endangered Places, our central advocacy program. Throughout the year, and indeed until these places can all be counted as “saves,” we will assist local advocates in developing strategies aimed at removing threats and taking advantage of opportunities where they exist. The core of any advocacy effort is partnership, and we look forward to continuing to build on the existing networks in each of these communities to find solutions based in preservation and reuse. Additionally, the success of any advocacy effort hinges on engagement. We strive to build local momentum for the preservation of our Most Endangered Places, but these resources were all selected for our list this year because they are significant to our collective, statewide heritage. We hope you will be involved, attend events, and write letters when the need arises, no matter where in Washington you call home.
Without further ado, we present Washington’s Most Endangered Places for 2018.
Camp Kilworth • Federal Way
In 1934, William Kilworth purchased 25 acres in the South Sound area and immediately deeded the property to the Tacoma Area Council of Boy Scouts. World War I veterans, who were members of the Tacoma Rotary, built the centerpiece of the camp in 1935: the Rustic-style Rotary Lodge. Over the decades, several other supporting structures were built, including an outdoor amphitheater that looks out over a dramatic view of south Puget Sound. Today, the property and its shoreline are one of only two places in rapidly growing Federal Way regarded as a highly sensitive environmental area, and the high bank coastal forest on the site also serves as a wildlife corridor.
The Scouts owned and operated the camp for over 80 years, but due to declining membership, their operations at Camp Kilworth ceased in 2016. In accordance with a stipulation in William Kilworth’s original 1934 deed, ownership of the property now reverts back to the Kilworth Family Foundations. Local advocates are concerned for the site as the buildings, including the historic lodge, currently sit vacant, unheated, and unmaintained. Local advocates also feel it is important for the property to remain as open space dedicated to education, as the Kilworths always intended. The camp has provided formative experiences for many over the years, and has the potential to continue as a meaningful and historic educational environment for the community if the right stewardship arrangement can be found.
East Seattle School • Mercer Island
Built in 1914, East Seattle School is the oldest public building left on Mercer Island. The school’s Mission-style architectural details remain intact, including a terra cotta roof, a curvilinear parapet, and decorative brackets. Once located at the “town center,” the school was the heart of the Island’s community life for nearly 70 years. Construction of the I-90 floating bridge, however, brought a population boom to the Island in the 1950s and the commercial center of Mercer Island gradually shifted to its current location.
East Seattle School was declared a surplus building in 1982, but continued its role as a community gathering space for nearly 30 more years as the home to the Mercer Island Boys & Girls Club and various childcare centers. In 2007, private interests acquired the three-acre property, and while many objected to the transaction, others supported it because proceeds from the sale were used to construct a new Boys & Girls Club. As part of the deal, the new owner agreed to make no changes to the property for ten years. Now that those ten years have passed, the owner has applied for a demolition permit and will likely build single family housing on the site. Community members hoping to see the school preserved are working to find a solution that will satisfy the owner’s investment goals while keeping the legacy of East Seattle School alive through adaptive use.
Steilacoom Depot • Steilacoom
Built of clay tile with stucco and brick veneer, the 1914 Steilacoom Train Depot was designed by noted local architect Arthur Potter Merrill. The construction of the railroad connected Steilacoom to Olympia and Portland to the south, and Tacoma and Seattle to the north, making it a travel destination for those nearby larger cities. The depot closed to passenger service in the 1960s and later completely closed when freight service to the depot ended in 1972. The property had been acquired by the Burlington Northern Railroad in 1970, after which it was mainly used for storage. In recent years, the building has been unused and unmaintained but remains in remarkably good condition.
Due to the addition of a second track along the waterfront and modern regulations, the depot is currently too close to the railroad tracks to be safely utilized. Local advocates would like to see the depot moved approximately 80 feet to the southeast onto a parcel currently owned by the Town of Steilacoom. The Town is supportive of the plan, given the local partners are able to generate enough funding and support for the move and rehabilitation. The leading voice for the project, the Steilacoom Historical Museum, successfully rehabilitated the Nathaniel Orr House in 2002 and also manages several other historic buildings in town.
The relocation of the depot would keep the building within its historic context while giving enough clearance from the railroad tracks to allow for rehabilitation and ultimately public access. Due to its proximity to the waterfront, the adaptive use potential for the depot is high. Local advocates envision the rehabilitation of the depot as the first step toward a larger reclamation and beautification of the Steilacoom waterfront.
Arlington High School • Arlington
Built in 1936, the old Arlington High School has been loved by generations of students. With its grand front entrances, streamlined architectural details, balconied auditorium, and original iron and glass skylights, it is a beautifully intact example of Art Deco architecture. In addition to its clear architectural value, the building features two murals from Washington artist Richard Correll, funded by the Works Progress Administration in 1940.
Until the completion of a new high school in 2007, this building was the hub of the Arlington community. Over the past decade, the school has housed a few community organizations, but now sits mostly vacant. There is an active need for a community center in Arlington, and with the school’s proximity to downtown and public transit, local advocates see the school as a perfect candidate for just such an adaptive use. Still in its historic configuration, the former school could easily accommodate Arlington’s non-profit and arts communities with studio and makers spaces, meeting and office spaces, educational and training spaces, and even a large performance venue.
Bruggemann Ranch • Hanford
After immigrating to the United States from Germany in 1926, Paul and Mary Bruggemann purchased a large ranch along the Columbia River in 1937. Agriculture flourished in the towns of White Bluffs, Hanford, Fruitvale, and Richland as large-scale, privately funded irrigation canals were constructed and thousands of acres of farmland were created. The Bruggemanns became one of the most successful farming families in the region, but were evicted by the US Government in 1943 to make way for plutonium production. The copious supply of water from the Columbia combined with cheap, reliable power made the area an ideal location for the development of the Manhattan Project.
The pre-Manhattan Project history of the Hanford Reach area was nearly erased over the ensuing decades, but with the recent establishment of the Hanford Unit of the Manhattan Project National Historical Park, a new interest in uncovering the layered history of the site has developed. Only four structures remain from the pre-Manhattan era: Hanford High School, the White Bluffs Bank, the Allard Pumphouse, and the only privately built structure remaining, the Bruggemann Ranch cook house.
The Bruggemann site was once a substantial ranch with multiple structures and around 2000 acres of orchards, but now, only the cook house remains. The building is constructed of river cobble and is the last surviving example of this once common architectural technique in the area. The cook house is currently unsheltered from the elements with no clear plan for preservation, and advocates are seeking to bring more attention to the importance of preserving the little physical history that remains. The nearby White Bluffs Bank was recently restored, and advocates would like to see the cook house also restored and used to interpret the pre-Manhattan Project history.
Because of its proximity to the Vernita Bridge, the northernmost access point to park, a restored cook house could logically serve as an entry point and interpretative space that could communicate the significance of the pre-Manhattan Project history to park visitors.
This article was published in the July 2018 issue of the Washington Trust’s quarterly magazine, This Place.