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Providence Heights College

Status: Lost

Year Listed: 2016

Location: King County

The Providence Heights College and Provincialate was founded in 1961 as a response to the Sister Formation Conference. Started in the 1950s, the Conference initiated an inter-congregational effort to promote college education for sisters, enhancing the professional lives of religious women. Providence Heights College was one of only two institutions in the nation established at that time specifically for this purpose. The National Register-eligible campus represents the volatile time period in the Catholic Church when a crisis ensued over a new theology of authority and obedience among American sisters that collided with older, more traditional theological interpretations.

Completed in 1961, the Providence Heights College campus was designed by John Maloney, a prominent regional architect. Purposefully situated within a secluded wooded area on the Sammamish Plateau, its buildings total roughly 210,000 square feet and include classrooms, administrative offices, dormitories, an auditorium, a cafeteria, a library, a pool, a gym, and a chapel. The chapel is a remarkable modernist interpretation of Gothic design elements with fourteen steeply pitched gabled clerestory windows created by Gabriel Loire, a world-renowned stained glass artist.

The integration of religious education with secular student populations coupled with declining numbers of women entering the religious community led to Providence Heights College closing in 1969. The Sisters sold the property in the late 1970s to the Lutheran Bible Institute, later known as Trinity Lutheran College. The subsequent owner, City Church, purchased the complex in 2004 and initiated plans to build 140+ single family homes. The developer’s plan originally sparked the property’s nomination to the Most Endangered List, but the Issaquah School Board then voted unanimously to use eminent domain to acquire the site for a new high school and a new elementary school. Because the school district did not plan to reuse the buildings, the eminent domain process was put on hold while the owner pursued demolition.

A wide network of supporters were eager to preserve this significant piece of the area’s history and reuse the buildings in their original configuration. The Sammamish Heritage Society partnered with the Washington Trust to submit a landmark nomination, and while the campus was designated, the owner filed a lawsuit in opposition. Local advocates campaigned to save the campus and filed legal appeals against the owner’s application for a demolition permit. Sadly, in 2018 advocates lost the legal battle and the campus was demolished.

Read the Providence Heights landmark nomination, submitted by the Sammamish Heritage Society: text and photos.

Learn more: Providence Heights in the News.