Curtain Rises on Newly Completed Preservation Projects Supported by State Grant Programs
By Abby Armato, Grants Coordinator
Historic cemeteries and theaters and courthouses, oh my! As we near the end of the 2021-2023 grant cycle, we are proud to feature a few of the completed preservation projects supported by funding approved by the Washington State Legislature. While these grant programs range in type of historic resource, all four of the Department of Archeology & Historic Preservation (DAHP) Grant Programs—Heritage Barn, Historic Cemetery, Historic Theater, and Historic County Courthouse—aim to preserve outstanding examples of the state’s historical heritage, support local economies, and serve the local community.
Learn more about a few of the grant-supported historic preservation projects below. And don’t miss the recent This Place article highlighting recipients of DAHP Heritage Barn Grant Program; check it out here.
The Home of Peace Cemetery, Pierce County
Established in 1888, the historic Home of Peace Cemetery was the first Jewish cemetery in Pierce County. Originally known as the First Hebrew Benevolent Society of Tacoma Cemetery, the organization of this cemetery marked the beginning of Tacoma’s first Jewish congregation. The Home of Peace Cemetery expanded from its initial eight-acre plot in 1979 with the merging of an adjoining cemetery—Chevra Kadisha—organized by Tacoma’s Orthodox Jewish population in 1914. Today, the Home of Peace Cemetery is the only Jewish burial site in the county and serves Jewish families from Pierce County and the surrounding area.
“Establishing and maintaining a Jewish cemetery is one of the first priorities of any Jewish community,” said Deb Freedman, Corresponding Secretary of the Home of Peace Cemetery Association. “The land is considered holy and must remain undisturbed in perpetuity. Community volunteers honor the core value of respecting the dead by gathering each summer to scrub grave markers by hand, and again each fall for a traditional pilgrimage ceremony and blessing.”
In the most recent grant cycle biennium, the historic Home of Peace Cemetery was awarded a DAHP Historic Cemetery Grant of $30,000 to increase protection and security.
“Fabrication… took longer than expected, but the completed project was well worth the wait,” said J. David Aqua, President of the Home of Peace Cemetery Association. As a result of this project, “the Cemetery Association has had a significant reduction (over 50%) in calls from the security company and local police regarding possible after-hours break-ins to the grounds.”
Okanogan County Courthouse, Okanogan County
After the county seat relocated to Okanogan in 1914, the historic Okanogan County Courthouse was constructed a year later on a hillside in the middle of downtown. From the hill, the courthouse and its 82-foot clock tower overlook the downtown and can be seen as far away as from the Okanogan River. But the courthouse is not only one of the most publicly visible buildings in town, it is also one of the most distinctive. The building’s Mission Revival style features stucco on brick, decorative curvilinear gables, and rooftop dormer windows.
Due to age and lack of maintenance, the historic courthouse has recently faced issues with moisture, pests, and falling cement chunks. In 2021, the historic Okanogan County Courthouse was awarded a DAHP Historic County Courthouse Grant of $248,925 to rehabilitate the cement copings along the parapets and window casements, rehabilitate the cement stairs of the main entry, and upgrade the existing HVAC system.
Laleña Johns, Clerk of the Board of Okanogan County Commissioners, told us that after completing the first phase of their preservation efforts, “it is now safe to walk under the gables of the courthouse without worrying about getting hit on the head from falling concrete.”
Columbia Theatre, Cowlitz County
Built in 1923 in Cowlitz County, the historic Columbia Theatre first opened its doors on April 5, 1925, to a sold-out audience. In its early years, the theater showed orchestra-accompanied silent films and vaudeville acts. With the invention of talking pictures and the decline of vaudeville, the Columbia continued to show first-run films in addition to musicals and plays from traveling performing companies and concerts performed by the local Community Concert Association and Southwest Washington Symphony. This community entertainment venue came close to demolition when, in 1979, it was slated to be replaced by a new cineplex. Thanks to the leadership of Virginia Rubin and the Columbia Theatre Task Force, this building found new ownership and was listed on the National Historic Registry. The historic theater reopened its doors in February 2010.
Today, this historic theater is managed by the Columbia Theatre Association for the Performing Arts. In 2022, the theatre association was awarded an inaugural DAHP Historic Theatre Grant of $25,445 to preserve the historic tile and stone along the building’s exterior façade.
“The project allowed us to do much needed repair to the façade of the building,” said Kelly Ragsdale, Managing Director of the Columbia Theatre Association. “Seeing everything coming together is like going back in time to see it on opening night in 1925.”
Support for Local Preservation Efforts Continue
We are thrilled to share that our advocacy efforts for the continuation of these critical grant programs were successful! This past spring, the Washington State Legislature approved funding to renew these programs in the next biennium:
- Historic County Courthouse Grant Program: $3.162 million to support rehabilitation of courthouses in 8 counties across the state (up from $1.75 million in 2021-2023)
- Heritage Barn Grant Program: $1 million to support working barns (equal to 2021-2023 funding)
- Historic Cemetery Grant Program: $515,000 to support cemetery preservation (up from $300,000 in 2021-2023)
- Historic Theater Grant Program: $515,000 to support rehabilitation work on historic theaters (up from $300,000 in 2021-2023)
These grant programs supporting the rehabilitation of historic resources are generously supported by funding from the Washington State Legislature. These grant programs are housed within the Washington State Department of Archaeology & Historic Preservation (DAHP) and have been managed under contract by the Washington Trust throughout the 2021-2023 biennium.
Interested in applying? Refer back to the DAHP website in the coming months for updates on application deadlines.