St. Nicholas Church

Status: Saved!

Year Listed: 2013

Location: Gig Harbor, Pierce County

Early settlers of Gig Harbor were predominantly Croatian Catholics, working as fishermen; thus, the construction of a Roman Catholic Church was an early and important goal of the community. In late 1913, a half acre of land was purchased for $300. The money to build the church was raised through donations collected from the canneries and fishermen’s supply houses. By Easter Sunday 1914, the first Mass was celebrated. Situated on the hillside overlooking the harbor, the old church building has a prominent architectural presence that signifies faith for the town. It is the only intact historic church left in the city, and it has a strong association with area residents.

In 1958, the parish added a new church building to accommodate the growing community. The historic church was threatened with demolition to add parking space in the 1970s and again in 2012 when it was closed abruptly due to mold found in a closet beneath the front cement stairs. In the absence of clear communication about the fate of the historic church, there was fear that demolition was being considered as a possible course of action.

After being listed as a Most Endangered Place in 2013 and a change of leadership at the parish, support grew for reopening the church for parish use, youth groups, classes, and other community meetings. In 2019, church rehabilitation began with the window boards removed, exterior painting, mold abatement, repairs to stop water intrusion, a new furnace and water heater, interior painting, and new flooring. The official reopening was held on January 26, 2020, with a public open house and blessing by Father Mark Guzman. Youth group education in the main hall began that very evening, and the parish St. Vincent DePaul food bank ministry has moved into a basement room. St. Nicholas School has started using the building as well. In 2020, a new roof was installed. There are further plans to restore historic elements to the church building, including the original metal bell tower cross now on display in a glassed case and photos of original fishermen who first donated funds to make the church a reality.

Mukai Farm and Garden

Status: Saved!

Year Listed: 2013

Location: King County

The Mukai House and Garden is a significant example of the Japanese American presence on Vashon Island and in the Puget Sound Region. As a young man, B.D. Mukai immigrated to the United States from Japan. Built in 1927, he designed the structure to emulate a typical American rural farmhouse. His wife Kuni designed the surrounding garden as a traditional Japanese stroll garden, which is the only known Japanese Garden of this era designed by a woman. Together, the house and garden represent the blending of two cultures and the aspirations of Japanese American immigrants to realize the American Dream. B.D. and his son, Masahiro, also pioneered a cold barreling process that revolutionized the strawberry industry. The house and garden were sold in the late 1940s after the family’s return from Idaho following WWII. With funding from federal, state and local sources, a non-profit formed to acquire the Mukai House and Garden in 2001. The organization’s mission included restoration of the house and garden, with public tours intended to interpret the Mukai Family and their role in the community. Recently, due to increasing concern over the future stewardship of the resource and emerging questions surrounding its current management, a group of Vashon residents formed Friends of Mukai to work toward the site’s long-term preservation.

Haller House

Status: Saved!

Year Listed: 2013

Location: Island County

Location: Coupeville, Island County

Unlike most of Coupeville’s early settlers, Colonel Granville Haller was neither a farmer nor involved in maritime commerce; he was a career military man who fought in the Mexican- American War, the Indian Wars on Puget Sound of the 1850s, the “Pig War” on San Juan Island, and the Civil War. Relieved of duty following the Battle of Gettysburg, Haller returned to Puget Sound and settled in downtown Coupeville, building a two-story Georgian structure connected to an existing one-story house of plank construction already present on the site. Haller sold the house in 1879, opting to relocate once again, this time to Seattle. For the next 125 years, the house served as a private residence but witnessed very few alterations. The plan is primarily intact, as are many of the finishes, providing a rare glimpse into mid-19th century domestic life.

The house went on the real estate market and for six years, Historic Whidbey hit the pavement to raise the needed funding to purchase the historic Haller House in Coupeville. Historic Whidbey was founded on the premise of saving the Haller House to “engage the public with early stories of the Pacific Northwest as illustrated through the military, commercial and political activities of Col. Haller.” In doing so, the group capitalized on partnerships at all levels, with funding through grants from the National Park Foundation, the National Park Trust, the Norcliffe Foundation, and the Coupeville Lions Club. The deal also relied on private donations from citizens as well as a preservation easement purchased by the National Park Service. Despite some seemingly impassable roadblocks along the way, Historic Whidbey never faltered in their ambition to acquire the Haller House. In this way, the group represents the best of grassroots preservation efforts having a positive impact on the community. We’re happy to deem the Haller House a “Save!”

Now comes fun part – the path toward rehabilitation!

Haller House in the News:

Group inks deal for one of state’s oldest homes” – Whidbey News Times, November 2,2018

Campaign to buy historic Coupeville House revived” – Whidbey News Times, March 30, 2018

Electric Building

Status: Most Endangered Places

Year Listed: 2013

Location: Grays Harbor County

Location: Aberdeen, Grays Harbor County

When the Electric Building opened to the public in 1913, it was the crowning jewel of its owner, the Grays Harbor Railroad and Light Company: a unique commercial building with Beaux Arts/Neoclassical terra cotta detailing and an elaborate illumination scheme that included hundreds of light bulbs gracing the outside of the structure. Along with most of the pre-depression buildings in Aberdeen’s downtown core, the upper stories of the Electric Building were largely abandoned following the depression. With decades of deferred maintenance, the Electric Building today faces critical needs: it currently does not have a weather resistive envelope; broken glass in deteriorating window frames have been left unrepaired for years; water is finding its way through numerous wall cracks and leaks in the built-up roof; and the handsome terra-cotta wall cladding is failing at an alarming rate. Despite these issues, new owners recently acquired the building specifically to relocate their business into the first floor retail space. According to the owners, purchasing the building made sense from a financial standpoint—they pay less for their current mortgage than they did to lease the prior space. Understanding the importance of a vital downtown, the owners, with strong support from City of Aberdeen officials, hope to see the Electric Building once again light up the corner.

Digester Building

Status: Lost

Year Listed: 2013

Location: Whatcom County

The Digester Building is one of only four brick structures remaining at the former Georgia-Pacific pulp mill along Bellingham’s waterfront. Georgia-Pacific ceased all mill operations last decade, leaving the Digester Building as the most recognizable of the remaining historic industrial structures paying tribute to the original Puget Sound Pulp & Timber Company. The Port of Bellingham recently acquired the former mill site, and a 2008 Port-commissioned study resulted in a determination that ten of the historic mill buildings on site were eligible as a National Register historic district. Yet, the same study concluded most of the structures were incompatible with the new vision and questioned the economic feasibility of integrating the former mill buildings within the proposed mixed use waterfront redevelopment.

Colville Indian Agency

Status: Saved!

Year Listed: 2013

Location: Chewelah, Stevens County

In the 1860s, Major John Sims, Acting Indian Agent, oversaw the construction of a log cabin to serve as the Colville Indian Agency. The cabin maintained this role until 1885, when Agency operations were relocated to Fort Spokane. Sims and his wife, Lucy, continued to live in the cabin, staying on to homestead the site. In 1902, Dr. S.P. McPherson purchased the cabin as his personal residence. With the addition of a granary and other rooms, the cabin continued to meet the needs of the family, with the last descendants remaining until 2010. Concerned about the long-term stewardship of the cabin, the family donated the property to the Stevens County Historical Society (SCHS). With the goal of using the cabin to interpret the Indian Agency period, the SCHS has worked to clean out the cabin and make needed repairs. The hopes for a quick solution were lost when work began and it became apparent that more than cosmetic changes were needed. The sill logs were so badly rotted that they would not have supported the cabin for very much further into the future. The roof, the floor, and the porch all had to be replaced, and the chinking between the logs also had to be removed and replaced. In addition, the fireplace, which was pulling the cabin down, would have to be removed, and the gap filled.

The SCHS was dedicated and continued to raise funds and build awareness for the site. With support from the Washington State Heritage Capital Projects Fund and the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America in the State of Washington, the cabin has undergone a complete rehabilitation and was declared “Saved!” in 2019.

Read more on page 8 of the Fall 2019 issue of This Place magazine.

Battelle/Talaris Campus

Status: Most Endangered Places

Year Listed: 2013

Location: Seattle, King County

Developed in the late 1960s, the Battelle/Talaris property is architecturally significant to the region as an example of Pacific Northwest modern architecture that represents the move toward environmentally responsive design. David Hoedemaker of NBBJ was the project architect. He attributes the influence of Eero Saarinen with whom he previously worked, as well as Paul Kirk and Al Bumgardner on his own work. Richard Haag, the award-winning designer of Gas Works Park, designed the landscape. By 2001, Battelle Research outgrew the location, which subsequently served as home to the Talaris Institute, an organization dedicated to early childhood development.

Concerned with losing the site’s delicate balance of the built and natural environment to development, a group of  neighbors formed Friends of Battelle/Talaris. The Friends, who have closely partnered with Historic Seattle, successfully nominated the property as a City of Seattle Landmark in 2013. Various redevelopment plans have been proposed to the Landmarks Preservation Board, but none have moved forward.