The Washington Trust for Historic Preservation has announced its 2018 list of Most Endangered Places. The nonprofit organization unveiled its list at its annual Vintage Washington fundraiser, which was held at the historic Georgetown Steam Plant.
Two of the five sites on this year’s Most Endangered Places list are located in King County: Camp Kilworth in Federal Way and the East Seattle School on Mercer Island.
Camp Kilworth – photo courtesy of Washington Trust for Historic Preservation
In 1934, William Kilworth purchased 25 acres in the South Sound and immediately deeded the property to the Tacoma Area Council of Boy Scouts. World War I veterans, who were members of the Tacoma Rotary Club, 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; the high bank coastal forest on the site also serves as a wildlife corridor.
The Boy 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 reverts to the Kilworth Family Foundations if the property is not used for scouting. The buildings sit vacant, unheated, and unmaintained, raising fears of demolition by neglect. Local advocates also feel it is important for the property remain as open space dedicated to education, as William Kilworth originally intended. The property 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 – photo courtesy of Washington Trust for Historic Preservation
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 3-acre property. 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 reuse.
The other endangered historic properties on this year’s list include the 1914 Steilacoom Train Depot, designed by noted local architect, Arthur Potter Merrill; Arlington High School, an intact example of Art Deco architecture that includes two Richard Correll murals funded by the Works Progress Administration in 1940; and the Bruggemann Ranch cook house, which reflects pre-Manhattan Project history on what became the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in eastern Washington.
Since 1992, Washington Trust for Historic Preservation has used its Most Endangered Properties list to bring attention to over 160 threatened sites nominated by concerned citizens and organizations across the state. The Washington Trust assists advocates for these resources in developing strategies aimed at removing these threats, taking advantage of opportunities where they exist, and finding positive preservation solutions for listed places.
Please contact Jennifer Mortensen at 206-462-2999 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.