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Posts Tagged ‘Kenmore history’

Sometimes, if you stand on the bottom rail of a bridge and lean over to watch the river slipping slowly away beneath you, you will suddenly know everything there is to be known.

A.A. Milne

How many bridges do you see in the above photo? This is the bridge across the Sammamish Slough in Kenmore, Washington, known simply as the slough in localese.

As you drive to or from Kenmore on 68th Avenue NE, which is called Juanita Drive NE just a bit farther south, you pass over a mundane looking concrete structure at the slough. Unless you’re stuck in traffic and thinking about the Cascadia Subduction Zone, you might not give much thought to the fact that you’re on a bridge.

There are three bridges in the above photo. You can’t really tell this from above. But you can from down below.

It is not very safe to go under the north end of the bridges. But you can access their underbellies from the boat launch on the south side of the slough. At least for a few more days. The West Sammamish River Bridge Project begins next week.

The bridge that carries southbound traffic is being replaced. This will affect traffic on this route, which is commonly used by those avoiding tolls on the SR 520 bridge, for two years. It is being replaced because the structure was built in the 1930s. It’s old.

This is the southbound bridge, the one that had weight restrictions placed on it a few years ago. The northbound bridge was built in the 1970s, and it’s been deemed suitable to stay for a while.

Didn’t I say three bridges though? You’re looking at the third in this photo. As the Depression-era southbound bridge is torn out, what remains of the original 1917 bridge will be destroyed as well.

The 1930s bridge was built in the footprints of the 1917 bridge. I’ve asked around to find out if there are plans to preserve any of this for posterity and I do not believe there are. I was told that the 103 year-old pilings will probably fall apart when they’re pulled out. (Have you tried kicking one? You’ll shatter your phlanges.)

The Vintage King County Facebook page has a photo of the Kenmore bridge construction from way back. They actually have many fascinating photos of bridges. This site is so rich in local history that I need to issue a strong warning to anyone who likes to peek into the past– exercise self-control. You can become so enraptured by browsing the photos at Vintage King County that you’ll stay up all night eating Cheetos while your eyeballs bleed.

All of these photos were taken from the south side looking north. Last time I was under the north side we called the King County Sheriff because of a body sticking out from under a wadded-up tarp. I assumed the person was asleep or unconscious, but we didn’t know if they were dead or lying in wait either. There was zero movement and the upper half of their body was covered. There have been encampments and questionable activity under there for some time.

This is still embedded in the ground and probably has been for over a century. But it too will go the way of the dodo. By the way, if you really want to geek out about bridges, Bridgehunter.com is like the Spatula City of bridge websites. Here are some examples of other 1930s bridges.

This is what I tell myself in antiques stores: look up! You often find the most intriguing relics when you elevate your eyes. In this case we can see where the 1970s bridge and the 1930s bridge meet. From above, this isn’t nearly as noticeable.

Standing here felt somewhat sci fi, like a factory fight scene in Highlander, so I had to tweak it a little for effect.

Here again are the Disconnect of Diplomatic Ties to Germany era bridge, the Depression era bridge, and the Disco era bridge. The middle bridge, the one that will start to disappear just days from now, has the most character.

The vandals with their spray paint have decorated the north side many times. Funny part is, no one knows what the heck they’re trying to say.

The ’70s side is really just a big slab. It is the very definition of utilitarian. Perhaps it felt modern and exciting when it was constructed.

The anchors and cables and such on the ’30s side are intriguing. I couldn’t quite figure out why everything was placed where it was. I’m not an expert on seismic retrofits either.

I am intrigued by this coffee can on a shelf feature. If you know what it is, please leave a comment below.

Yep, I know. I can’t stop taking these past, present, future pictures. But can you name another place– anywhere– where you get to see parts of bridges from three different time periods at once?

Any civil engineers reading this? I’d love to have you break this down for me. Trusses, caps, …? I have many questions about how things are joined together at this point. The picture doesn’t quite capture my conundrum. You’d really have to be standing there looking at it. And you only have a few more days to do so.

Hmm… how this takes the weight it does is amazing.

This is exactly why I need to take the tripod along with my point & shoot. I was standing on the metal walkway over the river… not exactly a stable platform. The river has been full and muddy because of the recent deluge.

I kept returning to this spot. It was like the structural incarnation of Gary Numan’s The End of Things:

Are you the end of things come calling?
Are you the answer that I’ve wished for?

Everything’s so cold, the air is so still
And there is nothing here but me
If I belong here, and this is mercy
Then there is no place I’d rather be

Sammamish Slough ducks are the friendliest I’ve ever met. These three followed me all over as I was taking the photos. They’d get out and walk around me, probably hoping I had some people snacks. I learned too late in life that bread isn’t good for them; there are better options. I wonder how many cases of duck diabetes I caused in my childhood.

Say goodbye to the tufted totems, the mud that undoubtedly contains all manner of treasures… The only way I would have been allowed to poke around in it was to get a prohibitively expensive right-of-way permit from the city.

Bridges don’t just carry people. They carry other pieces of our infrastructure. This contributes to why modifying or replacing them is so complicated. Many agencies are involved.

Looking west. Just around the bend is Lake Washington. This is a busy place in the summer. Today it was me, a local, and the ducks.

Teds or Feed or whoever you are, no one knows what you mean or cares.

Let me take a long last look…

If you are between 9’0″ and 9’4″, it doesn’t matter. Duck.

It’s just metal. But I couldn’t help but notice its resemblance to a broken Paleo-Hebrew mem, which meant water.

How many people walk by and don’t even know what this is?

This too shall pass. A few more.

Besides the ducks, cormorants like to hang out on the slough as well. Once again, shoulda brought the tripod… I was guilty of talking while attempting a zoomed in shot as well.

Good bye, old bridges. I hope I can grab a piece of you before they haul you away for good.

He stood upon the bridge alone
and Fire and Shadow both defied;
his staff was broken on the stone,
in Khazad-dûm his wisdom died.

Tolkien

©2020 H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com. All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com.

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St. Edward 1

Just across a shining sea from the Emerald City, up a meandering path through an enchanted forest, sits a castle.

Ages ago, an order of religious men built this castle to train their priests. It had a divine purpose. There they lived and worked.

Decades passed, and almost half a century later, its original purpose waning, a large governing council purchased the fortress and its surrounding land to give to the people for their enjoyment.

But as is the case with many kingdoms whose rulers write more checks than their subjects can cash, funds to maintain the grand old building were sparse.

The castle fell into disrepair. The people flocked to its large lawn and acres of woods and the local wild animals were grateful for the safe haven as much of the rest of their world was being torn apart by development. But inside the great walls, the elements were seeping in to slowly break the building down.

Rescue attempts were formulated and discussed. Councilors and merchants tried their hand at daring plans to salvage the most iconic piece of architecture in the area. But the people could not agree on whether their money should be spent trying to save this landmark or if they should allow the merchants into the enchanted forest to ply their trade.

Here we are. And there she stands, unsteady but proud, water damaged but determined to survive, waiting patiently for a savior.

Ten years ago, I finally gained access to the building during an emergency exercise. As a medical team leader in an earthquake drill similar to the one occurring right now, Cascadia Rising, I was triaging “patients” as all the faults of the building started jumping out me. “Get those people away from the window,” I remember saying, because in a strong earthquake the vintage glass would rain down on the victims.

But there was more. The obvious water issues. The bits and pieces coming loose. The suspicious old pipes beside and above. Strange spots on the ceiling. Peeling paint and creepy radiators. A general state of disrepair despite the resident park rangers doing everything they could with what they had. Most of the building was and still is off limits. They don’t give tours. They say it’s for safety reasons. I like to believe they have a dragon living in the basement.

The castle of which I speak is the St. Edward Seminary in Kenmore, Washington. High on a hill above Lake Washington in the middle of a  300 plus-acre state park, it is one of the most historically significant buildings in the area. Kenmore doesn’t have a lot of notable historic buildings and in an era where quaint old homes with spacious yards are being razed to accommodate soulless oversized boxes, the park is a much-needed refuge.

Throughout the park are trails of varying degrees of difficulty. There are ball fields. There’s an amazing playground and a grotto where weddings are held. It has medieval-looking stone benches and a sort of combination pizza oven/sacred altar. When my cousin’s boyfriend proposed to her there, she started screaming in glee, and two men came running through the woods to rescue her.

Weddings are held there and in the seminary. The city holds summer concerts on the expansive lawn. Cultural and community groups gather for celebrations. Generations of families have played in the park. At night bats and birds, eagles and deer, raccoons and squirrels go to sleep amongst the trees after the humans have left.

Washington State Parks, the state agency the land and building belong to, has been up front that there are no public funds to save the seminary. In a series of public meetings, they’ve solicited community input as to whether private investors should be involved or the building mothballed or torn down. They’ve cited the millions of dollars it would take to restore and retrofit the building. A wall could be left up as a monument, they’ve said, but to remove this iconic piece of architecture would be to rip out the heart and soul of the park.

St. Edward 2

Citizens have many passionate opinions on whether to save the St. Edward Seminary. A few show up at public meetings with their torches and pitchforks to disrupt, to criticize the government, to be heard, to pontificate. The ever-vigilant Kenmore police chief Cliff Sether has had to intervene at least once at community meetings. But most local residents respectfully voice their legitimate concerns about how a building of this size and age can be best handled in one of the last best wooded pieces of the sprawling Seattle suburbs.

It’s crystal clear that the building cannot be saved without private intervention. McMenamins tried. There was some sort of tech company that got involved. St. Edward’s next door neighbor Bastyr University had an interest for a time. Citizens have brainstormed ideas on how to raise enough money to save the building but keep it in the public’s hands. So far the only idea that sounds halfway logical belongs to Kevin Daniels.

Who’s Kevin Daniels? If you’ve heard of Starbucks Center, Merrill Place, Union Station, or the Frye Art Museum, you know Kevin Daniels. Kevin is a soft-spoken real estate guru who has a genuine passion for preserving historic buildings. A couple of his projects have been so ambitious that given the requirements and regulations involved you might look at him and say, “dude, you’re crazy.” But Daniels and his team have plans for St. Edward, and while it’s not the absolutely ideal use of the building, right now it’s the only practical way to save it.

Someone asked Daniels recently why he’d want to buy a shuttered Depression-era concrete building with quirks like internal gutters and he offered several solid answers. Most notably, he was married on the grounds. The seminary is exactly the kind of the project that he dives into and wrestles through until every detail is resolved to his (and the government’s) satisfaction. He has faced rampant rumors and open disrespect but remains willing to attend community meetings to address concerns from all sides.

Specifically, Daniels wants to turn the seminary building into a lodge-style hotel and restaurant. The restaurant would be accessible to the general public, and for us public utilities aficionados, yes, he plans to voluntarily install an appropriate grease interceptor to help protect the grounds. This would make the seminary the gathering place it was intended to be when Washington State Parks purchased it all in 1976. The hotel would have its own parking and there would be a cooperative effort to ensure that parks visitors stay in their allotted parking and vice versa.

Citizens have expressed concerns about the increase in visitors to the park and the possibility of drunk people stumbling around where their children play. There are traffic concerns. There will be environmental impacts. There are questions as to how many dump trucks full of debris will be headed down Juanita Drive through Kirkland since Kenmore’s bridges across the Sammamish Slough in the other direction need millions of dollars of help themselves. Kudos to Mayor Dave Baker for his work on the bridge upgrades, by the way. Trump can make a deal? Ha. Baker can.

Daniels assures people that all of this is being studied and they will have numbers to present to the public. The public has also been assured that events can still be held on the grand lawn, like concerts and the Skandia Midsommarfest. While it’s possible there could be a few drunk rowdy people, that’s what law enforcement is for, whether that winds up being the park rangers on the premises or the local police. Leasing out the seminary as a hotel is a leap of faith as far as a business venture, but it is going to allow the building to become a public gathering spot, and you bet park goers will stop for a drink or a bite. Daniels also plans to acquire the 10 acres at the northwest corner of the park that everyone trespasses on now. It will become park land, saving it from becoming more soulless boxes with no yards.

My family has Finn Hill roots– Finn Hill being the name of the 400-foot high half-Kirkland, half-Kenmore mini-mountain St. Edward sits on– and if someone randomly asked me what I thought about making the seminary building a hotel, I’d scoff. As a conservative highly protective of plants and animals, my knee jerk reaction might be, “that’s crazy.” Even after learning of Daniels’ plan, I had my reservations. A hotel in the middle of a state park? Would that just invite trash and bad behavior and elitist out of towners who freak out when they see the woodland creatures many of us are used to?

Then I learned Chris Moore approved of the Daniels Real Estate plan. He and his team have been handing out orange “Save Our Seminary” t-shirts, a great way to raise awareness. That was the tipping point for me. Moore, Executive Director of the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation, is the guy you must know if you care at all about historic buildings in our state.

Moore is the expert I email any time I hear of an issue with an old building because he inevitably is willing to talk to the owner or knows somebody who can facilitate a discussion about how to circle the wagons to save it. Somebody wants to tear down a theater in Everett? Somebody’s renovating the Kirkland Cannery? What’s going on with that historic house the developer might tear down? He has his finger on the pulse of the historic preservation in our region and really knows his business. So for him to have combed through the details of Daniels’ seminary plans and come out with a very public “yes” was exactly what I needed to know.

The government doesn’t have enough of our money to make this happen and has many other matters to attend to right now, namely making our crumbling public infrastructure a priority. My gut tells me the Daniels plan to turn Kenmore’s castle into a hotel and restaurant is its last chance. Is there any other money on the table? Is there another developer out there with this kind of vision? Is there someone else as tolerant and patient as Daniels willing to be put through the wringer for crimes he never committed?

A discussion of the seminary is not complete without addressing some of the feelings community members have about the Catholic church’s victimization of children. It has been discovered that a group of priests who came out of that seminary were responsible for child molestation. They were– and perhaps still are– shameless predators who need to be held fully accountable for the violation of innocents. A few people see the seminary as a monument to pedophilia and believe it should be torn down. Some believe a high degree of penance is in order.

But Washington State Parks is not responsible for that. The City of Kenmore is not responsible for that. Daniels Real Estate is not responsible for that. The St. Edward Seminary is being given a fresh start. It has an opportunity to be reborn. It is being reinvented and repurposed. This is a victory over whatever darkness came out of it before. This is also a prime opportunity for the Archdiocese of Seattle to specifically address what happened and detail what’s being done to bless the survivors. Windows long closed will open. Doors propped shut decades ago can be torn down. It’s time for walls, both literal and metaphorical, to be demolished so that the light can get back in.

Ultimately, this hasn’t been a seminary for a long time and any negative history should not stop revitalization attempts. It should instead encourage them. I understand why people feel so strongly about this, but if what was once used as a curse can be forged into a blessing, let’s seize that opportunity. With proper law enforcement and community cooperation, this building can become a happy place. Besides its recreational use, we never know, in an age of power grid hacking, possible EMPs, and lurking war, what purpose that building might serve in an emergency. I suspect it has a greater importance. In time we will know.

It’s taken 40 years for the right leadership and money to come along to morph this brick beauty into the people-friendly place State Parks intended it to be. While I don’t know if the local clergy would bless a place where alcohol is served, why not invite priests and pastors from local churches to bless the reborn building? This could be done during a grand opening celebration to which the whole community is invited. A grand opening celebration could also be an opportunity to raise funds for survivors or to collect goods or donations for local charities.

If this plan goes sideways, I would likely be among its first critics. I am fiercely protective of local wildlife and yes, staunch conservatives can also be tree huggers. As a coworker of mine pointed out, knowing how I feel about the local environment and how we’re driving the wild animals out, it says something that I can live with this plan. Increasingly locals are complaining about how many small furry mammals there are outside or how inconvenient trees are (they cause yard work). I wonder why they don’t go live in a flat lifeless desert if the Pacific Northwest’s natural environment causes them so much angst. The trees and animals were here first. Some of us Puget Sounders like it that way.

Again, I wish State Parks could make that building into an amazing conference center or something more public, but they can’t, so Daniels seems to have the next best solution. To save Kenmore’s castle, there has to be some give and take. No one’s going to get everything they want. Kevin Daniels has been very open and very fair, plus he’s already chalked up some major successes with similar projects. If you have questions, ask him. If you feel that city council members need to provide facts or figures, email them. If you know of a way to help, speak up. This process and all information must be transparent. With a project this controversial, there is no room for secrets. There can be no surprises.

Once upon a time, a derelict castle on a hill was given new life. The demons of the past were purged. The yellowed tapestries were replaced with new works of art. Its walls were braced, its roof reinforced, its deep places dried out. Leaders dreamed of tomorrow over their meals. Locals and guests strolled in and out, finding a new unity in a central gathering place. Conversations and ideas were born. Coalitions formed to ensure proper protection of the non-human residents on the grounds and that extended into cooperative efforts deeper in the community.

Can you see it?

With a little cooperation, diplomacy, and transparency, the castle can be given a new song.

The heart of the park can beat again.

St. Edward 3

I call architecture frozen music. -Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Daniels Real Estate’s plans for the seminary can be found here.

Thank you to Daniels Real Estate, the Kenmore City Council, Washington State Parks, Friends of St. Edward’s, The Washington Trust for Historic Preservation, and various community groups for their work to find a mutually beneficial solution.

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©2016 H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com. All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com.

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