Jonathan Feste is practicing law up in Port Angeles now but he gets back to his home town quite a bit. And he is an advocate for not only saving Tacoma’s history but using it to tell stories.
After he saw the article about the pending sale of the Weyerhaeuser Mansion on N. Stevens, he began to imagine the potential of getting it into public hands.
Here’s what he wrote:
“The former Wagner estate, Lakewold, endures as the last great estate garden at Gravelly Lake. The nearby Madera was sliced into homesites a few decades ago. On Bainbridge Island, the Bloedel Reserve is preserved. Both are showcase gardens, built up, respectively by sisters, Eulalie Wagner and Virginia Bloedel. In Spokane, the gardens at industrialist Daniel Corbin’s South Hill home have undergone restoration and includes grounds now known as the Moore-Turner Garden.
George Turner, a U.S. Senator for Washington from Spokane, also served on the building committee for the Washington State Historical Society’s free-standing Ferry Museum in Tacoma. The Corbin and Moore-Turner Garden represents the genteel character of lower South Hill residential life for Spokane’s elite during the Age of Elegance there. In Portland, the historic Pittock Mansion is preserved as a public gathering place in that city’s West Hills.
Seattle’s Stimson-Green Mansion, a twin of Spokane’s Campbell house at the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture, is restored for public reception place on First Hill, a gift to the community from the Bullitt Foundation.
Today, Haddaway Hall at 4301 N. Stevens St. in Tacoma is for sale. For a variety of reasons, the land there seemed jinxed for residential use by both the Masons and Weyerhaeusers. Whitworth College and Tacoma Catholic College both struggled there. The University of Puget Sound abandoned what was temporarily known as its Commencement Bay campus in the 1970s before a Los Angeles-based Baptist seminary bought the place.
Imagine today if MetroParks Tacoma acquired the property. McMenamin’s has tried to get permission to renovate the old seminary building at St. Edward’s State Park. Imagine if MetroParks leased Haddaway Hall to a commercial operator with the stipulation that the business venture would fund maintenance and restoration of the mansion. Visualize a restored landscape there, along the lines of Duncan Garden, the formal place for flowers in Spokane’s Manito Park on South Hill.
The Haddaway Hall property is a spectacular piece of real estate, precious like the footprint of land where Federal Way has opened a performing arts center not far from Dumas Bay. Developer Allen Mason’s real estate mantra was “keep it in view of the water,” which apparently prompted the development of the Point Defiance streetcar line. Is acquisition of that land important for the public interest, much like how city government took control of the downtown waterfront, via a Public Development Authority, twenty years ago. MetroParks Tacoma also paid a premium price to bring together the footprint of old Dickman Mill under its sole ownership,.
The museum grounds around the Campbell House in Spokane are a wonderful neighborhood amenity for visitors to Browne’s Addition, linking West First Avenue with the winding stretch of Riverside Avenue leading down to Latah/Hangman Creek.
Is Haddaway Hall a white elephant for any institution or is that parcel awaiting the right use–with grounds opened for the benefit of the community? Should it be preserved and restored, like Lakewold, and with heritage gardens, like the late Senator Turner’s, for which the WSHS helped secure a preservation/restoration grant? Is this the time for MetroParks to make such an investment, which is a different phrasing than mere acquisition. Could the agency make such an expenditure work as a business venture or would the house become one more object for deferred maintenance on the agency’s inventory list?
Perhaps some of the Point Defiance Greenhouse operations could be based there. No matter what, what a spectacular view parcel of land. Should it be in the public domain? The opportunity to ask such a question and get a meaningfu, rather than speculative answer, does not often arise.