Category Archives: Rolling Bay

Wednesday is judgement day for Bainbridge courthouse

Bainbridge courthouse

The City Council is scheduled to decide on Wednesday whether to begin the process of moving the Bainbridge Island Municipal Court to Poulsbo’s new city hall. The discussion begins at 7 p.m.

The issue drew quite a bit of comment at the last council meeting. Over a dozen people spoke in favor of keeping the courthouse on Bainbridge; none spoke against. Moving it to Poulsbo, they said, would cost residents time and money, dissuade some of the least fortunate from seeking the court’s help, and reflect poorly on the community’s values.

No one at the meeting spoke in favor of moving the court to Poulsbo, but the pro argument is laid out in the Joint Court Task Force’s report. The task force, which is made up of elected officials from both cities, noted that the move will save Bainbridge about $15,000 a year and finally put the court in a building specifically designed for a court (the current Rolling Bay courthouse was designed for retail and storage use).

Read more about the pros and cons in my STORY from Saturday’s paper. There’s also a good debate in the comments section.

Head down below for a packet of documents related to the issue, including a Bainbridge city staff assessment of the Rolling Bay building, the task force’s recommendation and Judge Kate Carruthers’ dissenting view that the courthouse should stay on Bainbridge.

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Moran School may dodge the wrecking ball

At least five parties have expressed serious interest in purchasing and rehabilitating the crumbling Moran School theater building.

While the parties won’t be named until negotiations formally begin with the building’s owner, it was disclosed that most are either nonprofits or educational institutions.

That’s surprisingly good news for historical preservationists who had all but given up hope that the former private school theater and dormitory would be saved.

“It’s very encouraging,” said Dave Williams, chair of the city Historic Preservation Commission. “We’ve been really surprised with the amount of interest.”

I wrote a story about the level of interest shown on Friday, the deadline for finding a buyer. Read that story HERE.

Williams added a few more details this morning. According to Williams, four parties have written official letters of interest. He said most were established “educational institutions,” but declined to give specifics. He did note that none were universities or schools for children (like, say, a Montessori school). Williams agreed most of the educational institutions were in a similar vein as the IslandWood environmental learning center.

He also mentioned that an architect representing a wealthy individual has shown strong interest.

And according to this blog’s latest poll results (see over to the right), most people would like to see the building become a McMenamins brew pub/hotel. Oddly enough, that’s also the least likely of the the nine poll options to actually happen (mostly because the owner, which operates the next-door nursing home, would never allow it). But we can dream…

New poll: What’s your vision for Moran School?

I got a call the other day from a gentleman interested in buying the old Moran School theater building. His idea: convert it into a sort of retreat/hotel/learning center for foreign exchange students of all ages.

He had read my most recent story on the building, which is set for demolition if a buyer doesn’t come forward by Oct. 1. The story includes an eye-ball assessment from two historical building experts. They say the building is not as bad as it looks, seems structurally sound and could be returned to something close to its former glory with a whole lot of money. If you haven’t yet, head over HERE to read the story (it contains some not-so-well-known links between Moran School and a Nobel Prize-winning physicist).

Thinking I may have been a little too upbeat about the state of the building, he asked how bad it really was. I told him it was pretty bad, and listed some of the many fixes that would likely total more than $2 million.

His deadpan response: “I am not intimidated by $2 million.”

By that he means he has a lot of money. But, of course, that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s buying the place. Far from it. He’d have to determine if the building fits his vision, get a thorough structural assessment, check into the zoning restrictions, enter into negotiations with the owner, Soundcare Inc., which would range from price to whether or not the possible future uses are compatible with a neighboring nursing home.

But never mind all that. Let’s say you too were not “intimidated” by a multi-million dollar renovation. What would you do with the Moran School building?

I’ve heard plenty of ideas and have included some in the poll over on the right of your screen.

Be sure to check out the photo gallery Brad Camp shot during our tour of the building. It’ll give you an idea of the building’s potential. And head over to this photo gallery to see some historic images of the school.

Moran School gets a bit of national spotlight

Preservation, the magazine of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, featured an article this week about the efforts to save the Moran School theater building.

“It’s a handsome building, and it’s large—it has the capacity to house 30 to 40 offices, and so would make a great building for a non-profit or a community organization to have headquarters there,” says Will Shopes, chair of Bainbridge’s Historic Preservation Commission…

The city recently put a temporary hold on plans to demolish the building.

Despite its historic value, Shopes doesn’t hold much hope for the building’s preservation.

….that dream might not be realistic. The building is located in a residential neighborhood, making parking scarce, and is in poor condition, as it has sat empty since the 1950s. “We’ve had no real dialogue with Soundcare officials, but all I’ve heard from them is that the building is a nuisance,” Shopes says. “They say it will take $1 million to 1.5 million to stabilize the building, between $3 million and $5 million to restore it, and $100,000 to tear it down.”

With those figures, the Moran School’s future looks dim. But Shopes hopes that the community’s efforts could save the grand structure. “On the island we have had a little bit of success in getting the community behind preserving some of our notable historic features, so it might happen someone could still come forward and offer to lease it, or fix it up,” he says.

Read Preservation’s full article HERE.

A last long (cinematic) look at the Moran School theater

The city put a hold on plans to demolish the 92-year-old Moran School theater building. But the hold isn’t likely to hold.

The city Historic Preservation Commission, which opposes the demolition, expects the building will likely fall once its owner, University Place-based Soundcare, gets the permit in order. More on that HERE.

The commission is trying to initiate a discussion with Soundcare on possible ways of preserving and improving the building. They haven’t had much luck getting a hold of Soundcare, and neither have I.

Those wishing for a glimpse of the building before it’s gone can check out Farewell to Harry. The 2002 feature-length independent film had the bulk of its interior scenes shot inside the building, which doubled as a 1950s-era hat factory.

Click on the above clip to see Farewell to Harry’s trailer. The shots you see of a large, open room and of a old-style theater (toward the end) are from the Moran building.

The trailer’s hallway shots, where actors are peeking or crashing into secret hat-filled rooms, were also shot there.

The full movie (on DVD) is available at Silver Screen Video and at the Bainbridge Public Library.

Mossback: Threatened BI landmark also an important part of Seattle history

The 94-year-old Moran School building near Rolling Bay is slated for demolition next month. Photo: Tristan Baurick

The plight of the Moran School theater building has come to the attention of Seattle columnist Knute “Mossback” Berger.

At the top of his recent Crosscut column, Berger asked: “Is a building a landmark if no one can see it?”

Tucked behind tall trees on a narrow north-end side street, the four-story building comes as a surprise to the few who stumble upon it. Now that the owner plans to demolish it next month, Berger wonders if many people will rally to save it.

“It is tough for communities to hang onto their history even if their landmarks are well known, harder if they’re somewhat obscure and off the tourist track,” Berger writes.

For Berger, the building is important enough to be saved. As a precursor to Seattle’s prestigious Lakeside School, the building has historical value beyond Bainbridge.

“…perhaps the Lakeside connection might give ideas to those who seek to preserve it: perhaps support could be found for saving it beyond the island, which some say treasures its “ruins”, especially among people who value how an obscure structure that few know about has ties to some of the beneficiaries of the kind of independent “modern” private education the building embodies.”

Read Berger’s full column here.

Historic four-story theater building set for demolition

A 92-year-old former school building nestled in the wooded north end is set for demolition next month.

The building has long been vacant and has fallen into disrepair.

Built as part of Moran School in 1918, the four-story building housed an auditorium, library, laboratories, study hall and dormitory. It was later used by a naval academy and then was converted into a movie theater.

Historic preservationists are asking that the owners seek an alternative solution to demolition.

It is a “terribly significant” part of Bainbridge’s history, said city Historic Preservation Commission Chairman Will Shopes during a special commission meeting on Friday.

“I wish they’d try to save it or, if they don’t have the money, try to find someone who does,” Shopes said.

For more, click here.

Rolling Bay post office renamed after Bainbridge war hero

On Friday, the Rolling Bay post office was renamed after John ‘Bud’ Hawk, a Medal of Honor and four-time Purple Heart recipient who grew up on the island some 80 years ago.

If you’re not familiar about Hawk’s World War II exploits, you can read about them here. No wonder people see him as a true-life action hero.

For my story and a photo gallery of the renaming ceremony, head over here.