King County Landmark Nomination for the Vashon Maury Island Heritage Association Museum Campus
VMIHA will work with historic preservation consultant Holly Taylor of Past Forward NW Cultural Services to prepare a King County Landmark Nomination for the Museum Campus.
Originally built in 1909 by Norwegian immigrants as a Lutheran Church, the Vashon Heritage Museum served as the base of Vashon Allied Arts, retail businesses, and the Vashon Children’s Center before it became our home. According to church archives, it was organized as the Vashon Evangelical Lutheran Congregation in 1907, with the church building dedication occurring in July 1909. An adjacent Parsonage was built on the same property later that year. It appears the church remained active at this site until they constructed a new building about a mile south in the early 1960s.
This historic resource consists of the church building and parsonage, both of which still retain their overall form, massing, location, and primary fenestration. The church is a vernacular structure with a small degree of Gothic Revival detailing in the windows and it has a non-historic one-story front addition and a one and one/half story rear addition. The front addition is compatible with the historic character of the church, as it is a slightly larger enclosed version of the porch that was likely on the building when it was constructed. The rear addition sits behind the primary rear plane of the building forming an “L” plan and does not interrupt the overall form or massing of the historic building. Both additions are clad in horizontal siding that is in keeping with the main building.
The parsonage is a simple one and one/half story bungalow form with some Colonial Revival detailing on the porch and eaves. It appears to be largely intact with some minor changes to fenestration and front porch detailing. Despite the additions to the church, and minor alterations to the parsonage, the pair still reads as a church and adjacent residence and is a relatively rare intact example of this coupling not only on Vashon Island, but in rural King County. King County’s Historic Preservation Program has stated that they would consider the Church building and Parsonage eligible as a King County Landmark based on Criterion A3 of King County Code 20.62.040, in that both buildings embody the distinctive characteristics of a type, period, style or method of design or construction.
The original Church building has been lovingly preserved by the Vashon-Maury Island Heritage Association and now houses historical, cultural, and environmental images and artifacts documenting the history of Vashon Island.
The property’s historical significance is associated with the Norwegian American community of Vashon Island, part of a pattern of late nineteenth century Nordic immigration and settlement in the Puget Sound region. Its architectural significance needs to be more thoroughly researched, but the building is representative of a simple, even somewhat austere rural vernacular church building. Intact architectural detailing such as lancet windows, an open high-ceiling interior, and the small chancel at the rear clearly identify it as an ecclesiastical building.
VMIHA is currently in the final stages of a two-year study to develop a Strategic Plan that will take our organization to 2030. As part of this planning we are embarking on the development of a Campus Master Plan that will be completed by the Spring of 2023. A King County Landmark designation for our Museum Building and adjoining parsonage building is a priority because it would help to guide and determine the direction of our campus’ development and plan to accommodate our organization’s growth.
With support from 4Culture, VMIHA will work with historic preservation consultant Holly Taylor of Past Forward NW Cultural Services on the preparation of a King County Landmark Nomination for the Vashon Maury Island Heritage Association Museum Campus. Ms. Taylor will:
July – August 2022: Conduct research on the history of the property, related historical themes, and physical changes over time to buildings and landscape, examining physical and digital collections including the Vashon Maury Island Heritage Association, Vashon Library, Washington State Historical Society, Pacific Lutheran University Archives, King County Archives, Puget Sound Regional Archives and other regional repositories;
September – November 2022: Prepare King County Landmark Nomination Form, including property data, physical description, and statement of significance;
November – December 2022: Prepare associated photographic documentation, maps and other required nomination attachments;
January 2023: Revise and amend nomination submission as needed, based on feedback from King County Historic Preservation Program staff and other reviewers.
Securing King County Landmark status for both the Museum and Parsonage buildings will support us in continuing our work for the community in multiple ways. Having this designation will not only aid us with securing funding for future building maintenance and programming, it also ensures that these buildings will remain architecturally preserved for the Vashon community for years to come. In addition to documenting the construction and initial church-related history of the buildings, we are committed to highlighting the important role of the church building as a community gathering place for over a century, including as an incubator space for non-profit arts and community organizations serving the Island. Research will include documentation of community stories and memories about the buildings, adding to our archival public history records. Following completion of the landmark nomination, we will offer a free public presentation about the history of the church and parsonage buildings, again providing an opportunity to collect and share community stories.
Long term, landmark designation will support our stewardship efforts through access to the technical assistance offered by the King County Historic Preservation Program to landmark property owners.
The purpose of the Vashon-Maury Island Heritage Association is to share an authentic sense of this place we live by managing the Vashon Heritage Museum and its Permanent Exhibit, Special Exhibits, Collections, Archives and educational programming. We partner with other organizations and groups to give them access and share stories that have remained hidden from view.
The museum building and grounds are a focal point for community gathering. In Summer 2021, record numbers of visitors attended our partnership events with the Natural History Museum and their award-winning interactive exhibit Whale People: Protectors of the Sea. This was a part of our larger new exhibit Natural Wonder: An Island Shaped By Water, produced with the Vashon Nature Center. The VMIHA also began offering online and self-directed events created to serve our community when COVID forced shutdowns everywhere. We moved our Speaker Series online and saw attendance leap. More people attend our virtual events than previous in-person ones. Recently 320 individuals registered for History of Vashon’s First People and the Puyallup Tribe – more than any event we have held. All Speakers Series events are free for viewing on our website, with excerpts featured on History Worth Hearing, our new radio show on Voice of Vashon.
We also recently created Main Street Vashon, a self-guided walking tour with thirty-four interpretive photo panels about the history of Vashon buildings. In collaboration with Voice of Vashon, VashonBePrepared and Vashon Medical Reserve Corps, we interviewed and recorded hundreds of people as part of the Vashon COVID History Project, preserving stories and experiences of this history-making year. We collaborate with many Island and community organizations on our programming, including Voice of Vashon, Vashon Nature Center, Vashon Remembrance Project, Vashon Audubon Society, Mukai Farm & Garden, Vashon Center for the Arts, and the Puyallup Tribe. Every exhibit we create is inspired by and created in collaboration with Island partners, historians and representatives from our entire community – the community brings their ideas to us and we help bring them to life. In this way, the Museum is always offering relevant experiences that reflect our Island community as it grows and changes.
Our audiences include all of Vashon, visitors to the Island, and attendees to our multiple COVID-era virtual events. Many are LGBTQ and a growing number are BIPOC; they include artists, students, commuters, farmers, researchers, business owners, retirees, tourists, war veterans, and more. Vashon-Maury Island is accessible only by ferry and has a population of 11,000, giving it a small-town feel in an unincorporated King County designated rural area.
Relevant Expertise / Experience / Accomplishments
While we have not pursued Landmark status previously, VMIHA has years of experience in managing complex, grant-funded programming as well as physical renovations, beginning with our initial renovation of the existing 1909 structure and 1990 prefab modular structure. This required a change of use from a daycare facility to a museum and minor building upgrades & improvements. The scope of work included exterior site work, heating and structural repairs to the 1909 building, remodeling the bathrooms to meet current ADA Code requirements and interior architectural alterations to convert the space into a museum. A later museum foundation repair replaced the stacked stone foundation with reinforced concrete perimeter foundation and replaced old posts and beams with new beams, posts and pony walls.
These complex, multi-phase rehabilitation projects received grant funds from King County, 4Culture, the Washington State Heritage Capital Projects program, several private and corporate foundations, and private donors. Since then, we have managed numerous grants supporting exhibit development, public programming, and K-12 education projects.
We have also maintained the architectural and physical integrity of both the Church and Parsonage buildings since we purchased them in 1999, and we preserve extensive historical materials and archives as part of our mission.
For this project, we are working with historic preservation consultant Holly Taylor, who has successfully nominated many historic properties to the King County Landmarks Register and the National Register of Historic Places. Prior to establishing Past Forward in 2003, she served as a cultural resources specialist for the King County Historic Preservation Program. She holds degrees in cultural anthropology and architecture history and theory, and is currently working to complete an Interdisciplinary Ph.D. in the Built Environment at University of Washington. She also serves as an affiliate instructor in the UW Department of Urban Design and Planning where she teaches a graduate course in historic preservation planning.
VMIHA has two fundraisers during the summer months and also participates in Give Big. If we are not fully funded we will seek funding from other sources and contract with Ms. Taylor on a phased scheduled until all funds are raised.
Our buildings are primarily associated with the Island’s Norwegian-American community, historically a working class immigrant community of fishermen, farmers, loggers and shipwrights. The research we conduct through this project may reveal additional historical relationships to marginalized or underrepresented communities, and we are particularly interested in documenting the role of women in organizing the congregation and constructing the church and parsonage.
With regard to the contemporary use of the buildings, over the last decade, the Vashon Heritage Museum has hosted several award-winning Special Exhibits that are examples of community collaboration at its best. Representative examples include:
– Vashon’s Native People: Navigating Seas of Change received many awards, including the Peace and Friendship Award from the Washington State Historical Society in recognition of our work with the Puyallup Tribe;
– Joy & Heartache: Japanese Americans on Vashon, was created in collaboration with several local Japanese American organizations and individuals and received multiple awards;
– IN & OUT: Being LGBTQ on Vashon Island re-invigorated Vashon Pride and received several accolades including the 2020 Exhibit Award from AKCHO, Association of King County Historical Organizations.
The Museum received the John D. Spellman Award from the King County Office of Historic Preservation for exemplary achievement highlighting and celebrating the histories of Vashon-Maury Island’s diverse communities. VMIHA is also putting anti-racism efforts front and center in our strategic planning and actively communicating with BIPOC individuals and organizations. Recent efforts include writing and releasing a Black Lives Matter statement:
“Vashon-Maury Island Heritage Museum rejects racism, discrimination, and hate. Our purpose is to honor stories of love, oppression, action, and resilience; stories that give voice to all, examine hard questions about social, economic, and environmental justice, and reveal racism and oppression within our heritage. We pledge that everything we do will honor the island’s diversity of cultures and histories.”
The tension between continuity and change characterizes history everywhere. On Vashon, we are uniquely suited to examine this on a personal, accessible scale. Our overarching goal for the Museum has always been to open the minds of our visitors, to encourage them to think about their lives in the context of history and our shared heritage.
- People – $8,500
- TOTAL – $8,500
- 4Culture Request – $8,500
- TOTAL – $8,500
Project Budget Notes
The expenses associated with this Project are all devoted to Consultant Holly Taylor’s fee. If we do not receive full funding from 4Culture, we will apply to the National Trust for Historic Preservation as well as other sources.
Church and Parsonage: an undated illustration of both Church and Parsonage buildings
Side of Museum and corner of Parsonage porch: this shows the Church building, which now houses the Museum’s Permanent and Special Exhibits, a Research Room and offices; taken from the west side, with the corner of the Parsonage porch in view at right of photo
Exterior of VHM with signage: the current front of the Church building, now the Vashon Heritage Museum