Spirit Transforming The Lodge at St. Edward Keeps Time in the Past and Present
BY ELLEN HIATT
Photos courtesy of The Lodge St Edward
The long hallway has a grandeur to it that quiets a restless spirit. A wall of windows and French doors, all capped with arched glass, let the light shift and change throughout the day, giving way by night to darkness and transforming the windows into mirrors, reflecting the fine art that lines the walls. The sheer beauty of the place, its history and the attention given to its past as well as its future, may be why The Lodge at St. Edward State Park landed recognition as a Michelin Guide-worthy hotel.
Whatever its use – in disrepair as it was for decades, as a luxury hotel, or as the Seminary its founders originally envisioned when it was finally built on 366 acres overlooking Lake Washington – the stately, Romanesque Revival style building transforms to meet the need.
First completed in 1931 by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Seattle, the historic building closed in 1976 and was donated to the state. The massive building, however, was more than the park system could manage, and they offered it to nearby Bastyr University for one dollar. Bastyr declined.
“It took a special buyer,” said hotel General Manager Corey Roettgers. That buyer was Kevin and Mary Daniels, a Seattle couple who brought in partners for the feat.
“The historical dedication of this property and the commitment to restoring it for the community – that was driven by the Daniels,” Roettgers said.
Keeping the place whole in both structure and service, one foot in its past and a solid grip on a realizable future, took vision, as well as a lot of money. Its transformation to an 84-room luxury hotel cost $50 million.
The vision, however, was never just about the building or creating another hotel. It was about the community.
The old seminary and its chiming clocks that once kept the time for prayer and lesson, was silenced for decades. Its place remained in the heart of the locals who remembered swimming in its pool, opened to the public for a while by the parks system.
A server in the hotel’s Cedar + Elm restaurant, Will Larsen said he visited the place when it was abandoned, swimming, as well as hiking its trail system to the lakefront. Today, he enjoys working in the spacious restaurant, taking note of its terrazzo flooring, a beautiful material that shines today as though it were brand new, yet reflects the original marring where the seminary leadership’s chairs sat on a platform above the students.
Larsen is among the many visitors and staff who are captivated by the setting. Sitting 300 feet above the Lake Washington waterfront, a trail system spanning more than 16 miles from the O.O. Denny Park to Big Finn Hill Park and through the St. Edward’s property provides a rare urban forest with wildlife and fauna, enjoyed by hikers and mountain bikers alike.
Lyn Wiltse visited with her husband when she first heard The Lodge opened, taking a respite from the isolation of the pandemic, they visited Cedar + Elm, noting the cozier environs of Father Mulligan’s Heritage Bar and the Tonsorium Bar nearby. Within each, small bites, full meals, and craft cocktails are formed with the honey from the hotel’s own apiary and greens from the chef ’s garden, growing beside the now-shuttered pool. Wiltse recalls the sense of camaraderie she saw in the staff.
“It felt really good,” she said. “We both felt our blood pressure dropping just being there. When we first arrived we were still in our heads.”
“We ordered a drink, tasting each other’s, then we each ordered another one. And we just got out of our heads, seeing new things with our eyes, tasting the drinks. It just felt like a place from another time, and such a relief to be out in nature and with kind and gentle people.”
If the spirit is, indeed, transformed here, that was the intent all along.
The inscription in Latin over an entrance door reads “SPES MESSIS IN SEMINE.”
“The hope of the harvest is in the seed.”
When the building shuttered as a seminary, it was a former student, Archbishop Raymond Hunthausen, who dreamed of preserving the location as a park. As a seminary student he had fallen in love with the natural beauty of the place. His life transformed, he wanted it to be shared.
Roettgers said the fruits of the location are still being realized.
“We have always felt, to us, it’s an inspired place to plant the seed, yet again, and watch it grow. I don’t think we have yet to harvest the full harvest. When everyone gets to know what this place is about and comes out to enjoy it, to see the beauty, the time and effort it took – to my mind, that’s the harvest.”
And what the community can enjoy there is changing by the day, just as the light shifts on the walls as the sun passes by the enormous windows.
Those windows were incredibly restored to historic standards. Each one removed and re-paned with single pane glass. While Roettgers and his team at Columbia Hospitality would have preferred the energy savings of a double pane window, they recognize that maintaining the original construction, with classic brass Cremone bolts and panes, required a sacrifice.
That sacrifice reveals a beauty that spills into each room, where no detail has been overlooked. Even the hotel rooms include a Pendleton wool blanket at the foot of the bed and a chalkboard on the wall, recalling the sparer environs of a seminary student, in whose rooms guests are now staying, or in the guest library, filled with historic images, books, and family games. The art gallery graces the grand passageway and the lower, first floor public spaces, where the gallery is shared by the historical representation and the story of those students.
“The architecture has its own history, and its own story and the art work fills out that story and brings it to modern times,” shared Kamela Daniels, curator of Catalyst Fine Art Gallery, whose sole location is in the hotel.
“You will find a mixture of contemporary and modern art. I don’t stick to one genre. There’s a lot of artwork being created locally and a lot that people can appreciate. But the goal was to make all of that something that could connect with each person, visitors and the community.”
Hotel guests mingle with the neighbors here, all taking time to appreciate the ever-changing presentation of art and artists, she said.
“We are part of a neighborhood, part of that smaller community. We rotate at least a new artist every other week. There are currently 28 on exhibition,” she said.
Among the artists whose work was showing when the curator spoke earlier this year was Robin Layton, a Pulitzer prize nominated photojournalist, whose pieces reflect the ever-brilliant lake below and its wildlife. Daniels also tries to show budding, lesser known artists, sometimes giving them their first gallery showing. Artists like Ali Alassadi, whose reflective and complex abstract Arabic calligraphy paintings captivate.
Also part of the community-engaging nature of the gallery is an artist in residence program, art workshops and demonstrations, by Alassadi, Layton and others. The gallery provides its own window to hold up artists of all media, from sculpturists to glass and mixed media artists, oil painters and more.
“Sharing that with the bigger community, working with the City of Kenmore, artists of Kenmore, facilitating that understanding and expansion of what can be done,” Daniels said, has been part of the journey of the gallery.
So if you find yourself looking for a getaway like none other, whether for a night or a day trip, or would like to hear the historic bell, dangling in the bell tower above, ring across the lake on your wedding day, visit The Lodge at St. Edward State Park. It’s just a few minutes south of the Snohomish County border, and a lifetime away in spirit.
MAKE YOUR PLANS
The Catalyst Fine Art Gallery is open during hotel hours. To visit during a public event, check out catalystfineart.com and click on the events tab before making your reservations for dinner at Cedar + Elm, or plans to hike the trails.
To make a reservation at the Lodge at St. Edward State Park, or Cedar + Elm, visit thelodgeatstedward.com.