Last spring I wrote about an endangered piece of Bainbridge Island heritage, a crumbling building that was once the administrative building of the Moran School, an early 20th-century progressive academy (and later a naval academy) whose offspring included a Seattle satellite school that became Lakeside, alma mater of Bill Gates and Paul Allen. The building is an important piece of both Bainbridge and Puget Sound history, but it has been neglected for decades.
Since I wrote, the building was added to the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation's "Most Endangered" list for 2010. The building, which was also once a theater, was slated for demolition by its owner, Soundcare, Inc. which runs the Messenger House nursing home in an adjacent building on the old school site.
Under pressure from historic preservation groups, including the Bainbridge Historic Preservation Commission, Soundcare CEO Edwin Wheeler has agreed to allow the Washington Trust and others to find a buyer for the building by October 1 to see if someone will step forward who wants to save and, hopefully, restore it. It's a short window, but a welcome one.
Starting this week, the Washington Trust has issued a Request for Qualifications from potential buyers. The assessed value of the Moran building is $192,000. It's located on Skiff Point, not far from the community of Rolling Bay. The building is eligible for listings on both the Bainbridge Island and National Historic registers. It needs significant work, however. Chris Moore, field coordinator for the Trust, says their first goal is to find a buyer to secure the site from demolition.
An editorial in the Bainbridge Review supports rescue efforts, but chides islanders for their record on historic preservation. "The shame is that the community, as a whole, hasn'êt made the effort required to save many of its historical buildings." In that, of course, the island isn't unique. The Moran building, the Review editorial suggests, is a chance to get it right.
The Moran building is hampered by its condition, but also its lack of visibility to the general public. Despite its location in a largely residential area, it is zoned for educational, governmental, religious or health care uses. Any buyer would have to pledge to nominate the building for the Bainbridge Historic Register. Moore says a savior is needed, even one that can act as a bridge to another buyer who might develop a longer term plan for the building.