Parks consultant to evaluate chapel's historic value

The Seattle City Council voted unanimously June 1 to follow the council's parks committee recommendation to hold off on deciding the fate of the Chapel on the Hill in Discovery Park until its historical value is determined.

Council spokesman Martin Munguia had previously said that the Department of Neighborhoods would study the issue. But the chapel's historical value actually will be determined following a study conducted by a consultant to be hired by Seattle Parks and Recreation, according to Kevin Stoops, manager of major projects and planning for the parks department.

"We would hope to have a consultant onboard probably within a month," Stoops said last week. He added that the consultant also will evaluate the historical significance of two Nike buildings slated for demolition in the park.

The parks department had recommended that the Nike buildings, the chapel and the annex next to the chapel be demolished using part of what has grown to be $5.2 million in King County mitigation funds for the expansion of the West Point sewer plant in the early 90s. The balance of the funds will be used for restoration projects in the park.

However, the proposal to demolish the chapel has met with a groundswell of objection, based in part on what some say is the historical significance of the aging building, which currently does not have landmark status.

The parks' consultant should be finished with the evaluation sometime within the next six months, Stoops said. "We will then go before the Landmarks (Preservation) Board with the evaluation and nomination. Depending on the evaluation, it could change our minds."

Stoops noted that landmark status is granted to buildings only by the city's Landmarks Preservation Board, which is part of the Department of Neighborhoods, but precedent-setting decisions have already been made about the chapel issue.

Based on Army recommendations, a large area near the chapel landed on the national registry of historic districts in 1979, and the city's landmarks board approved landmark status in 1989 for several of the site's buildings that date back to a period between 1898 and 1908, Stoops said.

But the chapel was specifically excluded from the Army list of buildings that should be preserved as historic, according to Stoops. "In essence, there's already been a value judgment made about the chapel."[[In-content Ad]]