More than 20 years ago, underage kids smuggled alcohol into the former Catholic seminary at St. Edward State Park in Kenmore while living...

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More than 20 years ago, underage kids smuggled alcohol into the former Catholic seminary at St. Edward State Park in Kenmore while living there as part of a Young Adult Conservation Corps program.

According to a 1980 Seattle Times story, parties involving alcohol were almost a daily affair for the youths until one of them fell out a third-story window, prompting a federal investigation. The youth recovered after being hospitalized.

If a proposal by a Northwest brew pub is approved, alcohol could again be served in the building — legally.

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Portland-based McMenamins pub and brewery chain has submitted a letter of intent to the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission to lease the old seminary building and turn it into a hotel with a restaurant and conference center.

The parks commissioners will vote on the proposal Aug. 4 during a public meeting on Whidbey Island. The proposal comes one year after the state hired a development management firm in Lacey, Thurston County, to seek private companies who might invest in 11 public parks, including St. Edward.

If granted permission, McMenamins would begin negotiating a lease with the state and start a hearings process that would involve the community.

Bill Koss, state parks manager of planning and research, is spearheading the project. He said McMenamins could invest the millions of dollars the state lacks to reopen the 90,000-square-foot building. Most of it has been closed to the public since the 1970s for safety reasons, including asbestos and lead.

Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission meeting


When 9 p.m., Aug. 4

Where Coupeville Elementary School, 6 S. Main St., Coupeville, Island County

The only parts currently in use are the banquet hall, which holds about 50 people and is frequently rented out for special occasions, and residences for four park employees.

“We haven’t had the money for the past umpteen years, and this is one way to get the wherewithal to do that. It’s an opportunity to make the property inviting to additional people, offering more people the experience of St. Edward,” Koss said.

The Romanesque, circa-1930 St. Edward building was placed on the Washington State Heritage Register after the Archdiocese of Seattle sold it to the state in 1977. Traces of the boys’ seminary school were left behind, including a giant bell in the bell tower, a single cross mounted on top and Latin inscriptions etched into the building’s exterior.

McMenamins would like to renovate the building and turn the ground floor into a public restaurant and upper floors into lodging. Additional parking lots, a second access road to the park and a conference center also are planned. Ideally, guests would have some use of adjacent facilities, including the public swimming pool and gymnasium.

Although best known for its pubs, McMenamins has been in the hospitality business since 1994. The company has undertaken similar renovation projects in Oregon, including turning a landmark school into a hotel, pub, brewery and movie theater.

It currently owns seven establishments in Washington, including Dad Watsons in Fremont and Six Arms on Pike Street in Seattle. Another pub, McMenamins Mill Creek, celebrates its 10th anniversary tomorrow.

Koss said the redevelopment process will be open to the public and that construction would not impede the public’s use of the park or alter its historic value.

Because the seminary building is on the list of historic properties, the State Historical Preservation Office must approve any changes to it. Even recent plans for a new fire escape for the dining hall required extensive review, said park manager Mohammad Mostafavinassab.

Redevelopment also must be approved by the city of Kenmore.

Although the city does not have jurisdiction over the park, it must approve permits and any zoning changes. Currently, the park is zoned for day-use only. And although alcohol is permitted in the park, it is only allowed at picnic tables.

Some park users are concerned about the effect a brew pub would have on the area. The seminary building is about 100 yards from a playground.

“I know that the community understands that we should do something with the building, but we’re unsure if this is the right thing to do,” Mostafavinassab said.

Members of Friends of St. Edward State Park have begun to express concern that the largest remaining undeveloped area on Lake Washington may be privatized.