A University of Washington building that once housed a nuclear reactor, More Hall Annex, has been added to a state list of historic buildings — although the UW still wants to tear it down.

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A University of Washington building that once housed a nuclear reactor has been added to a state list of historic buildings — although the UW still wants to tear it down.

The building’s Friday listing on the Washington Heritage Register represents a victory for former UW student Abby Martin, 26, who recently graduated with a master’s degree in architecture and has been campaigning to preserve the building. The UW wants the land for future construction, most likely an expansion of the College of Engineering.

Opened in 1961, the More Hall Annex once housed a small, working nuclear reactor that was surrounded by glass walls. The reactor stopped operating in 1988, and the fuel rods were removed in the years that followed. The UW got state funding to decontaminate and demolish the building in 2006, and the decontamination has since been completed.

Michael Houser, architectural historian in the state’s Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation, said that out of about 200 buildings listed since 2001, this is the first he knows of that has been contested. The building met the state criteria because of its importance to nuclear history and its distinctive Northwest architecture, Houser said.

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Although typically only buildings more than 50 years old are considered, the nuclear-reactor building was given a special exemption.

The state agency now will forward a recommendation to the National Park Service that the building be added to the National Register of Historic Places. A decision is expected within 60 days.

“I’m really relieved. It’s just a huge step in the process,” Martin said of Friday’s decision.

But UW spokesman Norm Arkans said the university still hopes to demolish the empty building and is reviewing Friday’s decision. The UW is seeking comment for the building’s future through an environmental-impact statement.

Historic listing on either the state or national register is symbolic and carries no guarantee a building won’t be demolished anyway.

Nick Perry: 206-515-5639 or nperry@seattletimes.com