TDI -- Reporter's Blog

May. 26, 2009 at 2:08pm

Curran House

University Place property makes Washington Trust's endangered list

It's the end of May, which means the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation has announced this year's list of the state's most endangered historic properties.

Although Tacoma properties weren't included on the list this year (and a certain round object in a city to the north has received the most attention), the Curran House in University Place did make the cut.

(Curran House / Photo Courtesy Washington Trust for Historic Preservation)

I have to confess I haven't covered the Curran House at all for the Index, largely because there is plenty of preservation activity in Tacoma alone. But from what I've gathered, a group of people from UP and Tacoma are working hard to preserve it.

According to the Trust . . .

Architecturally, the Curran House is a fine example of mid-century modern design. Robert B. Price, noted as the first architect from Tacoma to be inducted to the AIA College of Fellows, designed the house in 1952. But what sets it apart, and provides the agricultural connection, is the setting: the house is situated within an orchard providing a unique example of early western Washington apple horticulture. This combination deems the property eligible for listing in the Washington Heritage Register, and if listed, would be the first Price-designed resource to achieve such designation.

In the early 1990s, Pierce County purchased the property and the existing house from the original owners with funds from the county's Conservation Futures program for use as parkland. The guidelines of the program require that the property, as well as the house, be used for horticultural and educational purposes in perpetuity. After incorporating as a city in 1995, University Place assumed control of the property. The city leased the Curran House for some time, but the structure has sat vacant for over a year.

In 1999, University Place developed a Master Plan for the park in order to evaluate future uses and programs at the site. Of the several scenarios included in the plan, each called for retaining the Curran House based on findings that the building could serve a useful function and was an integral part of the property as a unit. Despite this planning document, the city is currently debating whether or not to demolish the structure, citing a variety of costs related to repairs, security, and utility bills as barriers to rehabilitation. Given the lack of funds, the responsibility has fallen on the community to provide money for needed improvements and ongoing maintenance.
This year's list also includes Alki Homestead Restaurant (Seattle); BF Tabbott House (Bainbridge Island); Bush House (Index); George Carmack House (Seattle); Day Block (Dayton); Old Ellensburg Hospital (Ellensburg); Libbey House (Coupeville); Post-Intelligencer Globe (Seattle); Sand Point Naval Station (Seattle); St. Edward's Catholic Church (Shelton); Surrey Downs (Bellevue); Vashon Elementary Gymnasium (Vashon Island).

Last year, the Trust made its announcement on the Murray Morgan Bridge. And it's not the first time a property in Pierce County or Tacoma has made the list. Past Tacoma sites include the Luzon Building, Elks Temple, Japanese Language School, Murray Morgan Bridge, and First United Methodist Church. On the county level, the Trust has listed Kelley Farm in Bonney Lake; Fort Steilacoom in Lakewood; Balch House and Nathaniel Orr House in Steilacoom; and Fleischmann's Yeast Plant in Sumner.

Similar to last year, the Index will profile one property per day over the next two weeks in the print edition.

Earlier Index coverage of the Trust is here and here.

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