The old Lincoln School building, located on the Port Townsend High School campus, has officially been listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
“Lincoln School is historically significant for its direct contribution to the broad pattern of educational development in Port Townsend and as a representative example of a project executed by the federal relief programs of the Great Depression of the 1930s,” stated Allyson Brooks, state historic preservation officer with the Washington State Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation, in an Oct. 3 letter.
Lincoln School served continuously as an education facility for various grade levels for more than 80 years.
Brooks said renovations made to the building over time reflected “the architectural trends and fashions of the day.
“As such, the school is also historically significant as a resource that embodies the distinguishing characteristics of its type and periods of construction.
“It also represents the work of two notable Washington architects, Gustavus C. Clements and Frederick B. Stephen,” Brooks wrote.
“I am pleased to provide you with this honor, and to commend your support and stewardship of this significant property,” Brooks wrote.
OPPOSED BY SCHOOL BOARD
In June, the Port Townsend School Board voted 4-0 in favor of sending a letter to the Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation stating its opposition to adding the building to the register. School officials said it could cost millions to rehabilitate the 1892 building and that restoring it may not be the best use of school property.
The board had several concerns about adding the Lincoln School to the register, including having the building potentially be subject to an environmental impact statement, and the age of the building.
The school board only had the ability to object to the listing on the National Register, not prevent it from being added.
Superintendent John Polm said the building is structurally unsound, unsafe and could cause harm to people. The building is also an “attractive nuisance” for thrill seekers who might be tempted to explore it.
The school’s 2017 master plan for the campus has three options listed for the Lincoln School, including demolishing most of the building, but leaving the eastern quarter standing for use as art studios or a performing arts center. Another plan is to demolish the entire building, but leave the building footprint and reuse the building materials elsewhere.
ESTIMATED $13 MILLION TO UPGRADE
Board member Jennifer James-Wilson said in June that registering the building could result in upgrades that could cost millions of dollars.
“It potentially increases costs that the district, in one way or another with the community, has to come up with,” she said.
There were estimates it could cost “$11 [million] to $13 million just to preserve/remodel it … to make it a functional building again,” she said.
Board members thought that tax credits, grants and local bonds could potentially be used to fund such a project.
Polm added that an elevator would have to be installed to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The board said it needed time to assess community interest in keeping the building, which could mean asking voters to support a bond to preserve the building.
Because the building is on the National Register, it may be eligible for tax credits. Since the school district is not taxed, it could partner with a nonprofit organization that could take advantage of the credits.
DEMOLISHING STILL AN OPTION
Brooks said the listing was “honorary” and placed no restrictions on the building, including the option of demolishing it.
Polm said listing the building on the National Register did not mean the building could not be demolished, but that it would make demolition less likely, as the school district would have to go through more processes and approvals.
Polm said the school board had not addressed the Lincoln School issue since this summer.
“Our attention has been focused on the new construction at Salish Coast [Elementary School] at this time,” Polm said Oct. 9.
“I expect the board to readdress the high school campus and Lincoln School as the elementary construction culminates after fall of 2018.”