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Friday, January 8, 2010

Q and A on Shoreline Historical Museum Status

Celebrating one week anniversary for "Of Paramount Importance".

Here is a useful Q & A about the Shoreline Historical Museum situation taken from their website.

Frequently Asked Questions:

How did the Museum come to own the Ronald School Building?

In 1971, the Shoreline School District determined that it could no longer employ the 1912 Ronald School as a student-occupied building, and closed its doors. The building was in an unusable state at the time. Then-superintendent Bill Stevenson, district teacher Kay Bartholomew and preservationist Barbara Monks, along with dozens of other community members, were determined to turn the building around, and give it new life as a museum focused on local history. The community worked together to create the Shoreline Historical Museum, which opened in 1976 as a Bicentennial Project. King County Council Member Tracy Owen held Museum Membership #1, and cut the ribbon on opening day. In 1989, after the building had been successfully improved and operated by the Museum for sixteen years, the school district issued a quit claim deed, giving the Ronald School building to the Shoreline Historical Museum for its continued use as a museum to benefit the community. In the school district’s own words, “there is no value in the building…” Board members reasoned that this way, the Museum could obtain grants and donations to refurbish and restore the building. An application to designate the building as a Landmark was made in 1989, but failed; restoration work had not yet been done.

How much money has the Museum spent on restoring and renovating the Ronald School?
Since 1989, the Museum, through its members, donors and granting agencies, has invested approximately $1.5 million improving and restoring its 16,000 square foot building while creating ADA accessibility to every inch of its three floors. At the same time, the Museum has managed and preserved a vast community collection of artifacts, ephemera, photographs, and other archival resources that are used for research, exhibits, publications and programs. The collection and archives alone comprises over 3000 square feet of storage. The Museum has also continuously provided a meeting space for community groups and public gatherings.

Has the Museum planned for the future?

Since 1996, the Museum has employed Tonkin/Hoyne/Lokan architectural firm as its designer for historically accurate restorations, seismic upgrades and ADA accessibility improvements. In its effort to preserve, restore and improve the Ronald School Building for its continued existence over the next 100 years, the Museum has already accomplished many of these tasks. Additionally, the Museum has had active plans for the rest of the work, most of which has already been designed by Tonkin/Hoyne/Lokan. Had the Museum not suspended its capital campaign this year, the goal of completing further seismic upgrades and restoring the building’s magnificent Bell Tower would have been reached in 2012.

The Museum has achieved much, and at about 1/5 the cost that a public agency would spend. The Museum has made excellent, thrifty use of the funds that donors and granting agencies have put toward the Ronald School’s improvements. After 20 years of work, the Museum was finally able to obtain an official Landmark designation for the building.
Shorewood High School opened the same year as the Shoreline Historical Museum, and for 34 years they have operated side by side as partners in education, with students performing volunteer duties, holding internships and learning about the history of their community at their Museum. We hope that the Shoreline Historical Museum and Shorewood High School will continue to exist next to each other as they have since the beginning of both institutions, sharing their common goal as educational institutions.

What if the interior of the Ronald School building were modernized, and the Museum moved its operations to the basement of the building and paid approximately $50,000 a year to rent 5000 square feet of space in the Ronald School?

If the building's interior had to be modernized, the historic interior would first have to be demolished, removing all of the interior historic features and ADA improvements that the Museum has worked to restore, maintain and develop. There would no longer be the individual historic classroom spaces from the original 1912 structure and the 1926 addition. Hallways, original transoms and doors would all disappear.

The Museum would be required to completely move all of the community’s historical holdings, archives and exhibits to a warehouse for about a year, or possibly longer, stopping all Museum operations. The cost of doing this has not yet been estimated. The Museum would then have to consolidate all of its operations and programming into 1/3 of the space that it now utilizes. Approximately 95% of the archives, artifacts and photos would have to remain in storage. The Museum would have no programming space and no changing exhibit space, as a work area is needed to construct exhibits, and there would be no place in the building for that. There would be no space for student workers, interns or collection manager offices or work areas. There would be no community gathering space operated by the Museum. The Museum would also have to pay for both a secured, climate controlled storage facility and the 5000 square foot rental in the Ronald School building.
How much would it cost to perform such a major modernization of the Ronald School building interior?
The exact price of modernizing the Ronald School are unknown, but the costs would involve completely revising and rebuilding the interior from the bottom up, including seismic struts, restrooms, electrical, HVAC, sprinkler and alarm systems. The historical interior would not remain as it is now. The Museum’s careful work in the interior - new and upgraded electrical, elevator installation, ADA restrooms, upgraded plumbing, exhibit, meeting spaces, collections storage and archives - both with state-of-the-art compact storage units - would all be destroyed. Through fundraising, the Museum has spent approximately $1.5 million over the last 20 years in renovations, and expects to spend about $1.2 million more to finish seismic upgrades, the bell tower, and window frames. There is no doubt that a public agency would have to spend a good deal more than that to modernize the building.

If the interior of the Ronald building were modernized, no longer will people be able experience the authenticity of the oldest public structure north of downtown Seattle - a real historical school building, cultural asset and tourist attraction right here in Shoreline.


  1. Thank you for posting that informative message, Janet. Yes, we could still go to visit historic "things" if the space were to change, but so much of what this museum should be is the "experience" of visiting the original rooms, seeing the actual spaces in which students spent their days studying, the worn steps they climbed; comparing it to present-day classrooms. I love visiting preserved old buildings. It's not nearly the same to just see the furnishings or things in another setting. The feeling is lost. We must make sure present and future generations have the opportunity to "feel" the past.

  2. In response to Kendahl Adjorlolo:

    As someone who was born and raised in Shoreline, whose father attended the Ronald School, and a Museum board member I feel I must respond. I am not an attorney and this is my personal opinion.

    The School Board began the Shorewood design process without even notifying the Shoreline Historical Museum. Since that time nearly a year ago, the Museum management has tried to work with the School's management to find a solution to the District's assertion that there wouldn't be space on the current Shorewood site to house the Museum in the Ronald School Building and the new school.

    The School District has stated that although a prior School Board in 1989 gave a quit-claim deed to the Museum, this deed was invalid due to the fact that proper notification was not made to the State Superintendent's office. The reasoning then ran that since the Museum's deed was invalid, the School District owned the building and could evict the Museum at will.

    In fact, I personally found a map in the Shoreline School District archives that makes it very clear that the Ronald School was surplused prior to the time notification to the State was necessary. I believe that the 1989 quit-claim deed is valid, that the Museum owns the building, and that the School District has room on the Shorewood site to build the new school and house the Museum in the Ronald School.

    The Ronald School is the oldest public building in Shoreline. I believe the building has value as a learning tool. Gutting the building and saving part of the facade to incorporate into a new school would just leave a few bricks. Thousands of school children have gone through the building and been delighted to see the quaint closets, imagine the students in the school rooms, and walk the same stairs that earlier generations walked. All these aspects of the Ronald Building would be lost if it is gutted as the District proposes.

    I am very dismayed at having to oppose anything the School District puts up for a vote. I've always trusted them to do what is right, but I don't believe they have been honest with the community or the Museum on this issue, so there seems no alternative but to advocate a "no" vote.

    Tracy Tallman

  3. If the School District will hurry and get out the word that they will allow the museum (the ENTIRE museum) to continue to use the Historic Ronald School building, as they declared they would on the legal quit claim deed, then I will vote Yes. Otherwise. I may have to wait until the next time around.

    I agree, there is plenty of room on the non museum part of the property to house students and their cars, too. Two additional stories plus a vast parking area! Why the desperation to access the Ronald School. What is the logic to expensively modernizing a historic building-wasting the huge investment in creating the historic look when there were plans made that don't incorporate it?

    I want to see a reasonble agreement between the two parties ASAP. Leaving something of this nature in limbo for this long is creating anxiety, fear and anger in a lot of folks. It's adding intense conflict and could delay our getting updated High Schools and enough funds for operations.

    I want to hear good news NOW! I want to vote for Schools AND the ENTIRE Museum.

  4. Thanks to all who've commented! Keep it up and pass the word about this Blog to keep the conversation going. You are the messengers!!

    Also, you can send a message to the Shoreline School Board and to Shoreline Area News (see link in this blog).