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Monday, January 11, 2010

Save the Shoreline Museum- Essay by Steve Billings


Here is a passionate essay on the Shoreline Historical Museum situation and the School District's unfortunate "choice" for voters on the School Bond Ballot Measure offered by Steve "Radioguy" Billings of the Puget Sound Antique Radio Association.
Also offered, some photos illustrating their fascinating exhibit on the second floor of the museum. It encompasses virtually the entire history of radios, from the last century. Memories everyone can relate to.

Save The Shoreline Museum-
An Editorial By Steve Billings, Secretary,
Puget Sound Antique Radio Association

In our hobby, we have saved many fine old artifacts from oblivion. Now, it’s time to help save the big one: the Shoreline Historical Museum itself. Housed in the old Ronald School Building, the museum has since 1975 been a favorite attraction for young and old, local and tourist alike. Reflecting the region‘s unique heritage, it also stands unique among museums in that the building itself is also a historic artifact. Now, after a major facelift and other work the building, erected in 1912 is once more under attack, this time not from dry rot and mortar deterioration, but from the Shoreline school district which owns the land upon which it stands.

Without going into a lot of complicated legalese, here is the situation in a nutshell. In 1973 the Ronald School Building was sold to the City of Shoreline for the token price of $1.00 for use as a museum. The sales contract apparently contains a clause which under certain “emergency” circumstances allows the School Board the option of buying back the building as long as some conditions are met, among these exhausting any other feasible options. After over thirty years, and with two years remaining on the current lease, Shoreline School District has suddenly decided to try and invoke this option - or sidestep it altogether depending on one’s perspective. If successful, the museum would be evicted and a valuable asset to the community lost forever.

Their primary legal argument, at least at this point would seem to be that in order to be valid and binding, the original contract should have been accompanied by a property assessment, which was the school board’s responsibility to secure but was never done- ergo, the contract is invalid and the school board can legally ignore any provisions it may find inconvenient, much the same way it ignored it‘s initial responsibility to secure an assessment. (Say, if you followed that line of thinking, wouldn’t the buy-back option also be null and void?) I don’t know about you, but I don’t exactly envy any lawyer who is tasked with making a case based upon the corner-cutting and legal shortcomings of his own client, anymore than I would envy the taxpayer who got stuck with funding such an ambulance race!.
The school board’s lukewarm response to any dialogue regarding other options not involving chloroforming the museum (and there are many) would indicate that they have made up their minds already and are generally unwilling to negotiate in good faith. This plus their near total lack of any coherent plans or estimates for achieving their professed goal of converting the building into “needed” office and/or library space has fostered a not wholly unreasonable conclusion among many that their actual intent is not to use the Ronald School Building at all, but to simply raze this historic structure to the ground after laying claim to it once a gratuitous “Feasibility Study” has deemed the original plan “Unworkable”. It would seem more than mere coincidence that their effort should come as they ready for the construction of a new high school on the adjacent property.
Even in the event that the stated plan is accurate, as one with some experience in building restoration as well as waste disposal and related subjects, I can attest to the fact that any such job is never as easy, straight-forward or cost-effective as first impressions would indicate and first impressions in this case are in fact quite foreboding. The building in question, although in remarkably good condition is nearly a century old, still retains much of it’s original infrastructure and as became apparent during the installation of the elevator holds it’s share of surprises in the form of forgotten or otherwise unknown pipes, fixtures and other structural factors to complicate matters.

While the school board claims this is a plan for the future of education in the region, it is in fact a plan with no future and the worst of all worlds, one which throws away not only our tax dollars but also our heritage.
The list of public officials the school board has angered with this imprudent plan is long indeed and includes former Seattle Mayor Gregg Nickels, most if not all city and county council members, and even Governor Christine Gregoire, who’s husband recently enjoyed a visit to the museum himself and remarked how much he liked the PSARA Radio Room in particular. PSARA has been meeting in the building for most of the club’s existence and has maintained a display there for many years. Also angered should be anyone with either a love of history or a distain for shortsighted bureaucratic waste.
One rather interesting idea that has been put forth is the idea of liens against the building filed by anyone having a financial stake in the Ronald School Building. This could include any organizations and/or persons donating money, such as PSARA’s contribution to the elevator project, as well as anyone who dropped a dollar in the museum’s contribution box, which would include just about everyone who ever paid a visit to the museum including yours truly. Although the jury is still out (no pun intended) as to just how this would have to addressed legally, it could conceivably tie things up long enough for school board members to rethink their position. (if not retire)

Of course the importance of making our voices heard to public officials can not be overstated. I have discussed this subject with a number of people who have stated that at least with certain ones they may have to hold their nose in order to do so. I say, come on, people, this matter is more than important enough to put aside the partisan rancor in order to save the museum. After all, what the school board is trying to do is “Bi-partisan B.S.” in it’s purest form. It should and by all accounts does anger folks on both sides of the isle and if a favorable outcome means that I have to put on my Sunday manners for someone whom I would not see in office upon any terms, then so be it. We may not have voted for each and every one of them, but each and every one is what we pay for, so let’s start writing and get some bang for our buck!
Several local newspapers will be running articles on this issue in the near future. In the meantime, let’s all write to our public officials and express our displeasure over this plan and let them know that the Shoreline Historical Museum is a part of Seattle worth saving - Historic building and all.

For more information on The Puget Sound Antique Radio Association, visit our website at:
Photo credit-Janet Way

1 comment:

  1. Correction: The author states that " 1973 the Ronald School was sold to the City of Shoreline for $1." Since there was no City of Shoreline in fact at that time, the statement is not correct.

    It is our understanding that the correct statement would be, "... in 1975-76 the Ronald School was turned over to the Shoreline Historical Museum. Subsequently, in 1989 the Deed and Title to the building was transferred to the Shoreline Historical Museum".

    We will check with the Museum to verify that this is the correct information.

    However we appreciate all the wonderful info from Steve "Radioguy" from PSARA.

    Thank you.