In a state park outside Seattle, an old seminary sat dormant for decades. Against all odds it’s finally been reborn, and it’s one of the more intriguing new hotels in the Pacific Northwest.
Saint Edward State Park is 326 acres of old growth forest outside Seattle. There are firs and hemlocks, hiking paths and bike trails, long stretches of lakeshore. It’s a slice of woodland that seems improbable so close to the city, but it’s the Pacific Northwest in every sense.
And in the middle of it all is the Lodge.
The Lodge at St. Edward State Park started its life as a seminary. Completed in 1931, the Romanesque building was the centerpiece of the natural expanse that surrounded it, every inch owned by the Catholic Archdiocese. The designer was John Graham, whose son would go on to design Seattle’s iconic Space Needle. The son built toward the heavens. The father found them on earth. These were not the dark quarters and stale halls of a monastery. The inside was light and inviting. The ground corridor streamed sun through large rounded windows. In the rooms, branches reached out from the trees.
In 1977, the archdiocese closed the seminary, selling its hundreds of acres and everything within them to the state of Washington. There were never enough funds or momentum to save and renovate a building the caliber of Graham’s. So it sat, the subject of public debate for decades. At long last, its current owners, Kevin and Mary Daniels, partnered with the state to create what we have today: a four-season urban escape and deeply inspired hotel.
It’s surprising that the Lodge found another chapter at all. It’s a minor miracle that it resumes life with Graham’s original design mostly restored.
The government estimated that the building needed more than $50 million of deferred maintenance, according to Mr. Daniels, whose firm is known for careful rehabilitations. The building’s landmark status made renovation even more difficult. In some ways. The original design was “exceptional, so all we had to do was faithfully adapt the building to its new use,” he says. That’s an optimistic spin, easier said than done. But after two and a half years, the almost-crumbling structure is a forest lodge like few others.
Everything builds on Graham’s original construction. The architect managed to sneak in a few Art Deco touches (the archdiocese reeled him back towards the traditional), and original windows and doors have been restored — with wallpaper in the guest rooms featuring illustrations of his original blueprints. Adaptive reuse was a guiding principle, so student dorms were combined, two at a time, to create larger guest rooms. The old dining hall is the current restaurant. Classrooms have become meeting spaces for businesses or retreats.
It’s an altogether joyful and exceptional place these days, with two bars — Father Mulligan’s Bar, in the old commons, and Tonsorium Bar, in the former barber shop — to go with their creative, seasonal restaurant, spa, and a host of community events constantly on the schedule.
But at its heart, this is a beacon for the outdoors. Looking back, this forest may owe its survival through the decades to its inclusion in the original seminary plot. But there’s no question the building itself wouldn’t exist without the forest. The woods and 3,000 feet of shoreline are the “the sole reason why Bishop O’Dea bought the original 360 acres for the creation of the seminary in 1929,” Mr. Daniels tells us. It’s the reason guests come here today, too — to explore the bike trails and hiking paths, or to lounge in Adirondacks in the sun.
It’s all thanks to Daniels, who — as he finds himself in a battle with ALS — considers this an incredibly special, personal project after years of work in Seattle. The building’s nearly a hundred years old. Its new life “is a gift from Mary and I back to the community,” says Daniels. One “we hope they will treasure for the next century.”
Nuts & Bolts
A bite-sized breakdown of your most frequently asked questions about The Lodge at St. Edward State Park.
Who comes here?
City dwellers, suburb dwellers, visitors to Seattle — anyone who wants an escape at a lodge in a beautiful state park, with a great spa, restaurant, and two bars to compliment the time spent outdoors. The history-minded will enjoy the QR codes around the property linking to info about the site.
When’s the best time to visit?
The lodge is open year round; in summer, there’s kayaking, paddle boarding, and fishing on the lake; but we think the cozy rooms and plentiful public spaces (bars, restaurant, art gallery), make this an appealing place even in the Seattle rain. And there are events at the Lodge all the time: concerts, yoga classes, afternoon tea, art workshops — all in the midst of the woods.
What else is there to do in the area?
Let’s talk towns (we’ve said enough about the woods and the lake). Seattle is Seattle, and it’s an easy drive to Pike Place or Chihuly Garden, but the Lodge is actually in Kenmore, with its own flourishing brewery scene, a famous bike trail (20 miles along the lake shore), sea plane rides, and the various events and programs on offer at Bastyr University. Near too are the wineries of Woodinville and the waterfront boutiques of Kirkland.
Best room for a solo traveler? A couple? A family?
The Classic Queen will work great for a solo traveler or a couple, while the Classic Double Queen adds an extra bed. It gets more lavish from there, with the Lodge King and Lodge Double Queen, all the way to the larger St Edward rooms and finally the Daniels Suite. The latter has the look across the park through dramatic arched windows, but all the higher room types tend towards vaulted ceilings and fantastic views.
What’s a design feature I would miss if you didn’t tell me about it?
Owner Kevin Daniels commissioned much of the property’s art himself, from locals around the region. One is Sabah Al Dhaher — who, as a political prisoner of Saddam Hussein, once made art for his guards as a means of survival. He’s now a renowned figure in the Seattle scene, and you can find two of his pieces on site: one in the spa and one in the Gallery of Fine Arts, which is hosted in the seminary’s former Great Hall.
What’s there to eat?
Cedar + Elm is the seasonal restaurant in the seminary’s former dining room (plus the outdoor terrace, weather permitting). Expect seafood, locally sourced meats and vegetables, and a smattering of produce from the Chef’s Garden and apiary. Father Mulligan’s Heritage Bar serves comfort food in the former seminary commons, while the Tonsorium Bar takes the seminary’s old barbershop and serves food and drink amidst old building relics and live music.
Anything to say about sustainability?
We count restoring the historic building through adaptive reuse as the biggest point for sustainability here. The commitment continues throughout the hotel, though — most impressively in the restaurant. A Chef’s Garden produces veggies, herbs, and greens for dining and mixology. And in the apiary, with four colonies of bees that supply honey and help balance the local ecosystem.
What’s the final word?
This massive Romanesque seminary was meant to bring the sun and the forest into its long halls and open spaces — as a boutique hotel, it does the same, and adds a complete program of eating and playing on a campus surrounded by nature. If you’ve come to visit Seattle, you may not even make it to the city.
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Mitchell Friedman is an editor and social media manager for Tablet and Michelin Guide hotels. He’s been with Tablet since 2018, and wants you to subscribe to our newsletter.