Historic preservationists deem century-old Gig Harbor church endangered

Washington Trust for Historic Preservation officials announced Wednesday they have included a 100-year-old Pierce County church on its annual list of Most Endangered Historic Properties in Washington state.

St. Nicholas Church, located at 3510 Rosedale Street NW in Gig Harbor, was founded by early Croatian settlers who pooled together $300 and donations for construction from the community’s canneries and fishermen’s supply houses to purchase a half-acre of land and build a Roman Catholic Church. By Easter Sunday 1914, St. Nick’s celebrated its first Mass. Situated on the hillside overlooking the harbor, St. Nick’s is the only intact historic church left in Gig Harbor.

In 1958, the parish expanded significantly in order to accommodate the growing community, adding a new church building, administrative offices, and other parish facilities.

Presently, plans are under consideration to expand and/or upgrade the 1958 complex and it is anticipated additional parking on site will be required. With the 1914 church building presently boarded up due to health concerns stemming from mold, parishioners and community members have expressed a deep concern for its future.

Several members recall efforts in the 1970s to save the church. Facing similar uncertainty at the time, parishioners passed the hat and collected the needed funds to engage in restoration work. Following completion of the project, in 1981 the Peninsula Historical Society moved into the structure, utilizing the basement for its archives until 1998.

In the absence of clear communication about the fate of the historic church, there is fear that demolition is being considered as a possible course of action. But several parishioners and community members have formed the Friends of St. Nick’s and are committed to rehabilitating the church, hopeful that history does indeed repeat itself.

The remaining historic properties being named to this year’s are the 1913 Electric Building in Aberdeen; the 1937 Digester Building in Bellingham; the 1866 Colonel Granville Haller House in Coupeville; the late-1960s the Battelle/Talaris Campus in Seattle’s Laurelhurst neighborhood; the 1927 B.D. Mukai House and Garden; and the 1860s-era Colville Indian Agency log cabin in Stevens County.

Since 1992, the independent, non-profit Washington Trust for Historic Preservation has used its Most Endangered Historic Properties List to bring attention to over 100 threatened sites nominated by concerned citizens and organizations across the state. The Washington Trust assists advocates for these resources in developing strategies aimed at removing these threats, taking advantage of opportunities where they exist, and finding positive preservation solutions for listed resources.

According to information on the Washington Trust’s Web site, the list has included historic properties in Tacoma and Pierce County, such as Pacific National Bank Building / Luzon Building (Tacoma) — listed in 1992, demolished in 2009; Japanese Language School (Tacoma) — listed in 1993, demolished in 2004;Elks Building (Tacoma) — listed in 2003; First United Methodist Church (Tacoma) — listed in 2006, demolished in 2007; Murray Morgan Bridge (Tacoma) — listed in 2008; Kelley Farm (Bonney Lake) — listed in 2006; Historic Commercial Fishing Net Sheds (Gig Harbor) — listed in 2008; Fort Steilacoom (Lakewood) — listed in 2006; Sunrise Lodge (Mount Rainier National Park) — listed in 1992, saved in 1996; Balch House (Steilacoom) — listed in 1993, saved in 1994; Nathaniel Orr House (Steilacoom) — listed in 1996, saved in 1999; Fleischmann’s Yeast Plant (Sumner) — listed in 2007, demolished in 2010; Curran House(University Place) — listed in 2009; Old City Hall (Tacoma) — listed in 2011; McMillin Bridge (Orting / Pierce County) — listed in 2011; and McNeil Island Prison (Pierce County) — listed in 2011.

More information is available online at wa-trust.org.

The Washington Trust for Historic Preservation has included St. Nicholas Church in Gig Harbor on its annual list of Most Endangered Historic Properties in Washington state. (PHOTO COURTESY WASHINGTON TRUST FOR HISTORIC PRESERVATION)