Monday, September 30, 2013

Great Lawn

The Great Lawn is one of the original landscape features designed by architect John Graham. Located to the west of the main seminary building, it is maintained today as an area for public events and gatherings. Some of the best description of the area is contained in a report compiled by the National Park Service in 2006, Saint Edward Seminary Cultural Landscape Inventory Saint Edward State Park. Excerpts from this report follow.


Map showing the location of the Great Lawn

View of the Great Lawn from the main seminary building tower as seen today

"The great lawn area between the front of the main seminary building and the
slope to the lake was an area designed for very large gatherings and events. The May Day celebration brought hundreds of visitors to the property for services and oratory. 

May Day Celebration

The lawn, as described in the “spatial organization” section, was also a transition zone between the formal seminary area and the informal forest. It was used for passive recreation and circulation access to the trails of the forested slope. Circa 1960, a baseball diamond was sited on the Great lawn for more organized recreational activities."

View north along entry drive


"The great lawn area today well represents the historic character from the period of
significance. It is still used as a transitional walking area between the seminary building and the sloped forest and for other types of passive recreation including Tai-Chi, Frisbee, and other exercises and games. The establishment of the baseball diamond occurred after the period of significance, and is a compatible use. The groupings of trees have been converted to picnic areas including the addition of concrete slabs for immovable tables. Other, movable tables are scattered around the great lawn for flexible seating and dining arrangements. During the summer, a stage is set up next to one of the tree groupings for concerts and other events. Overall, the land use of the great lawn area retains integrity."


Great Lawn Panorama

"Informal style plantings in the great lawn area historically created shady areas and
emphasized the grand, picturesque character of the lawn space. Near the edge of the lawn, informal style plantings broke up the line of the forest edge and provide texture, merging the great lawn with the natural environment. Today, these informal groupings define a backdrop for the seasonal stage on the lawn and for the baseball diamond. Picnic tables and horseshoe pits have been placed in the shade of the tree groupings on the northwestern edge of the lawn."

Digital copies of this NPS report and others are available upon request.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

The Grand Dining Hall

One of the few remaining rooms within the seminary building that are still open for public use is the refectory.  Used as a dining hall during seminary days the room is currently maintained for public use. It may be rented by contacting the Park Manager.

The most current description of the room comes from an architectural report conducted by Bassetti Architects in 2007. 

"The dining room, north of the stair hall: The dining room, once known as the refectory, is a large room, approximately eighty by thirty feet, with concrete beams, decorative corbels and striking bronze chandeliers. Architecturally, it is defined by its scale and regular rhythm of large steel arched top windows on three sides. The floor and base are terrazzo, the walls plaster with a textured paint. A dais on the east side was the location of the priests’ tables. This may be a replacement, as it looks different from the original design (a thirty-five by twelve foot platform with steps at the corners and finished with a wood fascia, wood flooring and a wood base along the wall. A lectern (no longer there) on the west side was used for readings during meals. Student publications indicate that this room, as well as the recreation room below, was probably used for theatrical presentations and other activities."
                                     Source: Historic Structure Report, Bassetti Architects, 2007

Additional information is published in the park's brochure:

"Saint Edward Grand dining Hall is a large, graceful hall with polished tile floors, original chandeliers and arched windows, lending a felling of elegance to events such as weddings, receptions and reunions. The floor may be used for dancing, and there's a performance riser available. Event clients must provide their own catering, servers, linens, china and glassware. Chairs, tables and outdoor canopies are available for rent. The dining room has a maximum capacity of 50 people."
     Source: Your guide to Saint Edward State Park, (Brochure), P&R 45-87000-1 (07/12)


Dining Hall on left side of building.  View from the west.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Handball Courts

Recreation was an important part of seminary life.  While the options were limited there were tennis, volleyball and handball courts onsite from early days.  Later a gymnasium and swimming pool were added.

In the early days of the state park custodianship of the grounds visitors may recall seeing the concrete handball courts.  There were a total of six. They were remove some years ago to make way for additional parking.  The former area is just east of the swimming pool building and if you look closely vestiges of the courts are still visible on the concrete pavement.


Location of former handball courts

Saturday, September 7, 2013

The Submerged Forest

A millenia ago the western hillside slid into Lake Washington.  While there is no recorded history of this event the aftermath remains with us today in the form of a submerged forest.

The park area was at that time host to a typical Pacific coast mature forest of fir, hemlock and cedar. The age of the trees may have exceeded one thousand years and been correspondingly impressive in size.  The landslide carried the trees into the lake where they were preserved by the cold water.

In 1916 the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, during the construction of the Lake Washington Ship Canal, lowered the lake level about nine feet to match the level of Lake Union.  This exposed some of the trees and created a hazard to navigation.  In 1919 they were blasted clear or pulled out by snag boats to ensure a clear passage to about thirty feet below the surface.

While clear to surface navigation the area remained hazardous to other users such as fishers using nets or to mariners dropping anchors which tended to become fouled.  As a result, the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey (predecessor to the National Ocean Service, NOAA) depicted the nearshore area on nautical charts as foul with submerged obstructions.  Several hydrographic surveys over the years have confirmed this condition but have noted that standing trees are not prevalent.  Logs lying on the lake bottom are more common.  These may have originated from years of logging operations that used the lake to float large log rafts to mill.  It was not uncommon for some of the logs to lose buoyancy and sink to the bottom.

Sonar and dive exploration by both commercial and amateur surveyors more recently report the existence of some standing trees.  The full extent of the remains of this once grand forest remains unknown.

Look for more information on this phenomenon later this year as Friends completes the design of a new set of historical interpretative signs to be installed in the park.

Snag boat at work. Photograph location unknown, but not in Lake Washington

Saturday, August 31, 2013

St. Edward's Seminary Coat-of-Arms

The seminary had its own coat-of-arms.  Based on the Sulpician coat-of-arms it was modified to uniquely represent this institution.  This likely occurred in 1931 as indicated by letters from Pierre de Chaignon La Rose to the Seattle archdiocese.  Relevant portions of these letters are copied below.

Unfortunately, we have not been able to obtain an image of the coat-of-arms in color, but instead must rely on the simple sketch shown here.  This along with the letters appeared in the Silver Jubilee issue of The Harvester which is in the Archdiocese of Seattle archives.



The Sulpichian monogram A & M stands for auspice of Mary and may be seen incorporated into the grotto architecture.


      "St Edward himself has a very beautiful coat ascribed him by the medieval heralds-apocryphal, of course, as he lived before the rise of personal heraldry, but still, an actual emblem which he used on his coinage: a cross with five martlets.  This in conjunction with the Sulpician emblem, I shall make the basis of a carefully studied design."
From a letter of Pierre de Chaignon La Rose, under date of 13 February, 1931
       "The arms ascribed to Saint Edward by the early heralds consist of a gold cross and five gold 'martlets' on a blue field.  The shapes and arrangement are the same as in my own drawing.  We may not use this coat unaltered, for to do so would imply, heraldically, that St. Edward was the Founder of the Seminary, instead of being simply its Patron.  I have therefore changed the coloring from blue and gold to red and silver - the colors of the diocesan arms.
     "As for St. Edward's cross and martlets, they appear, as I think I told you, on his coins.  The significance of the birds I do not know, nor does anyone else.  In heraldry they are always shown as having no feet visible.
     "On the Sulpician 'inescutcheon' you will note the crescent (of the Immaculate Conception) which distinguishes the American house of the society from the French."
              From a letter of Pierre de Chaignon La Rose, under date of 13 February, 1931

If you have an image of the coat-of-arms in color the Friends of Saint Edward State Park would appreciate receiving a copy.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Historical Sign Project With 4Culture Partnership

Following on the success of an earlier project that produced three historical interpretative signs, Friends is nearing completion of more history signs.

This latest effort will see three signs designed and installed that tell more of the seminary story and the grounds.

Many of the same individuals from the first project are involved which should ensure a consistency of format and message. However, one new partner joins the effort: the King County 4Culture program.  For information on 4Culture click here: http://www.4culture.org/about/

This project is also partially funded by a grant from King County's 4Culture program.



4Culture, the cultural services agency for King County, Washington is committed to making our region stronger by supporting citizens and groups who preserve our shared heritage, and create arts and cultural opportunities for residents and visitors.

Look for the signs to appear sometime later this fall. We will keep you posted on their progress.