For years, the old seminary building in Kenmore's St. Edward State Park posed a strange conundrum. The 90-year-old facade is a stunning sight, five floors of romanesque revival architecture that demanded a huge influx of cash just to keep the building from crumbling—money the state park system couldn't spare. Designed by architect John Graham Sr. and used to educate priests for 46 years, it was sold it to the state for $7 million in 1977 and became a gem of a building no one could handle. On Friday, the solution finally materialized: a boutique-style hotel complete with a star chef restaurant and luxury spa.
"A public-private partnership was the only way this could happen. The seminary was stuck in limbo," explains King County executive Dow Constantine at the opening ceremony for the Lodge at St. Edward Park. Daniels Real Estate, which previously reworked the Starbucks Center in Sodo and Union Station in Pioneer Square, headed up the remodel.
The hotel will be operated by Columbia Hospitality, which oversees the Salish Lodge and Spa at Snoqualmie Falls and downtown's new State Hotel. The park even grew thanks to the whole endeavor; as part of the partnership lauded by Constantine, Daniels added 10 wooded acres to the state park in return for the long-term lease.
At the new hotel, the tiny dorm rooms once occupied by seminary students were far too small for visitors. Each of the 84 new guest room combines two of the old spaces, so hallways are lined with stately wood panels in place of half the doors. Windows mostly look out onto the greenery of St. Edward State Park on the north end of Lake Washington. The team behind the Lodge says the $57 million it cost to rework the building makes it the most expensive hotel in the state.
Reminders of past holy purposes are scattered throughout the property, but the hotel exudes more serenity than solemnity. The basement Tonsorium Bar, named for the Latin word for barber, slings cocktails where young seminary students used to get haircuts—and a white unicorn head with red eyes glares from the wall. Long, straight hallways suggest the rigidity of religious education, but the ground-floor corridor feels airy thanks to rounded full-length windows.
Chef Jason Wilson brings James Beard Award–winning fame to the main floor Cedar and Elm restaurant, coming off raves for his work at The Lakehouse in Bellevue. He'll source vegetables from the Lodge's garden and showcase local proteins like Alaskan halibut and salmon. Downstairs, the Vita Nova spa will offer a slate of body treatments and an infrared sauna.
The park's forest, lakefront, and miles of hiking and biking trails give the lodge surprising isolation even though the site sits only few miles north of Kirkland. At the grand opening, the King County executive joked that guests will get to visit without the long-term commitment made by the priests-in-training that used to wander the seminary halls. Says Constantine, "We need not destroy the past to create the future."