The Struggle Over Historic Finch Lodge
Finch Lodge, Camp Cowles's 83-year-old signature building, is in serious danger of being demolished.
The Official Plan
On September 21, the Inland Northwest Council, Boy Scouts of America made a decision to demolish historic Finch Lodge at Cowles Scout Reservation on Diamond Lake. The council plans to bulldoze the National Historic Register-eligible old lodge and build a new, larger dining hall in its place.
The members of savefinchlodge.com are disappointed and confused by this unfathomable decision.
Demolition expenses (costs of SEPA, demolition permit, adhering to environmental guidelines and hauling and properly disposing of the waste) added to the cost of bulldozing, reinforcing and paving a new access road to the old lodge site (to handle semi truck food delivery, large garbage trucks, etc.) could exceed the modest costs of a full restoration of Finch Lodge (for use as a seasonable facility). The costs of maintaining that road year round could equal a refurbished lodge's ongoing maintenance costs. Building closer to North Shore Road avoids all this expense. Consider also the additional donations and historical grant money that a restoration could bring into the Council and the Board's official plan is completely incomprehensible.
Why build the new lodge on the old Finch Lodge site?
Some history on how we got to where we now are:
The Initial Goal
Camp Cowles, the Boy Scouts of America camp on Diamond Lake (Pend Oreille Co, WA) is looking for more dining space for a proposed Cub Scout residence camp. The camp’s signature building, Finch Lodge, was built in 1923 and designed by noted local Architect, Julius A. Zittel. The large rustic craftsman style lodge is basically sound but needs repairs.
The Catastrophic Recommendation
A general engineer from the Scout National office in Texas visited 2 or 3 times and gave the recommendation to “demolish the building, saving elements that are salvageable and to rebuild with contemporary materials (steel & concrete structure) while preserving the ‘Finch Look architecturally’.” The reasoning: the lodge is old, not big enough, needs a new kitchen, new heating plant and insulation. “foundations and supports that are adequate today will not last indefinitely.” If these problems justified demolition, then no old building would ever be restored or rehabilitated. Furthermore, if a new dining hall is built on the more advantageous site nearby, any valid deficits that are not repairable become irrelevant. (The complete report and our early comments.)
The Evolving Decision Process
The council has inexplicably insisted that a new dining hall must be built on the exact spot now occupied by the old lodge. Although the project is expected to cost close to 2 million dollars, the Scout Office has not gotten a formal estimate on refurbishing the old lodge from anyone who specializes in preservation. They have never mentioned any kind of estimate for the cost of building an access road suitable for semi truck food deliveries to a large new dining hall. Or an estimate for the cost of demolishing the old lodge. There were reports of informal evaluations for increasing the size of the old lodge. Our Save Finch Lodge group asked a renovation specialist from RenCorp, LLC to look at the lodge and give his opinion on the situation. (Read his assessment) The Council says “Historical preservation is not a goal of the council.” They disregarded the information from Len Urgeleit at RenCorp and the significant input that is coming from Scouts, Preservation Groups and the general public. On 9/21/06, the Executive Board decided against a plan that would leave Finch Lodge in place and build a new lodge nearby. They have thus far ignored the fact that this could cost more than preserving the historic lodge and building elsewhere. They have decided to bulldoze Finch Lodge spend 1.6-1.8 million dollars for a new dining hall plus spend an estimated $200,000 extra to incorporate the old lodge's balcony railing and stone fireplaces into a new design.
A Much Better Plan
Preserving Finch Lodge as an activities center and building a new dining hall nearby gives the Council much more value for their money. (Read the many advantages of this plan.)
They Don't Seem to "GET IT"
Finch Lodge is a building that Cub Scout aged kids would think jumped out of a storybook. This gem would be a valuable asset to a successful Cub Camp not an obstacle. It is a cultural (and financial) resource to the Boy Scouts of America and to the citizens of Washington State. A new building can be functional but it can neither feel the same nor carry the same historical information to future generations as the old lodge does. Note that Sports and Computer camps have new cafeterias, Cub Country could offer all that plus have activities in a unique, Story-book Finch Lodge.
Washington State, The Washington Trust for Historic Preservation, Pend Oreille County Historical Society and Spokane Preservation Advocates all agree with us
(Washington State Department of Archeology and Historic Preservation says Finch Lodge is National Register-eligible.) (Read the Washington Trust Letter to the Boy Scout Council.) (Read The Pend Oreille County Historical Society's email) (Read Spokane Preservation Advocates Letter to the Boy Scout Council)
It is unfortunate that the board decided to ignore the input of scores of Scout Volunteers, Scouts, Scout parents, former scouts, Diamond Lake Residents, The Pend Oreille County Historical society, The editor of the Whitman County Gazette, Washington Trust for Historic Preservation, Spokane Preservation Advocates, and Washington Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation. This disregarded input overwhelmingly advocated preserving Finch Lodge.
Please: Get Informed
The Official Boy Scout Web Site (Inland Northwest Council) http://www.nwscouts.org/ tried to justify their inexplicable decision. We believe the official information has been skewed against the preservation of this National Treasure from the beginning. We have used this site to inform, correct facts and explore alternatives to bulldozing this National Register-eligible building. We will continue to add information, so please check back. If you have questions or feedback please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. At their September 21 meeting, the executive board announced their decision to build a new dining hall and destroy Finch Lodge. Their plan will fabricate a false history by placing elements from the historic old lodge into a new building on the same site. Get (MORE INFORMATION).
More about this wonderful building
Finch Lodge was built in 1923 and was designed by noted architect, Julius A. Zittel. The substantial, craftsman style, post & beam camp lodge overlooks Diamond Lake. Unfortunately, exterior vinyl siding applied in the 1980’s currently hides the original clapboard siding and trim detailing. The expansive indoor walls and ceiling are covered by knotty pine tongue & groove paneling installed about 60 years ago. Massive stone fireplaces stand at each end of the space and an amazing balcony with gothic-styled wooden railing runs around the inside of the main hall. Properly restored, this building would be a real treasure for The Boys Scouts of America and Pend Oreille County, WA. The architect, Julius A. Zittel designed 6 buildings on the EWU campus (Showalter Hall, Monroe, Sutton, etc.), Gonzaga University’s Administration Building, Gonzaga’s Monaghan Mansion, St. Aloysius Cathedral, and Mount St. Michaels in Spokane. He also designed Kootenai County Courthouse and at least 11 other buildings currently listed on the National Register of Historic Places.