By Tim Kukes for CHS
The Rainier Chapter House in the Harvard-Belmont District of Capitol Hill, the meeting hall for the Rainier Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, was built in 1925. This spring, it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
That’s not just something that just happens. Someone must care, and someone must do the work.
“We’ve been talking about it for a few years. Our current regent – regent is kind of the top person of the chapter, runs the meetings and whatnot – she just kind of put it into full throttle last July,” said Diana Prigger, 1st Vice Regent of the Rainier Chapter.
The process is time consuming and involves a lot of documentation. At one time the nomination form was 41 pages, according to Cindy Johnson-Sakuma, Regent of the Rainier Chapter. They managed to cut it down to 31 pages.
”When you first look at it you think, ‘oh, well, this is no problem,’ and it kind of like just grows,” Johnson-Sakuma said.
The form is filled with property information – location, dimensions, blueprints, and photos – and what its historic significance is. Who were the key players involved with the site?
For the Rainier Chapter House, it was architect Daniel Huntington, contractor Carl Hedeen, and the Daughters of the American Revolution.
The Rainier Chapter was founded in 1895, according to Prigger. Many chapters host their meetings in hotels and other spaces, but the ladies of the Rainier Chapter wanted their own house.
“We are the only chapter in the state with a house,” said Prigger.
Influenced by member Eliza Ferry Leary, daughter of the first governor of Washington State, it was decided that the new chapter house would be modeled after George Washington’s Mount Vernon home. To this end the chapter started saving for the purchase of property. But there was an interruption to this plan.
“When World War I started they used that money they had earned to go towards the efforts of the war,” said Prigger. “So, they had to go back and start saving again. When they started saving again, they cleaned out their attics, and held rummage sales down in Pike Place Market, collected up bonds, and collected up enough money to buy a lot.”
Through tenacity the DAR purchased the property on Roy Street, hired Daniel Huntington to design the chapter house and contractor Carl Hedeen to build it. The chapter house was always meant to be part of the community.“The intention of the house was for chapter meetings – for our members use – but it also was meant to be rented out and used within the community,” Prigger said. “In the beginning they did more card games and teas, now the later years more weddings and fundraisers.”
To that end the Rainier Chapter is opening the Rainier Chapter House to the public on June 2nd to help them celebrate the listing on the National Register of Historic Places and all the hard work of the ladies that came before them.
George and Martha Washington and the SAR Color Guard will be there with others in colonial dress or 1920s/Suffragette attire to honor the founding members.
“They worked so hard to have the house built,” Johnson-Sakuma said. “They obviously loved the house, as do all of us. They left large footsteps for us to fill, and I really believe that we owe them so much and we certainly owed them getting this beloved house on the National Register.”
The Rainier Chapter House is located at 800 E Roy. You can learn more at rainierchapterhouse.com.