Providence Heights College

Status: Watch List

Year Listed: 2016

The Providence Heights College and Provincialate was founded in 1961 as a response to the Sister Formation Conference. Started in the 1950s, the Conference initiated an inter-congregational effort to promote college education for sisters, enhancing the professional lives of religious women. Providence Heights College was one of only two institutions in the nation established at that time specifically for this purpose. The National Register-eligible campus represents the volatile time period in the Catholic Church when a crisis ensued over a new theology of authority and obedience among American sisters that collided with older, more traditional theological interpretations.

Completed in 1961, the Providence Heights College campus was designed by John Maloney, a prominent regional architect. Purposefully situated within a secluded wooded area on the Sammamish Plateau, its buildings total roughly 210,000 square feet and include classrooms, administrative offices, dormitories, an auditorium, a cafeteria, a library, a pool, a gym, and a chapel. The chapel is a remarkable modernist interpretation of Gothic design elements with fourteen steeply pitched gabled clerestory windows created by Gabriel Loire, a world-renowned stained glass artist.

The integration of religious education with secular student populations coupled with declining numbers of women entering the religious community led to Providence Heights College closing in 1969. The Sisters sold the property in the late 1970s to the Lutheran Bible Institute, later known as Trinity Lutheran College. The present owner, City Church, purchased the complex in 2004 and initiated plans to build 140+ single family homes. The developer’s plan originally sparked the property’s nomination to the Most Endangered List, but since then the Issaquah School Board voted unanimously to use eminent domain to acquire the site for a new high school and a new elementary school. Because the school district does not plan to reuse the buildings, the eminent domain process has been put on hold while the current owner pursues demolition.

Supporters are eager to preserve this significant piece of the area’s history. The campus is in excellent condition and ideally could be reused in its current configuration. Local advocates would like to see any new construction be thoughtfully integrated with the key historic elements of the campus, which could result in a unique development reflecting the peaceful and contemplative history of the site.

Advocates, led by the Sammamish Heritage Society (SHS), have been actively campaigning to save the campus. SHS submitted a landmark nomination for the campus (which was recently designated by the Issaquah Landmarks Commission) and have also filed an appeal against the owner’s application for a demolition permit. Please support their efforts to save the campus by helping with their growing legal fees: GoFundMe.

Read the Providence Heights landmark nomination, submitted by the Sammamish Heritage Society: text and photos.

Learn more: Providence Heights in the News

Advocates are actively attending public meetings to voice support for preserving Providence Heights. Access the Google calendar for more information.

If you would like to be added to the email list, please contact Jennifer Mortensen.