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Advocates unable to save Finch Lodge … so far

Mon., June 4, 2007

A historic Boy Scout lodge on Diamond Lake is headed for demolition, despite being named one of Washington state’s most-endangered buildings.

Finch Lodge, located at the Cowles Scout Reservation, was recently added to the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation’s list of most-endangered historic properties.

Chris Moore, field director of the trust, said the organization added the 84-year-old lodge to the list in hopes of giving it statewide exposure – and swaying the Boy Scouts’ Inland Northwest Council to reconsider its plans.

Members of an advocacy group called Save Finch Lodge contacted Moore to try to raise awareness of the issue. Moore said the trust sent several letters to the Boy Scouts’ council before adding Finch Lodge to the most-endangered list but got no response.

Despite the lodge’s new-found notoriety, “no plans have changed on our part,” said Tim McCandless, executive director of the Inland Northwest Council of Boy Scouts of America.

The Washington Trust for Historic Preservation has “added us to their list for their purposes, it really has no bearing on our plans,” he said.

The lodge, built in 1923 and designed by Spokane architect Julius Zittel, will be demolished and replaced with a new dining hall.

The unanimous decision by the council’s executive board was made last September after an initial study estimated a new building might cost $1.6 million to $1.8 million, while renovating the lodge might cost $3 million to $6 million.

Boy Scouts’ officials have said creating a safe, larger, year-round structure is their primary mission, not historic preservation.

McCandless said the council’s properties task force is in the process of selecting an architect for new facilities, including the dining hall, and that designs should be ready later this summer.

Moore, of the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation, said, “we’d like to at least have a discussion either with Mr. McCandless or the executive council to see if through advocacy or local support they would consider reversing course.”

Bobbie Beese, a Spokane preservation advocate and member of the Save Finch Lodge group, said she doesn’t see why the council has chosen to build the new dining hall exactly where Finch Lodge is located.

“There’s a lot of empty land nearby,” Beese said. “We’re not asking them to change their course, just to change a relatively small detail” – the location. The Boy Scouts’ capital campaign planning committee is organizing a fundraising campaign for future projects, including the new dining hall.

“Nothing happens without the contributions from those who want to see the program move forward,” McCandless said.

William Stacey Cowles, publisher of The Spokesman-Review, is a member of the Boy Scouts’ executive board, and his family donated much of the Pend Oreille County land on which the lodge and campground are located.

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