Tuesday’s pivotal transition of The Academy was more than just a permanent preservation of the most significant historic building in Clark County. It was also a gleaming example of the local pride, can-do spirit and civic duty that defines our community as unique.In dry, technical terms, it was a $10.6 million property transaction. The iconic three-story building and 7-acre campus in downtown Vancouver officially changed hands from the Hidden family to the Fort Vancouver National Trust. But the deeper, more profound story reveals a long list of winners.
Leading that list are the people of this community who — as of Tuesday — are comforted to know that the ornate building and picturesque property is preserved into perpetuity. They also know that no entity would make a better steward of this legacy than the Fort Vancouver National Trust.
The Academy’s history is too rich to be entrusted to any casual owner. From the 1870s, Providence Academy was the ultimate community outreach of the Sisters of Providence, who arrived in the area in 1856 from Montreal. Ever since the school closed in 1966, its future has been uncertain.
Now the people of this community can rest assured. The Academy’s fate is clearly defined and secure; its heritage protected.
Another winner is the trust itself, and in two ways. Buying The Academy adheres to and enhances the Fort Vancouver National Trust’s reputation as a guardian of two centuries of exploratory, military and westward-development history. And on the financial side of this story, the trust can look to the 100 percent occupancy of The Academy’s 56 offices as proof that the $10.6 million investment will pay off.
But the bigger dividends are not in high finance; they’re in historical preservation. Philanthropist Ed Lynch said this week that, when Elson Strahan was hired as CEO and president of the trust in 2004, one of his marching orders was to bring The Academy into the fold of the trust. Another civic duty box checked off by Strahan.
The Hidden family is a winner in the same two ways, financially through the purchase price but also philosophically as the family’s preservation goal is now reached. The Hidden family has owned The Academy since 1969, and has had it on the market with the stipulation that it be preserved. Brothers Monte, Bill and Oliver — who bought The Academy from father Robert in 1985 — found the perfect buyer in Fort Vancouver National Trust. That they sold The Academy for $2 million less than its listing price says something about the Hidden family’s trust … in the trust.
The Academy itself is a huge winner not just for surviving, but with the $16 million capital campaign that was announced on Tuesday.
Downtown Vancouver is a winner as Tuesday’s transaction protects and strengthens the connection between the downtown area and the Fort Vancouver National Historic Reserve. Successful revitalization of downtown requires progress in multiple components, including popular historic sites.
It’s difficult to imagine a longer and more inclusive list of partners whose shared gains are tied to Tuesday’s sale of The Academy.
Congratulations to the Hidden family and the Fort Vancouver National Trust for collaborating on such a meaningful civic advancement. Clark County residents should be impressed but, actually, not surprised. It’s just another example of what makes this place so special.