Barracks hospital on endangered properties list

By Tom Vogt, Columbian science, military & history reporter

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Vancouver's century-old Post Hospital is one of eight sites on the 2012 list of the state's most endangered historic properties.

The brick building, which overlooks Interstate 5 in downtown Vancouver, is owned by the city.

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Visit our Vancouver Barracks Web page, which includes interactive map.

It was nominated for the "most endangered" list by the Fort Vancouver National Trust, which holds the master lease to the West Barracks campus and manages several buildings.

A spot on the list, released Tuesday by the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation, is a way to bring attention to the Post Hospital, said Elson Strahan, president and CEO of the National Trust.

"It's the most iconic structure in the West Barracks," Strahan said. "So, we wanted to make sure people understood its importance."

That awareness will help the Historic Trust "make our case for historic-preservation funding," Strahan said. It also hopefully will get community members interested in restoring the structure, possibly as a community center for the arts.

The nonprofit Historic Trust has undertaken a $110,000 capital campaign to fund an architecture and engineering study; about $65,000 has been secured.

The nomination includes a description of threats to each site. According to the Historic Trust, the biggest threat to the hospital is its proximity to I-5, with construction of the Columbia River Crossing slated to begin in 2014. It will include a wall that will be built within four to six feet of the hospital.

Strahan added that the CRC and Director Nancy Boyd "are doing a great job working with us."

Other threats include damage to the brick and masonry, caused by settling, moisture and acid rain resulting from traffic pollution mixing with rain.

While most of the 2012 endangered properties are in cities ranging from Spokane to Blaine, one statewide resource made the list. More than 600 historic buildings and sites that are part of the Washington State Parks system are in jeopardy, the report indicated.

The current capital budget for buildings and structures is less than one-third of funding levels in the 2007-09 biennium, according to the report.

The parks operating budget will rely on the success of the Discover Pass, a visitor-fee program that has fallen short of projections.

Mounting deferred maintenance could lead to more serious building deterioration. Shifting park rangers to seasonal employment will leave dozens of structures unattended, noted the report.

The independent, nonprofit Washington Trust for Historic Preservation has listed more than 100 threatened sites since 1992. It assists in developing strategies aimed at removing the threats and taking advantage of opportunities that might be available.