A lover of history and great-grandson of one of Vancouver’s most notable pioneers has died following complications of a heart attack.
William “Bill” Foster Hidden died May 17 at age 74. He’s survived by his wife of 50 years, three children, six grandchildren and four siblings.
“Bill just loved life, even in the last year when he was so confined to his wheelchair,” said Ceci Ryan Smith, a longtime family friend. “He always had a smile, and he was always willing to help you on a project. He never let his illness get the best of him.”
The Hidden family has a long history in Vancouver. One of the original families to establish in what was, at the time, among the largest cities on the West Coast, the first Hidden arrived during the Civil War. Lowell Hidden, Bill Hidden’s great-grandfather, founded Hidden Brick Co. in 1871.
Hidden bricks built some of the most iconic buildings in historic downtown Vancouver, including St. James Cathedral and Mother Joseph’s Providence Academy.
They also built the Carnegie Library, which exists today as the Clark County Historical Museum thanks largely to Bill Hidden’s efforts.
“The museum was right on the verge of folding. When I came on as curator, and he and others worked together to save it, to keep it up,” said Pat Jollota, a local historian. “He took a very active role.”
Another lasting legacy of the Hiddens is the Academy, still standing through the efforts of the Hidden family to pass ownership of the 1873 building to the Historic Trust in 2015.
“I worked with Bill through the acquisition of the Providence Academy building,” said Mike True, who served as president and CEO of the Historic Trust for 12 years.
Along with the two other Hidden brothers, Monte and Oliver, Bill Hidden and True helped mobilize a multimillion-dollar fundraising push to help the trust buy the building from the Hidden family.
At the time, developers were looking to raze the building and take advantage of the prime piece of downtown property. As it exists today, the academy is being renovated and is open to the public for historic tours. Many couples have been married in its chapel over the decades, and it is also home to several small businesses.
“Most of the interest was around knocking down that building and developing that property as a whole, and it was a real initiative of the Hiddens to preserve that building,” True said. “Bill really played a great role as historian of that building.”
Preserving Vancouver history proved a passion for Bill Hidden — outside his own personal legacy, he carried a curiosity for the city’s shared past, Ryan Smith said.
“I think that he did that not just for his family’s name, but for the history of Clark County,” Ryan Smith said. “It wasn’t a self-serving thing. I think it was a real, honest-to-goodness interest and passion that he had.”
He was deeply involved in local churches. A member of First United Methodist Church, Cherry Grove Friends Church and Vancouver Church, he also taught Bible classes.
“He was a man of very deep religious faith, and really tried to live that belief, which isn’t that common anymore,” Jollota said.
A memorial will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday at Vancouver Church, 3300 N.E. 78th St. Donations may be made to the Rotary Club of Vancouver, the Clark County Historical Society, Shared Hope International, The Salvation Army and Vancouver Church Community Partners.