Seattle Landmarks: Seattle Hebrew Academy (Old Forest Ridge Convent) (1909)
Address: 1617 Interlaken Drive E, Seattle. The Roman Catholic Sisters of the Sacred Heart built a convent and day school in Interlaken Park in 1909. The sisters picked the site for its remoteness from the "wickedness" (Kreisman) of Seattle. At first, developer John E. Boyer (1866-1961) would not sell the land as a school and the sisters engaged in a bit of subterfuge by having a Mr. Guidicelli make a straw purchase. When Boyer learned of the high quality planned for the school, he consented to the sale.
The nuns had opened a convent at 1013 15th Avenue in 1907. The new school was named Forest Ridge because of the location. The building featured "a columned entrance portal, Neoclassical balustrades, ornate curved stepped false front gables, and oriel windows" (Kreisman). Interlaken Park was part of the design for Seattle parks and boulevards prepared by the Olmsted Brothers in 1903.
The Sisters of the Sacred Heart operated the school until 1971, when they moved to larger quarters in Bellevue. The Seattle Country Day School took up residence at Forest Ridge until 1973, when it was purchased by the Seattle Hebrew Academy.
On September 17, 1979, the Seattle City Council designated the building a Seattle Landmark because of its significance in the heritage of the city, its relationship to Interlaken Park, and its distinctive location.
After sustaining extensive damage during the Nisqually Quake of February 28, 2001, the Seattle Hebrew Academy board decided to launch a capital campaign to raise the funds necessary to retrofit and renovate the old building. Three years and almost $8 million later, the building is open again. Students returned to the beautifully restored building in the fall of 2004. Samis and Foushee did the retrofit and renovation.
Seattle Department of Neighborhoods, Landmarks Preservation Board, 700 Third Avenue, 4th Floor, Seattle, Washington; Lawrence Kreisman, Made to Last: Historic Preservation in Seattle and King County (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1999), 66-67; "Forest Ridge -- A Long Story in Seattle is Ending," The Seattle Times Pictorial Magazine, May 23, 1971, p. 2. Note: This essay was updated and corrected on June 22, 2009.