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Canoe 'Carving House' being developed for Lake Union Park

The canoe carving building will be a place where Native people can practice their craft and the public can learn about the region's history.

Editor's note: The above video Seattle's opening of the Fairview Avenue Bridge was published July 24, 2021.

SEATTLE – The Seattle Design Commission is working to develop the Northwest Native Canoe Center in Lake Union Park.

Still in its early design phase, the center would consist of two buildings near the shore of Lake Union, one being the Welcome House and the other the Canoe Carving House.

The project was proposed by the United Indians of All Tribes Foundation (UIATF) and Seattle Parks and Recreation earlier this year, with a concept design presented in February.

"This first phase of the Northwest Native Canoe Center, the Canoe Carving House, has been a dream of ours for many years," said Mike Tulee, executive director of UIATF.  

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The more than 2,800-square-foot canoe carving building would be built in the northwest corner of the park in the style of a contemporary Coast Salish, single-story, timber post and beam structure, according to the commission. The concept design includes large glass doors and windows as well as a living roof that extends over the beach.

Credit: Seattle Design Commission
The canoe "Carving House" would sit on the shore of Lake Union.

Here, Native carvers will be able to make their canoes and the public will be able to learn about Native American culture. Guides will also be on hand to teach guests about the Northwest Native American practices and beliefs in building canoes passed down through generations.

"The facility fits directly into our mission and will provide educational and cultural opportunities that reconnect Indigenous people to their heritage and will strengthen their sense of belonging," Tulee said.

However, while the center would celebrate and share the history of the region’s Native American community, it’s also history that could become an issue for the project.

According to the design commission, the proposed site for the carving house was once the site of a lumber mill, which means that layers of debris and waste have created poor geologic conditions. This means that costly foundations may be necessary to protect against unstable ground, which runs about 50 feet deep.

These foundations could impact the design of the building and drive the cost of both the carving house and future welcome house, which will house a multi-use space for events, a gift shop, a catering kitchen and interactive displays to teach the public about canoe carving.

The carving house is expected to cost just over $1 million with the majority of the funding coming from the Opportunity Fund. 

Construction is expected to begin early next year.

The United Indians of All Tribes Foundation is currently raising money for the welcome house on its website.