Venture some 15 minutes from the heart of Seattle into a quiet sanctuary, where grassy fields roll into pristine forests heavy with moss and an undeveloped waterfront hides a high-end retreat known as The Lodge at St. Edward.
In the early 1900s, The East Side Journal said, “New York has its Brooklyn, San Francisco has its Oakland, Seattle is building its Kirkland.” At the time, Lake Washington was nine feet taller than it is today. Its eastern borders were considered a remote, country destination dotted with worn farmhouses, muddy lanes, and the occasional ‘second home’ of the city’s elite.
Visitors would have looked upon the sprawling hillsides and seen them covered with new growth. The area was logged in the 19th century and again in the 1920s, leaving the occasional meadow and game trail in its wake. Fishing was plentiful, thanks to the salmon and trout spawning grounds offered by the Sammamish River (then a meandering 30-mile waterway).
Such would have been the case when Bishop Edward John O’Dea purchased 366 acres along the lake’s northern edge. O’Dea donated the plot to the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Seattle for the building of Saint Edward Seminary. Likely, he never imagined the surrounding area becoming sought-after suburbs where powerhouses like Microsoft would set up shop in neighboring towns.
While the seminary was completed in 1931 — a five-story romanesque revival-style edifice — the verdant ground defied the laws of development. Its 3,000 feet of freshwater shoreline are like a diamond in the rough next to million-dollar waterfront homes. Whoever said escaping the hustle and bustle of a fast-paced metropolis requires a long trek out of town has never escaped to the light-flooded Lodge at St. Edward.
Steeped in History
Several design proposals were sketched and considered, including an imposing gothic monstrosity that can be seen hanging outside the library on the third floor. Ultimately, the seminary was designed by John Graham Sr., a notable Seattle architect.
It was the first of its kind in the region. Its structured halls and lofted ceilings housed both dormitories and classrooms where future priests partook in prayer, Mass, and class. Reminders of the estate’s holy purposes are scattered and etched into the building. Latin phrases, like “SPES MESSIS IN SEMINE” (The hope of the harvest is in the seed), can be seen above the entrances.
The original windows were painstakingly restored in place; the bricks were cleaned and returned to their original placement. Chandeliers were preserved. The large clock hanging in the Great Hall was repaired. And neatly rowed wood doors line the hallways where the entrance to postage-stamp dorms once stood. (The rooms, too, were made a ‘tad’ bigger. More to come on this.)
Luxury from Ruin
For 45 years, the seminary offered an exquisite setting where young men pursued priesthood. But in 1976 it closed. The property — along with the majority of the land — was sold to the State of Washington with the express purpose of preserving the area’s natural beauty.
While the grounds themselves became a beacon for local outdoor enthusiasts, the seminary proved too much for the state to manage. Paint peeled from walls. Communal showers rotted. The nicotine stains of heavy-smoking priests clung to select corners and rooms. It’s no wonder rumors of ghosts floated as freely through the building as the pigeons who took up roost in the bell tower.
Yet the bones of a great estate remained and in 2017, Daniels Real Estate began a three-year restoration of the main building. Old life was gently breathed into the exterior façade, bringing the 1931 roof, windows, and entries back to their original charm. Inside a modern evolution of the best kind took place — 21st-century conveniences combined with thoughtful nods to the past.
Visitors are no longer housed in dorms barely wider than the length of a tall man’s wingspan. Each of the 84 guest rooms combines two of the original spaces, allowing for lounge-worthy beds and spa-esc showers. Stenciled wallpaper depicting the building’s architectural drawings adorns each room. Windows look out mostly on the green landscape of St. Edward State Park, some offering peak-a-boo views of the lake.
Amenities at The Lodge at St. Edward range from a snack-stocked game room to complimentary bike rentals. (St. Edward State Park is hands-down the best mountain biking destination within 15 minutes of Seattle.)
A top-tier spa can be found on the lower floor and scattered throughout the building, a series of QR codes offer a guided historical tour of the building and surrounding grounds. (The front desk provides a map at check-in. Be sure to hang on to it, so as not to miss any of the intriguing stories).
It’s not just The Lodge’s pretty trappings that will delight the spirit. The estate is home to a high-end restaurant (Cedar + Elm) and two separate bars (Father Mulligan’s Heritage Bar and The Tonsorium Bar). Farm-to-table cuisine reigns supreme here, with ingredients sourced from local farms, small growers, and The Lodge’s Chef’s Garden.
Cedar + Elm
By far the swankiest of The Lodge at St. Edward dining options, Cedar + Elm takes up residence in the seminary’s former dining hall. Flooded with daylight, curved green seats offer an intimate feel, while the woodburning oven harkens to a time when the region’s first residents (several Native American tribes) cooked over an open flame.
Serving breakfast, lunch, dinner — and an impressively delightful afternoon tea service — the food here is both familiar and thought-provoking. The seasonal menu has ranged from note-worthy flatbreads loaded apple- and cherrywood-smoked Chinook salmon, red onions, and garden-fresh herbs to delicate scallops, pan-seared and served on a rich parsnip puree.
Breakfast here is equally as delightful, with everything from brilliant morning libations to intriguing egg-loaded menu options.
Father Mulligan’s Heritage Bar
In stark contrast to Cedar + Elm’s fine dining is The Lodge’s most casual respite, Father Mulligan’s Heritage Bar. Named after the seminary’s first president (a photo of the priest hangs prominently inside the bar), it offers an inviting atmosphere where you’re as likely to find a visitor lingering with a book and sweet treat as you are to see friends gathering for cocktails and a high-end charcuterie board.
The Tonsorium Bar
On the ground floor, you’ll find arguably the most fun public house — especially on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday nights when the moody haunt offers live music. While you can no longer get a trim and a shave at the seminary’s original barber shop, you can lounge in a barber shop chair tucked beside the entrance.
However, don’t linger too long. Seating at The Tonsorium Bar is on a first-come, first-serve basis. And while tables spill into the corridor, they fill up fast. Snag one quickly. Or better yet saddle up to the bar where you can get a first-hand view of craft cocktails being shaken, stirred, and fired.
The food menu, which mirrors Father Mulligan’s overhead, isn’t extensive. But it also doesn’t disappoint. The steak salad is hearty. The pork ribs come caramelized in a sweet honey glaze. And the burger? Well, that’s just downright good-time food with elevated flavors.
But don’t stop at the savory selection. While the bar doesn’t keep a dessert menu on hand, the staff is more than equipped to give you the lay of the tray upstairs. Should the Honeycomb Creme Brûlée be available, you won’t be disappointed. The plain dish is a far cry from a visual showstopper, but one bite will have you cracking burnt sugar and licking ramekins in no time.
Kid- and Dog-Friendly
Perhaps one of the most unique features of this high-end getaway is how it welcomes guests of all ages and number of paws. High chairs and booster seats are whisked from discrete storage at a moment’s notice.
The staff is adept at providing tiny-human-appropriate drinkware and readily welcomes pups — big and small. However, it is worth mentioning four-legged animals are not permitted inside the restaurant or bars (service animals excluded). Dog-loving patrons will need to snag a seat on the seasonal patio at Cedar + Elm or the corridors outside of either bar.
A Host of Unique Activities — Including a Bird’s Eye View of The Lodge
In addition to happy hour and live music, The lodge offers a variety of rotating and regular activities and specials. Saturday yoga is complimentary with your stay. A rotating collection of featured art can be found on display (and for sale) throughout the main corridors. Art classes and floral workshops are regularly hosted in The Lodge’s conference rooms.
And for those who want a bird’s-eye-view of The Lodge and all of St. Edward Park — a special Scenic Serenade pairs an overnight stay with a scenic flight tour aboard a Kenmore Air seaplane. The narrated tour features a thrilling take-off and landing from the north end of Lake Washington.
The Lodge provides transportation to Kenmore Air and back (it’s less than a 10-minute drive), making this a seamless experience. And as an added bonus, package guests receive a special selection of house-made sweets and a bottle of St. Edward Signature Bubbly from Treveri.
We may be a tad biased, but this little diddy is a top-flight addition to any getaway.