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CWB’s New Education Center is on the Way.

August 8, 2013

Design for $6.6 Million Education Center for The Center for Wooden Boats is Complete and Construction Set to Start This Winter

Attendees at the South Lake Union Block Party in Seattle on August 9th were among the first in the city to get to see the plans and model for the $6.6 million Wagner Education Center that The Center for Wooden Boats will begin building in Lake Union Park early next year.

The new wood, steel and glass education facility, designed by award winning Seattle architect Tom Kundig of Olson Kundig Architects, harkens back to historic Northwest boatbuilding facilities while at the same time serving as a modern front door for the growing museum, Lake Union Park and the surrounding neighborhood. The design includes a dedicated youth classroom that can be converted to a sail loft in the evening, new gallery and exhibit space, and a new boatshop designed to allow restoration of the museum’s largest boats and the construction of new boats to historic designs. The Education Center is the largest part of a $9.5 million dollar capital fundraising campaign that is also improving the organization’s existing floating facilities at the south end of Lake Union, will bring badly needed utility upgrades to CWB’s Workshop & Warehouse at the North end of the lake and will strengthen the museum’s financial stability.

CWB final view 1 (2)

“We have so many people to thank for getting us to the point we are today, where we can confidently say we will begin building the Wagner Education Center early next year,” said Betsy Davis, Executive Director of The Center for Wooden Boats. “And we desperately need the space as growth in the city is dramatically increasing the demand for CWB programs that for 37-years have connected adults and children hands-on with the historic boats and maritime history that created Seattle.”

“Due to our current lack of space we’re forced to turn away kids who want to learn to sail, adults who want to take maritime workshops and schools that want to take our field trips,“ Davis said. “To keep up with the growing demand we need the public’s help to finish the capital campaign, the new education center and the other improvements. In the past ten years, the number of visitors to The Center for Wooden Boats has doubled to more than 100,000 a year.”

Help us raise the last few dollars we need

“The new education center is a dream come true,” said Dick Wagner, who along with his wife, Colleen, founded CWB as a way to deepen the community’s connection with its maritime past through programs where you take the tiller or oars in your own hands and learn by doing. Wagner’s vision and lifelong passion have already prompted an anonymous donor to make a naming level gift to CWB on the condition that the new building be named after Dick and Colleen Wagner.

“I’m honored,” Wagner said. “But what I’m really excited about is how this new facility will make it possible for even more people to come down to Lake Union Park and pick up a hammer or chisel or plane and find the joy when they make a boat with their own hands or help teach some teenager who is in danger of dropping out of school that she can learn by doing, build confidence in that learning and make a better life for herself by staying in school.”

Education Center First FloorEducation Center Second Floor

"We designed the center to reflect our region’s deep maritime history and to serve as a functional and efficient environment for The Center for Wooden Boats to serve their diverse audiences," said architect Tom Kundig. "The design features wood, glass and steel. Large windows flank open spaces and movable exterior panels allow for the control of natural light. And just like on a boat, every inch of space and feature is designed to provide the highest function. The new building is beautiful, but at the end of the day, it’s a tool box, not a jewel box." The new CWB Education Center is seeking a LEED Gold Certification by designing to reduce environmental impacts both during construction and later operation.

CWB final view 2

“The Center for Wooden Boats, with its focus on using historic small boats for hands-on education for all ages, has been quietly redefining and expanding the definition of what it means to be a maritime museum,” said Leonard Garfield, Executive Director of the Museum of History & Industry, which moved next door to CWB when it relocated to South Lake Union in 2012. “When you walk CWB’s charming docks on a sunny Sunday morning and take one of their free rides on an historic boat, it is very easy to overlook the truly innovative, award-winning work they do in their youth programs, in vessel documentation research and in exhibit design.”

“Seattle needs to understand what a treasure CWB is and how much it deserves our support as it raises the funds needed for this campaign. CWB is unique to Seattle, and helps people understand how the water we see in every direction has defined how the city came to be what it is today,” Garfield said.

Education Center EntranceEducation Center Night

The CWB capital campaign has already received support from the City of Seattle, King County and Washington State, along with leadership gifts from business, individuals and private foundations that total $6.7 million. That leaves about $2.8 million remaining to reach the $9.5 million campaign goal.

Attendees at the South Lake Union Block Party helped CWB begin to chip into that remaining goal.

"Vulcan is very excited to have selected the Center for Wooden Boats as this year’s non-profit beneficiary of proceeds from the South Lake Union Block Party," Said Ada M. Healey, vice president, Vulcan Real Estate. "The Center for Wooden Boats has a long history in the neighborhood and it’s great to see them expanding so that even more people can connect with the region’s maritime history and culture.”

In keeping with the grassroots community building that has always been a part of CWB, the campaign team is also creating opportunities for the thousands of CWB members and supporters to hold their own parties, barbeques, and gatherings to raise the last dollars needed for the campaign. The hope is that the final goal can be reached by the end of 2013.

Education Center Location in Park

Details about the campaign, and information on how the community can help, can be found on the CWB website at

3 Comments leave one →
  1. August 8, 2013 8:38 pm

    So awesome.

  2. August 8, 2013 9:21 pm

    Thanks John. We’re kind of happy to be able to talk about it and let everyone see the drawings and plans.

  3. August 14, 2013 1:05 pm

    Last time I was there, I just wanted to drink coffee and hang out there all day. I’m so glad it is expanding!

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