The Lodge at Saint Edward State Park is a tranquil Pacific Northwest retreat

Travels with Deb
May 8, 2023 at 6:00 a.m.
Photo by Debbie Stone
Photo by Debbie Stone

...by DEBBIE STONE

If you’re dreaming of a Pacific Northwest escape, put The Lodge at Saint Edward State Park on your list. Situated in Kenmore, on the banks of Lake Washington and minutes from Seattle, this lovely 84-room boutique hotel is the ideal getaway from the hectic pace of urban life.


Photo by Debbie Stone

This property is truly special and unique, due to its rich history, as well as its location in the middle of a state park. The building was the first successful Catholic seminary in the region and the first accredited Catholic seminary university in the country. Seattle’s first bishop, Edward O’Dea, envisioned such a place and financed it, bringing his idea to fruition with the help of famed architect John Graham. Graham and his firm are credited with many well-known buildings in Seattle and elsewhere, including the Space Needle.


Photo by Debbie Stone

Constructed in 1931, Saint Edward Seminary served students until 1976 when it closed due to declining enrollment. In 1977, the property and the majority of the land were sold to the State of Washington to become Saint Edward State Park. The building remained basically empty and unused until 2017 when Kevin and Mary Daniels, and their company Daniels Real Estate, entered into a partnership to preserve and transform the place into The Lodge at Saint Edward State Park.


Photo by Debbie Stone

The renovation, which cost north of $56 million, was a meticulous process, as the goal was to preserve the aesthetic of the seminary while converting it into a luxury hotel. No stranger to heading up successful rehabilitations, the team focused on retaining the grandeur of the building’s Romanesque Revival style of architecture, while blending its original character with modern furnishings and touches.

The students’ dorm rooms, for example, became guest rooms, the priests’ common room became a bar, the classrooms turned into meeting spaces, while the kitchen and dining areas remained the same in regards to purpose.


Photo by Debbie Stone

The guestrooms and suites are charming and well-appointed, with a seamless integration of old and new. They feature restored original windows and doors with stenciled wallpaper depicting the building’s architectural renderings. Bathrooms have modern glass showers, but the décor is Romanesque. All creature comforts are taken care of, from the Nespresso Coffee machines, Smart TVs and desks to the luxury bedding and custom pillow menu.


Photo by Debbie Stone

The hotel’s amenities are extensive and include a complimentary snack and beverage-stocked game room in the Library, complimentary mountain and e-bikes, lawn games, wellness spa, state-of-the-art fitness facility, indoor pickleball courts in the Gymnasium, upscale restaurant, two bars and a hotel limo with complimentary local transportation (based on availability). All this plus an onsite art gallery.


Photo by Debbie Stone

The Gallery of Fine Arts primarily showcases works from Pacific Northwest artists. Wander the Grand Hallway, soak up the inspiration, and if you fancy one of the pieces, you can purchase it at Catalyst Fine Art. As The Lodge is also home to an Artist in Residence program, you might even catch a local artist giving a demonstration of his/her craft.


Photo by Debbie Stone

In addition to all the art throughout the hotel, you’ll also find historical photos of seminary life. Students are seen eating in the dining hall, studying in their rooms, playing sports outside in the fields and participating in ceremonial events. One picture shows nuns in the kitchen and you’ll learn that a certain cloister of French-Canadian sisters was responsible for all the cooking, cleaning and laundry duties.

To learn more about the building’s interesting history, you can take a self-guided tour with the assistance of QR codes and a map with points of interest (available at the front desk). Each QR code links to a history lesson, photo gallery or video that tells the story of the space you’re in and its significance to the property.


Photo by Debbie Stone

You’ll definitely want to get outside and explore the park, as it’s a beaut! There are dozens of trails to hike in this 326-acre verdant, forested wonderland, along with 3,000 feet of fresh water shoreline, so plenty of space to roam. To get started, pick up a hiking map from the front desk.


Photo by Debbie Stone

For a direct route to the lakeshore, use the Perimeter/Seminary path west of The Lodge. It’s a relatively short trail downhill, but remember you’ll have to go back up to return to the property! Once you arrive at the lake, take in the splendid views and watch the kayakers paddle by. Then continue your walk along the sparkling shoreline.

The park is also a popular picnic site, with grassy fields and picnic tables. Locals love the grounds and you’ll often find families playing together, homeschool groups using the area for outdoor activities, dog walkers, employees from corporations involved in team-building skills and others.


Photo by Debbie Stone

As you can imagine, The Lodge is in demand as a wedding venue from late spring to mid-fall. Many of the ceremonies occur in the Grotto, a river-rock alcove that’s reached via a short path from the property. I’m told that at the end of the ceremony, bells ring from The Lodge’s belltower. Anyone, however, is free to visit this special spot, which encourages quiet contemplation.


Photo by Debbie Stone

When you’ve worked up an appetite, or you’re in the mood for a libation, know you don’t have to leave the property for sustenance. Cedar + Elm is the hotel’s main restaurant, featuring farm-to-table, Northwest-inspired fare. It serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, and is open to the public.

Culinary foundations of the restaurant are sustainability, seasonality and the support of local producers and purveyors. The team seeks out the freshest ingredients, and even harvests produce, herbs and honey from the property’s Chef’s Garden and apiary. In peak season, the apiary contains over 250,000 bees and last year, production was a whopping 130 pounds of honey. How sweet it is!

You’ll dine in an historic space, as in the restaurant’s former life, it was the St. Edward Seminary dining hall. Original design details adorn the light-filled room. Of note are the original ice boxes from the kitchen, which have now been repurposed as a prep station. A connecting terrace allows for seasonal al fresco dining amid the lush park grounds.

For dinner one night, my husband and I started off with the Spring Garden Salad and the Moorish-spiced Cauliflower Steak. Both were amply portioned and shareable. The latter was a delicious meld of cauliflower, quinoa tabouli salad, carrot hummus, raisins and smoked almonds.

For my entrée, I had the Olive Oil Poached San Juan Island Halibut with wild foraged Washington mushrooms. I’m picky about my halibut, as I often find that restaurants cook it too long and it comes out dry. That was definitely not an issue here. The fish was moist and flavorful and I savored every bite. My husband equally enjoyed his tasty Wagyu Beef Short Ribs.


Photo by Debbie Stone

The Lodge’s two watering holes, Father Mulligan’s Heritage Bar and The Tonsorium Bar, offer inviting atmospheres, along with a variety of food and drink offerings. Heritage Bar is named after the former St. Edward Seminary’s first president, Father Mulligan. Sip a classic cocktail, craft beer or glass of local wine, while munching on wood-fired flatbreads, charcuterie and house-made burgers.


Photo by Debbie Stone

The Tonsorium is named for its history as the barbershop at the Seminary. A barbershop chair sits outside the place as a nod to its past use. The ambiance here is of an intimate speakeasy, with local musicians adding to the vibe.

For the ultimate in relaxation, head to Vita Nova Spa, where you’ll have an array of restorative and rejuvenating treatments to choose from – everything from massages and body scrubs to hydrating facials. The spa uses organic herbal botanicals and sustainably-sourced pure products and each treatment is personalized to fit your wellness needs. Pre or post treatment, spend some time around the spa’s private and cozy outdoor fire pit.

I experienced the Vita Nova Massage, which was the ideal treatment to help me fully unwind. My massage therapist had magic hands and worked on my knots, de-kinking them one by one, melting away my stress and tension. It was a heavenly hour and I left feeling like one of those bendable Gumby figures, nice and loose!


Photo by Debbie Stone

Though you’ll probably never want to leave this luxurious haven during your stay, it’s fun to explore the area around The Lodge. Neighboring Bastyr University is a mecca of health and wellness and guests can tour the Medicinal Herb Garden or explore the Reflexology Foot Path. There’s also the renowned Burke-Gilman Trail, which you can easily access in nearby Bothell. Walk or ride a bike along the twenty-mile paved route that takes you past the lake and into the city of Seattle. Minutes away is Woodinville Wine Country, with over 130 wineries and tasting rooms, so you can sip to your heart’s content. And for a bird’s eye view of the region, hop on a Kenmore Air seaplane for a scenic tour over Lake Washington and beyond.

www.thelodgeatstedward.com

Debbie Stone is an established travel writer and columnist, who crosses the globe in search of unique destinations and experiences to share with her readers and listeners. She’s an avid explorer who welcomes new opportunities to increase awareness and enthusiasm for places, culture, food, history, nature, outdoor adventure, wellness and more. Her travels have taken her to nearly 100 countries spanning all seven continents, and her stories appear in numerous print and digital publications. 
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