November 28

High and Dry

The new Wagner Education Center takes the Center for Wooden Boats from the shores of Lake Union to the center of the park.

The Center for Wooden Boats is setting sail for dry land. By now many may have noticed the large, wooden (of course) building with an overhang on the main walkway in Lake Union Park. There’s a reason for this overhang, says Brandt Faatz, the executive director at the CWB. The architects at Olson Kundig worked with Seattle Parks and Recreation to make sure the new Wagner Education Center, set for a grand opening in the new year, stands out.

“One of the great things about this building is that it’s a marquee for us,” Faatz says. “The CWB is down on the water and a lot of people don’t really know we’re there, but this is kind of hard to miss.”

The new building, named for CWB founder Dick Wagner, is all about catching attention and drawing in new visitors. The idea has been decades in the making but ground only broke for the building in January 2016. Including a visitors’ center with a giftshop, plenty of office and classroom spaces and even a fully functional boat shop between two stories, the nearly 10,000 square-foot building is a whole new way to tell the world about the CWB.

“The Center for Wooden Boats is, above all, a community,” Faatz says. “We’ve got 800 volunteers and only about a dozen full-time staff. We’re always trying to draw people into our world.”

Now that they’re up where the people are, Faatz says he hopes as people are strolling along down the street they will notice the building on stop on in to learn about the CWB. The open plan of the boat shop is particularly enticing thanks to the floor-to-ceiling windows facing the main walkway in Lake Union Park, complete with sleek, gliding wall-sized wooden shutters to control the sunlight in the room. Faatz says that if people can see into the workshop, maybe they will feel the urge to come in and learn about the CWB and get involved in one of many classes or volunteer opportunities offered.

“The Wagner Education Center is really going to serve as an extension, another piece of CWB,” Jess Testa, the communications and development coordinator for CWB says. “It will be an educational hub, a gathering space for people to really get involved and either work on a boat or experience boats or just learn something new they hadn’t known before and get in touch with the heritage that is the CWB.”

The heritage of the CWB is certainly storied. Beginning in 1968 when founder Dick Wagner and his wife Colleen began renting their collection of wooden boats from their houseboat under the Aurora Bridge straight on until today, the CWB has been focused on preserving the history and knowledge of wooden boats. With plenty of free programming offered year-round and even more volunteering opportunities, such as teaching sailing or helping run the office, there’s no shortage of ways to learn or get involved with the hands-on maritime museum.

“The Wagner Educational Center is going to be everything we have right now but more,” Testa says. “More classes, more educational experiences, more boat-making experiences. The main goal we’re always looking towards is building up and retaining the community we have by getting more people in Seattle and beyond involved in the CWB.”

Story by Carter Mohs and photographs by Elizabeth Podlesnik.

At The Center

SLU is the geographical center of Seattle