Saturday, October 12, 2002 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Guest columnists

Dedicated to a legacy

Special to The Times

• Today, building McCaw Hall in tough times

Acclaimed architect Hugh Newell Jacobsen said, "When you look at a city, it's like reading the hopes, aspirations and pride of everyone who built it."

As piece by piece, workers place the glass on the dramatic five-story lobby of the new Marion Oliver McCaw Hall at Seattle Center, one can't help but pause. In a time when communities are searching for that connection to one another, the citizens of our region are continuing a 120-year legacy of bringing us together as a rich and diverse community.

Marion Oliver McCaw Hall is a landmark project. This civic hall combines a public/private partnership that dates back to the visions of Seattle pioneers James Osborne and David and Louisa Denny. Osborne, the colorful saloon owner, in 1881 bequeathed $20,000 of his estate (the equivalent of the total city budget) to the creation of a civic center. In 1889, the Dennys donated the land for "public use forever." Combined with funds from a public bond, the first civic auditorium for Seattle was dedicated on the McCaw Hall site in 1927.

Today, 75 years later, this community has once again launched the most significant private campaign for a publicly owned facility. In 1999, voters approved Proposition 1 to begin the project. In 2000, the Seattle Center Foundation stepped up to raise $72 million in private gifts for the $127 million public project.

To date, we have raised over 80 percent of the funds, during what has turned out to be an unprecedented economic downturn. This is an incredible testament to our community leaders and the visionary legacy established by our region's pioneers. Again, all of this comes for a building that will be owned and operated by the public, which will also collect the revenues and community spirit it generates.

At the cornerstone ceremony in 1927, Seattle Mayor Bertha K. Landes noted, "No public project is more laudable from a community standpoint than that which serves to unite all elements in public assemblies. Such assemblies tend to make life more worthwhile and more enjoyable."

Marion Oliver McCaw Hall continues the same visions and aspirations of our pioneer forefathers. The benefits that will be extracted from this project, by generations to come, will greatly exceed our most enthusiastic expectations. Who would have thought one site would touch so many? Within the walls of the new McCaw Hall, not only do foundation pillars of the original structure still exist, so do the spiritual foundations, engulfed in 121 years of expressive ghosts of donors, benefactors, visitors, artists, employees, festival-goers and passersby.

McCaw Hall will continue to inspire and delight the human spirit in all of us. This is the goal of Seattle Center Foundation, the leader in the private gifts campaign. Private support makes it possible. Public support makes it happen. Together we invest in the future of all.

James R. Faulstich is chair, and Jeffrey D. Bell is treasurer of the board of trustees for Seattle Center Foundation.


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