Structure Type: built works - public buildings - schools - university buildings

Designers: [unspecified]

Dates: constructed 1889

2 stories

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Building History

Presbyterian minister George Frederick Whitworth (1816-1907), who arrived in the Puget Sound region via the Oregon Trail in 1854, envisioned the founding of a college in the Puyallup Valley that would impart pious Presbyterian values to local young people. Whitworth and four others set up a prercursor to his college in 1883, when they founded the Sumner Academy. In an era of sparse public school coverage, the Sumner Academy offered religious-based education for high school age and younger students living in the prosperous, hop-growing valley. The school opened at the Sumner Presbyterian Church on 01/07/1884. (See Laura Arksey,, "Whitworth College," published 04/21/2007, accessed 07/23/2021.)

The Sumner Academy operated on its own for five years before Whitworth succeeded in establishing Whitworth College in Sumner in 1889. He managed to negotiate a $4,000 loan from L. F. Thompson, a local hops farmer and Presbyterian church trustee, a sum that paid some of the expenses for the first Whitworth College building, a two-story, wood-frame building in Sumner. In 1892, the school referred to itself as "a college for both sexes" with Rev. Calvin W. Stewart (1830-1911) as president, and Rev. Amos T. Fox (1854-1911) as vice-president. (Stewart, who was Fox's father-in-law, remained in this post until 1898.) It offered departments in classics, science, civil engineering, business, art, music and a "special ladies' course." (See Whitworth advertisement, R.L. Polk and Company's Tacoma, Washington, City Directory, 1892,n.p.) The school did not have an auspicious beginning, as a failure of the local hops crop in 1892 occurred because of an infestation of hop lice. (See Paula Becker,, "Ezra Meeker plants hops in the Puyallup Valley in March 1865," published 04/29/2006, accessed 07/23/2021.) This setback, along with the more serious Depression of 1893, undermined the new college's viability and caused tit to reconsider its small-town location.

It was felt that a move to a larger city would enable a better flow of new students and possibly donations to the institution. According to a Whitworth website, the Stewart had success at cultivating a substantial donation from the Armour Family of Chicago. It stated: "Stewart resigned his presidential post in 1898, but he continued on as financial agent. Later that year he secured for Whitworth a $50,000 gift, plus some Seattle real estate, from H.O. Armour, of the Armour Packing Company; this was the largest gift yet made to a denominational college on the West Coast. The gift was given on condition that the college relocate from its Sumner location. In less than six months, the Whitworth campus overlooked Tacoma’s Inspiration Point." (See Whitworth, "Amos Fox and Calvin W. Stewart," published 08/06/2014, accessed 07/23/2021.)

As a result, Whitworth and other trustees reviewed other nearby cities as potential sites, including Seattle and Port Townsend, before settling on Tacoma in 1899. In that year, the mansion of Allen C. Mason, a local real estate dealer, was purchased as the second campus of Whitworth College. The school, still closely connected to the Presbyterian Church, remained in the former Mason House until 1914, when the school again relocated for a larger campus and promise of new buildings in Spokane, WA. It has remained here until the present. The Board of Trustees chose to rename Whitworth College to "Whitworth University" in 2006-2007.


The first Whitworth College building experienced two fires, one in 1909 and the other in 1918. After the second, the decision was made to raze the building.

PCAD id: 24080