Recreation

Connecting community on the water

 

The ASUW Shell House has always been a gathering space. Within its walls and on the waters of Lake Washington, generations of people have learned to pull together, moving forward through collaboration and connection.

Long before the Montlake Cut connected Lake Washington and Lake Union, the Lakes Duwamish people would come together here to portage across the narrow isthmus that spanned the water. The spot’s Lushootseed name — stəx̌ʷugʷił (stukh-ug-weelth) — means “carry a canoe.”

Legendary boat-builder George Pocock housed his workshop in the Associated Students of the University of Washington (ASUW) Shell House’s rafters, creating the shells that carried the Washington rowing program as they won gold at the 1936 and 1948 Olympics.

In the following decades, the Shell House had many uses, including as an apartment and a community hub for water recreation. And then the Shell House faded from our collective memory, its lessons and legacy waiting to inspire new generations.

Making an impact

When donors come together as a team with a shared goal in sight, the possibilities are limitless. So far, the Shell House project has raised $11.5 million of its $18.5 million goal, thanks to early key investments from President Ana Mari Cauce and:

  • Brad Smith and Kathy Surace-Smith
  • Challenge Seattle
  • Theresa Gillespie & John Stanton
  • Microsoft Corporation
  • Bruce & Jeannie Nordstrom
  • Charles & Lisa Simonyi
  • Mark Torrance

Until now. The University of Washington has launched a campaign to restore and renovate the historic ASUW Shell House. The Shell House’s richly textured history represents innovation, teamwork, leadership and resilience, and it serves as an enduring metaphor for what we can accomplish through collaboration and connection.

At this moment, with the Shell House set to feature prominently in the upcoming George Clooney film adaptation of Daniel James Brown’s 2013 book “The Boys in the Boat,” we have an opportunity to restore the Shell House and the UW waterfront as a place where the lessons of the past motivate us to pull together for the future and accomplish great things.

“I see this building as a reminder of who we are and what we value, and also as a kind of icon of Seattle’s identity – a monument, a museum, a workspace, a gathering place on the water where we can pull together, to collaborate, to innovate, and to celebrate our unique identity.”

— Daniel James Brown, author, “The Boys in the Boat”

The University of Washington invites philanthropic partners to join us in creating a space where students and the community can learn and gather. Together, we will reimagine an ASUW Shell House that invites new ways of thinking, inspires collaboration, and sparks our collective potential.

Our vision for the Shell House

The completed ASUW Shell House will celebrate the UW’s legacy of connection to the water and the Pacific Northwest, hosting thematic programs, courses and events.

“Bigger than a university, more expansive than a single sport’s ethos, steeped in history, the completed renovation will serve as a meeting place for all cultures, a locus for the rituals of celebration, core expressions of our shared humanity.”

― Ginny Gilder, American rower and Olympic silver medalist, author, and Seattle Storm co-owner

The restored facility will be a dynamic and flexible space to gather and gain a greater understanding of our region’s many layers of history. In classrooms, interactive exhibits, and event spaces, students and the public will have opportunities to learn, reflect and build community.

With your support, the ASUW Shell House will once again be a place to gather on the water’s edge, where the campus and community can reflect on our past as we move forward, together.

Give now


The University of Washington acknowledges the Coast Salish people of the lands and waters where the ASUW Shell House rests — land that touches the shared waters of all tribes and bands within the Suquamish, Tulalip and Muckleshoot nations.