On the historic Weyerhaeuser campus, along the western shore of North Lake, sits a house that looks like a typical 1970s home.
But the “Glue House” is anything but typical.
The Glue House has its origins in a project at Weyerhaeuser’s research facility on Harbor Island in the late 1960s. The project involved creative work on a room-temperature curing glue and production-line engineering to assemble large building components, such as whole wall, floor and roof sections.
The goal was to meet structural requirements of stiffness, load-bearing capacity and shear-wall resistance for earthquakes, and ease of manufacturing. The use of glue fastening resulted in the use of less material and lower on-site construction labor costs, with overall economic benefits. Weyerhaeuser’s objective was to license the technology to major housing project developers.
The decision to advance the project to a full-size building was made in 1970 and the house that exists on the site was built. Its framing was completed in one day.
Weyerhaeuser originally got a waiver from King County because, of course, the structure did not meet building codes. The original plan was that the house would be dismantled within three years. At the three-year point, Weyerhaeuser again asked for a waiver from King County, then asked several times after that before eventually receiving a permanent waiver from dismantling the house.
In the early 70‘s computers were quite large and the structure contained a walk-in vault in the basement which at one time housed the large computer to measure moisture.
The house was originally rented to one of the Weyerhaeuser’s lawyers and his family. The story goes that negotiations involved installing carpet and a commitment from the lawyer that if anything went wrong, he would not sue Weyerhaeuser. The lawyer has innumerable stories to share about living there and consistently had folks looking for the old dance hall that originally was located on this site.
Next, the Glue House was used as the project house while the Weyerhaeuser Technology Center was being built. Over the years, many different Weyerhaeuser departments, including Real Estate, Minerals and Archives, were located there.
The project was deemed a success and has stood the test of time (some repairs with nails have been made), even though Weyerhaeuser never took the concept to market, apparently because building codes would have to be changed wherever the glue process was used — a major undertaking.
So, the Glue House is one-of-a-kind.
The house meets the criteria for being recognized under the city’s new historic preservation ordinance: It’s more than 40 years old and is associated with an important event (the use of glue as the only fastener) and a major company in the city. This house yields important information about research done by Weyerhaeuser in the 1970’s, beyond growing trees.
We think it’s worth preserving.
-- Debra Hansen of Save Weyerhaeuser Campus, edited from comments made at the 07-18-17 Federal Way City Council meeting.