Rosario Resort and Spa on Orcas Island (Photo provided by Empower Investing)

Rosario Resort and Spa on Orcas Island (Photo provided by Empower Investing)

Orcas Island’s storied Rosario Resort finds a local owner

Founded by an Orcas Island resident, Empower Investing plans” dramatic renovations” to restore the historic resort.

ORCAS ISLAND — Rosario Resort and Spa on Orcas Island has a new owner.

Empower Investing, a Washington company founded by local Orcas Island residents, assumed ownership of the resort last week.

“This marks a new chapter for both the historic estate and the picturesque Orcas Island it calls home,” the company said. “As a beloved landmark with roots deeply embedded in the Orcas Island community, the Rosario estate holds sentimental value for many people.”

Rosario offers lodgings, spa, restaurant, event venues and a marina. It covers 40 acres.

The new owner, Empower Investing, was founded by Chris Robison, said Kevin Ranker, a Compass agent and Gudgell Group partner, who represented the buyers.

“He and his family are full-time Orcas Island residents,” Ranker said. “This is the first time a local has owned the resort. Having someone invested in the community is a really big deal.”

The deal involved multiple real estate transactions totaling more than $20 million that are closing at different times, Ranker said. “The first one that closed (last) Monday is for a number of parcels, including the mansion and marina,” he said.

Ranker said Empower plans a series of “dramatic renovations” to the mansion “that will maintain its historic value while creating an even greater experience for visitors.”

The resort reopened two weeks ago, and it’s now taking reservations for lodgings, weddings and the marina, Ranker said.

The previous owner closed the resort temporarily at the end of February and laid off 47 workers. Empower plans to hire staff back as each phase of the renovation is completed, Ranker said.

Rosario was operated for the last 15 years by Jarrel “Jerry” Barto.

“As the torch of stewardship to this property passes from one to another, we must recognize the past 16 years of stewardship and operations by the Barto family, and express gratitude for the many wonderful accomplishments they completed to the property during their time of stewardship,” Empower said in a statement.

The 54-room Rosario mansion was built in 1906 by shipbuilder Robert Moran.

In 1978, the resort was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The property was sold twice as a residence. In 1960, Gilbert H. Geiser purchased it for $225,000 and repurposed as a resort. Since then it has changed hands multiple times, according to the company.

“Moran worked hard to establish a State Park so the people of Washington could share the life-giving benefits of the place he believed had saved him from an early death,” San Juan County District 2 county commissioner Cindy Wolf told the Salish Current in February. “I look forward to learning what vision the new owners have for the resort and working together for the benefit of the community.”

Janice Podsada: 425-339-3097; jpodsada@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @JanicePods.

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