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;; Twitter: @JanicePods.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Northwest

Alaska Airlines aircraft sit in the airline's hangar at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2024, in SeaTac, Wash. Boeing has acknowledged in a letter to Congress that it cannot find records for work done on a door panel that blew out on an Alaska Airlines flight over Oregon two months ago. Ziad Ojakli, Boeing executive vice president and chief government lobbyist, wrote to Sen. Maria Cantwell on Friday, March 8 saying, “We have looked extensively and have not found any such documentation.” (AP Photo/Lindsey Wasson)
FBI tells passengers on 737 flight they might be crime victims

Passengers received letters this week from a victim specialist from the federal agency’s Seattle office.

Skylar Meade (left) and Nicholas Umphenour.
Idaho prison gang member and accomplice caught after ambush

Pair may have killed 2 while on the run, police say. Three police officers were hospitalized with gunshot wounds after the attack at a Boise hospital.

Barbara Peraza-Garcia holds her 2-year-old daughter, Frailys, while her partner Franklin Peraza sits on their bed in their 'micro apartment' in Seattle on Monday, March 11, 2024. (AP Photo/Manuel Valdes)
Micro-apartments are back after nearly a century, as need for affordable housing soars

Boarding houses that rented single rooms to low-income, blue-collar or temporary workers were prevalent across the U.S. in the early 1900s.

Teen blamed for crash that kills woman, 3 children in Renton

Four people were hospitalized, including three with life-threatening injuries. The teenage driver said to be at fault is under guard at a hospital.

Snow is visible along the top of Mount Pilchuck from bank of the Snohomish River on Wednesday, May 10, 2023 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Washington issues statewide drought declaration, including Snohomish County

Drought is declared when there is less than 75% of normal water supply and “there is the risk of undue hardship.”

Dave Calhoun, center, on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on Jan. 24. (Samuel Corum / Bloomberg)
Boeing fired lobbying firm that helped it navigate 737 Max crashes

Amid congressional hearings on Boeing’s “broken safety culture,” the company has severed ties with one of D.C.’s most powerful firms.

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.

People fill up various water jug and containers at the artesian well on 164th Street on Monday, April 2, 2018 in Lynnwood, Wa. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
Washington will move to tougher limits on ‘forever chemicals’ in water

The federal EPA finalized the rules Wednesday. The state established a program targeting the hazardous chemicals in drinking water in 2021.

State: Contractor got workers off Craigslist to remove asbestos in Everett

Great North West Painting is appealing the violations and $134,500 fine levied by the state Department of Labor Industries.

Riley Wong, 7, shows his pen pal, Smudge, the picture he drew for her in addition to his letter at Pasado's Safe Haven on Friday, Feb. 19, 2021 in Monroe, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Snohomish County organization rescues neglected llamas in Yakima County

Pasado’s Safe Haven planned to provide ongoing medical care and rehabilitation to four llamas in its care at its sanctuary.

Whidbey cop accused of rape quits job after internal inquiry

The report was unsparing in its allegations against John Nieder, who is set to go to trial May 6 in Skagit County Superior Court on two counts of rape in the second degree.

LA man was child rape suspect who faked his death

Coroner’s probe reveals the Los Angeles maintenance man was a Bremerton rape suspect believed to have jumped off the Tacoma Narrows Bridge.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.