History of Cobalt Hill

The Westingham Foundation

The Westingham Foundation, key supporter and founding body for Cobalt Hill Academy, has a history nearly a century in the making.

Walter Geoffrey Westingham, a noted businessman in the Seattle area during the 1920s and '30s, had amassed a considerable fortune from his extensive timber holdings and his close ties with both shipping and rail businesses. In 1938, he began construction of a large estate near Cobalt Hill to serve as a peaceful family home for him and his new wife, away from the bustle of the city. When his wife died of complications during childbirth in 1944, Westingham withdrew from the business life almost entirely. To occupy his time and combat his depression, the now-55 year-old widower began focusing on positive uses of his fortune, such as philanthropic donation and support of charities.

Extensive work with philanthropies ultimately helped Westingham make connections with other philanthropists, such as San Franciscan Martin Clouse. While not as well-funded as Westingham, the younger Clouse had similar ideals and they often collaborated in their efforts to combat social ills. It was this collaboration and the resulting trust that caused Westingham to bequeath his entire estate to Clouse after his death in '78, with the instructions that it be used to further the philanthropic causes that they had spent so much time together working on.

Using his suddenly-increased wealth, then-52-year-old Clouse created the Westingham Foundation, a not-for-profit corporation focusing on philanthropic support of minority and social equality issues. Over the course of the following two decades, the Westingham Foundation continued the tradition started by W.G. Westingham himself, focusing on donations to fledgeling organizations in need of capital to begin their social work. As the issue of Mutation became increasingly prevalent, Clouse realized that this was an issue much like minority and gender equality issues prior to it -- a forward-thinking view that made the Westingham Foundation a leading supporter of efforts to provide services to disenfranchised mutants.

Over the course of the following five years, the Foundation provided funds to numerous mutant boarding houses, vocational training courses, counseling centers, and ultimately to the mutant-centered academies that started springing up. It was in the late '90s, however, that Clouse determined that existing infrastructure was not enough, and that not enough organizations were springing up to support the growing need for mutant-centered education services. Ultimately, he decided to renovate and expand the Westingham House at Cobalt Hill into a mutant academy, named simply Cobalt Hill Academy.

Cobalt Hill Academy: From Then Until Now

The Westingham House -- now referred to as simply 'the Castle' -- had been maintained over the course of the past twenty years, but its facilities were inadequate for a modern school. Renovations of the building began almost immediately, with an eye to improving amenities and increasing living space. During the first year of construction, plans had been in place to use first-level rooms as class-rooms and upper-level rooms as dorms. However, projected enrollment put these plans to rest, and construction of the Academy's academic buildings began over the course of 1998 and 1999.

Even as renovations of the Castle were being completed (and well before the academic buildings were in a useable state), the Westingham Foundation was hiring the core of the Academy's staff and faculty, and arranging for the first, small class of students. With the majority of the Academy still unuseable and with the sound of construction filling the air, the first class started in fall of '99. Courses were held in the first floor of the Castle as had been originally planned, and the dorm facilities were used both by staff and students because of the incomplete state of staff housing.

Following years saw increasingly more students introduced to the school, as progressively more of the buildings -- both academic and housing -- were completed. Increasingly, classes were transferred outside of the Castle, as was staff housing. This lead increasingly to the use of the Castle as a residential and student-life building, the result of which is its current exclusive use by the Academy Housing Office. The final university buildings were completed in the spring of 2006, and the Academy Planning Office had no immediate plans for expansion.

As of the beginning of the '06-'07 school year, the Academy became fully operational and prepared to provide education and support to mutant youth, whatever the cause of their need.

Growing Tension and a New Beginning

Over time, most residents of the Olympia became aware of mutants within their community. With such a large city, there came extra large threats, and with numerous members of staff quitting their positions and students leaving the school, it was thought that a smaller, more private location would be best suited for the needs of the school. And while many were hesitant about making this change, a string violent protesters who attacked the campus and caused extensive damage to both the academic building and the castle itself cemented the administration's decision to relocate, though they had no idea where to go.

It was not until late 2007 that a private benefactor (and a mutant himself) offered the Academy substantial funding for relocation to a piece of property outside of Salem, Massachusetts. While it was a rather stark change, the staff agreed that there was no real need for the extremely large space in Washington that turned out to appear to be nothing less than a giant target for anti-mutant groups all over the state, and so the school's staff and the majority of their students packed their bags and proceeded on a very long trip East.

They found that Salem was a different place these days; larger, more developed and offering far more opportunities, but still out of the way enough that students could gain an education without as high a risk for persecution and attack as they had faced in Washington state. But the city is not without its dangers, and nobody knew what the future would hold.

Cobalt Hill: The End of the Academy, Start of the Sanctum

You can't run from your problems. This much was true. Without a clear leader, Cobalt Academy was destined to fail in the state it was in. This was only further proved by the state of the school's haphazardly formed strike team, which was unfit to handle even the most minor of disturbances. Citizens in Salem demanded to know why groups of mutant children were thought to be capable of protecting them better than the police -- even when many of those dangers were too much for the police to handle.

Mutant-human tensions began to increase, with attacks on life and property sweeping the city. It wasn't until this hostility turned to the only mutant hub in Massachusetts that META thought to step in and take action. Following a series of devastating attacks on Cobalt Academy that resulting in the destructions of buildings and the deaths of several students and staff members, META extended a helping hand that the school couldn't refuse. The school was repurposed -- closing its doors as an educational facility but opening them as a true safe haven for mutants as well as the non-mutant individuals who housed powers, slowly creeping out of hiding. The hopes of former dean Matias Santiago was that now, when things began to settle down, they could do some true good for the mutant community and the world as a whole