County Historical Society honors those who preserve local history

KIRK BOXLEITNER
KBOXLEITNER@PTLEADER.COM
Posted 8/22/18

The restorations of a record-setting sailboat, the oldest and largest cemetery on the Olympic Peninsula, a landmark downtown business building, and the former residence of one of the community's …

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County Historical Society honors those who preserve local history

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The restorations of a record-setting sailboat, the oldest and largest cemetery on the Olympic Peninsula, a landmark downtown business building, and the former residence of one of the community's founders all earned awards for historic preservation from the Jefferson County Historical Society Aug. 15.

The JCHS presented its annual historic preservation awards at the Northwest School of Wooden Boat Building in Port Hadlock, overlooking the waters that Jenny Westdal, president of the board of trustees for the society, noted had become the site of Samuel Hadlock's sawmill shortly before 1870.

The school and the Community Boat Project both received certificates of appreciation this year, for the restoration of the sailboat Felicity Ann, which was at the school's docks for public viewing.

Chris Prescott, chair of the society's awards committee, explained the 23-foot boat had its keel laid in England in 1939, but never returned there after Ann Davison used the Felicity Ann to become the first woman to cross the Atlantic Ocean by herself in a sailboat from 1952 to 1953.

After passing through many hands, the Felicity Ann's owners in Alaska decided to donate the boat to the Northwest School of Wooden Boatbuilding, in hopes she could be restored.

Prescott deemed the restoration of the Felicity Ann "a wonderful example of collaboration" between the school and the Community Boat Project, with the school handing off the sailboat's restoration to the CBP in August of last year.

While the school's students and instructors referred to the original 1939 plans and black-and-white photographs of the Felicity Ann to install her new framing, rudder, sails and tiller, the CBP focused on the vessel's interior restoration, and was able to officially launch her in May of this year.

Betsy Davis, executive director of the Northwest School of Wooden Boat Building, credited the Felicity Ann herself with being a "catalyst," and praised the Community Boat Project for "coming in midstream," while CBP Director Wayne Chimenti reflected on the fact that the sailboat had only been in the water for perhaps 10 years of her seven decades of existence.

"So many others tried to rebuild her, but this was the community that made it happen," Chimenti said. "They couldn't do it anywhere else in the world."

Margaret Mazurkiewicz presented another certificate of appreciation, albeit in absentia, to David Hero for restoring the cupola and dome of the Miller and Burkett building at 237 Taylor St. in downtown Port Townsend.

Because Hero was not present to recount the history of the building and business he owns, Mazurkiewicz noted that the building currently houses the Silverwater Cafe, but was built in 1889 and previously housed a grocery store, later a drug store, on its ground level, before it became the ballroom and lounge of the Elks Club between 1950 and 1995.

"The sheathing of what is often referred to as the cupola, or dome, was in a poor condition, and was subject to water intrusion and rot," Mazurkiewicz said. "The original galvanized sheet metal roofing had been replaced with similar material, and painted in 1950."

Mazurkiewicz credited Hero with singlehandedly removing the old roofing, and replaced it with copper to extend its life expectancy, in compliance with the Copper Development Association's architectural standards and details.

The flag pole that had previously perched atop the roof was replaced by a vertical obelisk.

"The work started in October of 2016, and was completed in April of 2017, with the city signing off," Mazurkiewicz said. "David Hero, who has a degree in sculpture and ceramics, was the sole person implementing this roof restoration."

Hero used 80 sheets of 20-ounce copper to complete the project, which was reviewed and approved by the Historic Preservation Committee of the city of Port Townsend.

"David's work has shown his personal interest and commitment to historic rehabilitation," Mazurkiewicz said. "The Silverwater Cafe building is an important part of downtown Port Townsend."

Prescott presented the final set of certificates of appreciation to the "Grave Angels" and Masonic Lodge No. 6 for their preservation and maintenance of the Laurel Grove Cemetery in Port Townsend.

"The 11-acre cemetery, founded in 1871, had fallen into disarray, with every local weed, noxious vine and invasive plant vying for dominance," Prescott said. "The monuments and headstones were smothered with vegetation or coated with mold."

After Port Townsend native Paula MacDonald and her husband, Mike, took a road trip through other western states in 2016, the historic cemeteries they saw inspired them to recruit volunteers who would help them perform a cleanup of the entire cemetery.

The Masonic Lodge, which owns the cemetery, provided financial assistance, and since the start of the volunteers' efforts in the summer of 2017, they've removed nine tons of debris, in 130 pickup truck loads, while also setting headstones and monuments straight, and scouring their surfaces of mold and dirt.

Prescott noted the group organized by the MacDonalds call themselves the "Grave Angels," and include volunteers Diane Peters, Rose Johnson, Hunter and Melanie Newton, Asia Martin, Bruce Miller, Karen Erickson, and Tammie and Erik Altemose.

Both Paula MacDonald and Rotarian Russ Ritter praised the volunteers for their tireless labors, which made short work of a cleanup job that Ritter was sure would take the next 10 years.

The JCHS's highest honor is the Mary P. Johnson Award, named after the woman who moved to Port Townsend in 1958 and made it her cause to save the town's Victorian buildings.

Johnson and her husband Harry restored the Bartlett House, one of the first houses in Port Townsend to be placed on the National Register of Historic Places. She also founded the Summer School of the Arts, which was a precursor to Centrum.

This year's Johnson Award went to Todd and Kathleen Knoblock, for repairing and restoring the John Fuge House at 1609 Washington St. in Port Townsend.

Prescott recalled how shipyard owner John Fuge was able to build a home for himself and his wife, Eliza, in 1879, thanks to a local economy that was on the upswing, from which his own business business benefited.

The Fuge house had several fireplaces, but was originally heated with two coal stoves, one on the first floor and the other on the second, before being converted to electric baseboard heating in the 1960s.

After the Knoblocks bought the home in 2003, they installed a more modern propane-fueled boiler, albeit with vintage radiators to disperse the heat.

As the Knoblocks continued to replace and upgrade the electrical, plumbing and heating systems, the wallpaper from the 1960s and '70s was removed, revealing a thin layer of coal dust, coating the original walls.

The Knoblocks restored not only the plaster walls, but also their assorted corbels and medallions.

"After removing all the broken and loose plaster, and gouging out the cracks, we coated everything with a bonding agent, that helped the new plaster adhere to the old plaster," Kathleen Knoblock said.

The Knoblocks ultimately made the walls ready for reproduction wallpaper, while also repairing and replicating the faux woodgraining original to the house.

"And last year, a new roof was installed, using cedar shingles and replicating the original ornate details," Prescott said. "The Knoblocks have carefully and thoughtfully gone over every square inch of this home, inside and out, and the result is a true jewel."

Todd Knoblock stated that he and his wife could not have accomplished their work on the house without the community of Port Townsend as a whole pitching in.

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