Historic House Museums
Open for the Season
Port Townsend’s two historic house museums will open for the summer season on May 1. The Rothschild House and the Commanding Officer’s Quarters are both owned by Washington State Parks and managed by the Jefferson County Historical Society.
The Commanding Officer’s Quarters at Fort Worden spent the winter under wraps. The exterior of the COQ was was wrapped in white plastic to contain lead paint as it was removed during a renovation of the building's exterior.
The COQ was home to more than 25 commanding officers and their families from 1904, when it was built, until 1953. It's perched above the bluff at the end of Officers’ Row and was restored in the late 1970s and opened as a museum in 1982.
The COQ is normally closed from October through April, but in September of last year, all of the antique furnishings in the house had to be carefully packed away during the renovation. Washington State Parks Collections Curator Alicia Woods photographed the placement of the items in every room on three floors in the COQ and then carefully packed them in boxes. Large pieces of furniture were covered and moved away from the windows. The COQ usually gets a good spring cleaning in the spring, but this year required much more attention. All the boxes were unpacked by historical society volunteers and staff and park maintenance employees who put the hundreds of items back into their proper places. All curtains were removed, washed, and rehung. The dining room table was reset with its beautiful crystal and silver, the china cabinet was filled dinnerware, pictures were rehung. The Commanding Officer’s Quarters is will be open daily from 12:00 to 5:00.
The Rothschild House Museum, on the corner of Franklin and Taylor Streets, was built in 1868 and is furnished with the original contents once owned by the Rothschild family. It will be open daily from 11:00 to 4:00. Admission to either location is $6, a pass for both locations is $8.00. Admission is free for JCHS members.
First Friday Lecture features
Native American History
On May 5 Barb Laski will present a program is entitled “On Whose Land We Stand”. She will describe life before the first Euro-American settlers and the major influences affecting the lives of native persons during the 19th century. She will talk about Indian relationships with fur traders and early settlers, the realities of the 1855 Point No Point Treaty, chief Chetzemoka, and why the newest Washington State ferry is named the Chemakum.
Laski, a white woman, said: “Do I genuinely wish that a native person were delivering this presentation instead of me? Absolutely! Nonetheless, we need to start somewhere to reframe our history to dispel misconceptions.” She has spent three years doing intensive research, visiting tribes, studying in Jamestown’s Heron Hall and Port Gamble’s Little Boston library. She has worked closely with cultural leaders of the Makah, Jamestown S’Klallam, Port Gamble S’Klallam, Lower Elwha Klallam, and Suquamish tribes to create the experiential course for adults entitled “Honoring Our Local Tribes.”
Laski is originally from Hartford, Connecticut and played basketball for the University of Connecticut. She is a graduate of Harvard Business School, an executive manager with Fortune 500 firms, and a health care strategy consultant. She is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ, supporting social justice, interfaith, and environmental initiatives. She and her husband Art Carpenter and their three dogs love the Pacific Northwest.
The First Friday Lectures begin at 7:00 p.m. in the council chamber of Port Townsend’s historic city hall, 540 Water Street. Admission is by donation which supports historical society programs.
Pat and Peter Simpson: Collectors & Patrons
“Pat and Peter Simpson: Collectors and Patrons,” opened March 24. The exhibit features artists who benefited from the encouragement and support of these long-time Port Townsend citizens.
Many pieces are from the Simpson’s collection, which are mostly from the mid-80s. Works of the some of the same artists from later in their careers are also featured. “By showing some of their more contemporary work we get a little bit of a survey of those artists and how their work has progressed,” said curator Ann Welch.
Artist's featured are Tom Wilson, Jo Ann Alber, Kate Jenks, Anne Hirondelle, Stephanie Lutgring, Stephen Yates, Linda Okazaki, Galen Garwood, and Ed Cain. Stephen Yates created a large painting, Navigator’s Strategy, specifically for the exhibit.
Pat and Peter Simpson were known for many things, Pat for her work at Centrum and running and Peter as the director of Port Townsend Film Festival, his writing, and his work at Community Action. Unless you’d been to their home, or were an artist, you may not have known that they were also serious art collectors.
The Simpsons donated the bulk of their collection to the Jefferson County Historical Society. Their son David loaned the family portraits to the museum for this exhibit.
“One of the things I discovered was that they had their hands and minds and hearts in almost every major organization, and minor organization, that was going on in Port Townsend. Over the years I think they left a big imprint on Port Townsend. If we could imagine what it would have been like here without them, the town would have been quite different,” said Coney.
The Printed Word in Port Townsend:
Literary Presses of the 1970s and 80s
From the exhibit catalog:
In the 1970s and 80s a beautiful, forgotten, small town on the Olympic Peninsula, Port Townsend, Washington, was the sight of an unusual literary blossoming. Writers, most of them young, had started migrating to the area in the aftermath of the sixties. The Centrum Foundation’s Writers’ Conference was established and Copper Canyon Press found a home with them. Other small presses started soon after.
In 1984, only New York City received more National Endowment of the Arts awards to literary presses than Port Townsend. There was more than one publisher for every 850 people of the population.
The exhibit features seven of Port Townsend’s presses, the people behind them, and the magical time and place where they came into being.