News

Navy preserves 'victory' in historic homes

"Victory Home residents wantedFormer residents of Oak Harbor's historic Victory Homes are being sought to interview for possible inclusion in a Navy-funded multimedia presentation. Anyone who used to live in one of the Victory Homes is invited to call Mike Usen at EDAW Inc. in Seattle, 206-622-1176.The U.S. government has taken steps to preserve a bit of history right here in Oak Harbor, and a Seattle planning contractor is seeking people who are part of that history.When the Navy decided to replace the 198 Victory Homes off Regatta Drive between Whidbey Avenue and Skagit Valley College and overlooking the harbor, it hired EDAW Inc. to complete an environmental impact study. It was found that the World War II-era military family homes were eligible for inclusion on the National Registry of Historic Places, said Jill Sterrett, managing principal of EDAW's Seattle office.The first portion of the project was to do an environmental assessment, under the National Environmental Protection Act, to assess what the environmental impact would be of removing these buildings and the new construction, Sterrett said.With the eligibility of the structures to the national registry, the U.S. government also had to consider the historical impact of demolishing and replacing the homes with 200 new 2-, 3- and 4-bedroom townhouses.Because they're eligible for that, that is considered historical impact, Sterrett said. As required under a section of the National Historic Preservation Act, the government needed to find ways to preserve the history of the old homes and create a detailed architectural record of the structures, while still being able to reuse the land to build new housing for Navy families.EDAW, under contract with the government, came up with the idea of just how this task could be accomplished.On Friday morning May 25, a production crew from Lumen's Media and Provideo, both of Seattle, hired by EDAW, was at the site of Victory Homes, filming for a documentary about the houses. The 1940s architecture is simple-looking, as the houses are square masses of cement blocks. Oddly, while the houses face an amazing view of the harbor, none of the homes were built with windows facing the water. The houses have been well-maintained, as the last residents just moved out last week, Shaddy-Brown said. The third part of the project includes the actual preservation of two of the buildings. Two houses to remain intact were chosen by Capt. Larry Salter, commanding officer of Naval Air Station Whidbey Island. In what capacity the two buildings will be used has not yet been released.Workers will begin to destroy the other 196 1-, 2-, and 3-bedroom homes shortly.The contractor is fencing (the property) in as we speak, said Betty Jo Shaddy-Brown, housing manager at Whidbey Island Naval Air Station. The new homes on the site have a projected completion date of 2003.EDAW is looking for former residents of the homes to interview for possible inclusion in the multimedia presentation. Anyone who used to live in one of the Victory Homes is invited to call Mike Usen at EDAW, at 206-622-1176.You can reach News-Times reporter Christine Smith at csmith@whidbeynewstimes.com or call 675-6611 "

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