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New home fits, historically speaking

Strangers have stopped by Kent and Stephanie Williams’ home to ask about the history of the farmhouse. It’s easy to image that a pioneering family lived in the Central Whidbey house more than a century ago, perhaps plowing the prairie for the first time.

The visitors are surprised the learn that the simple, vernacular-designed farmhouse and chicken-house-styled garage are new.

But the Williams are thrilled by the misunderstanding. They wanted their dream home on Blockhouse Road, designed by Langley architect Ross Chapin, to fit into the historic character of Ebey’s Landing National Historic Reserve.

“This is farmland. This has been a hay field for decades,” Stephanie said, motioning to the tall grass that surrounds the home. “It cries out for something that fits in.”

For their effort in building something that “fits in,” reserve officials recently gave the Williams’ a 5-star award for historic preservation in the “new construction” category. It’s a timely award since May in National Preservation Month.

Reserve Manager Rob Harbour said the awards are meant recognize the people who make the extra effort, and spend considerable sums of money, to maintain the historic integrity of the reserve.

Today, most of the historic buildings and lands within the 25-square-mile reserve are owned by individuals. It’s up to them to maintain the historic character of the reserve.

“The purpose is to pause and take note of the good things that are happening,” Harbour said, “and note the property owners who are good stewards of the historic reserve.”

A committee that included the Coupeville Design Review Board, Trust Board of Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve, National Park Service staff, and the Island County Historic Review Committee developed a long list of recent outstanding projects. They chose winners using the Secretary of Interior’s standards as a guide.

In addition to the Williams’, five other property owners were honored at a ceremony last week.

l Wilbur and Karen Bishop also received an award for new construction of loafing sheds. The structures were built with traditional materials, sited to augment the existing farm cluster and landscape.

“The design of this building respects the historic landscape along with providing cow comfort,” said Marshall Bronson, chairman of the Trust Board.

l Bill and Jan Skubi won a landscaping award for a South Main Street residence. They used native plants, established a hedgerow, preserved a pear tree and build a split-rail fence.

“The landscaping is respectful of the simple architectural style of their home and establishes a favorable expectation for visitors entering town,” Bronson said.

l Bob and Beulah Whitlow won a preservation award for their work on the historic Crockett Barn, which included in-kind roofing and siding material.

“Like the pioneer Crockett Family who built the house and barn, the Whitlows are, in a sense, pioneers,” Bronson said, “because they saw the beauty and value in a group of run down buildings that were at the end of their useful life and worked hard to turn them into a wonderful bed and breakfast facility.”

l Marshall and Judy English won a rehabilitation award for preserving the architectural integrity of a historic Ninth Street residence while building an addition.

“The final product is a historic building that serves the needs of a modern family, and retains its original scale and character,” Bronson said.

l Blain and Julie Kuykendall received a restoration award for restoring the Broadway Street farm house by accurately reestablishing historic features.

“They have removed non-traditional siding to expose the original siding,” Bronson said, “and replaced windows with a style more in keeping with a simple farmhouse.”

l Tom Asthmus and Mitch Richards of Seattle Pacific University received the coveted stewardship award for purchasing the Fort Casey Inn and using good preservation technology to preserve the complex of buildings at Camp Casey.

“The purchase of the Fort Casey Inn reunites the cluster and ensures consistency as these historic properties continue to be maintained,” Bronson said.

The reserve was created in 1978 by a special act of Congress with the intention of preserving the historic landscape as it was more than a century ago, when famous New England sea captains settled the land of Central Whidbey.

You can reach Jessie Stensland at jstensland@whidbeynewstimes.com or 675-6611.

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