McMansion taken off menu, house preserved

The 1890 Samuel Crockett House on Central Whidbey was purchased by Muriel Pickard in order to prevent it from being moved or destroyed. - file photo
The 1890 Samuel Crockett House on Central Whidbey was purchased by Muriel Pickard in order to prevent it from being moved or destroyed.
— image credit: file photo

The Samuel Crockett house, built on Central Whidbey circa 1890, won’t be razed or moved after all.

The controversy surrounding a couple’s plans to remove the historic structure and build a large house on the prime piece of real estate was quietly settled in December.

In the end, Coupeville residents Muriel Pickard and Paula Spina purchased the property from Ian and Karen Jefferds, who planned on building a 5,000-square-foot residence critics described as a “McMansion.”

Pickard purchased the Sam Crockett house and the two acres it sits on. Spina obtained the adjacent 10 acres of farmland.

As part of the transaction, the Jefferds purchased a large house on the water off West Beach Road.

The real estate deal means that the important site near the center of Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve will be safe from development, perhaps forever.

“It was really a purchase of love, a purchase of conservation and preservation,” said Jan Pickard, Muriel’s daughter and the chairperson of the Trust Board for the reserve.

Muriel Pickard said she plans to fix up the old house and rent it out.

“It’s just a precious place and I wanted to see it preserved,” Pickard said.

Spina, who owns the nearby Colonel Crockett Farm, said she wants to keep the 10 acres of farmland free of development, but she hopes to grow something more interesting than just hay. She’s considering planting lavender or hops, among other ideas.

“It’s a very, very important prairie,” she said. “We live in a really amazing place. There are so few places left where agriculture is viable on a small scale.”

The public debate over the construction of the so-called McMansion began when the Island County planning department mistakenly issued a building permit to the Jefferds.

The county’s Historic Review Committee, which reviews applications for projects within the reserve, unanimously recommended that the project be denied because they felt it didn’t fit into the historic nature of the area. But the committee signed the wrong piece of paper and someone in the planning department simply issued the permit.

County officials concluded that the permit couldn’t be withdrawn because the error wasn’t caught in time. But Spina, a member of the Historic Review Committee, disagreed and held a rally to pressure the county to rescind the permit.

Afterward, the commissioners decided not to reappoint Spina to the committee, though she filed a lawsuit claiming that their actions were illegal.

In addition, the members of the committee unanimously voted to file a lawsuit against the county over the accidental permit.

Both Muriel Pickard and Spina were worried that the sheer size of the house would mar the historic landscape, where many structures from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries still stand.

The Pickards have a special interest in preserving the 1,400-square-foot Sam Crockett house. Family friends, Herman and Margaret Wanamaker, lived in the house for many years.

“The house is significant to our family because we had so much affection for the Wanamakers,” Jan Pickard said.

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