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Don’t knock history on Whidbey

The historic Loers house can be seen off Highway 20 near Swantown Road in Oak Harbor. - Photo courtesy of Maribeth Crandell
The historic Loers house can be seen off Highway 20 near Swantown Road in Oak Harbor.
— image credit: Photo courtesy of Maribeth Crandell

Don’t knock the historic structures on Whidbey Island. Why? The knocker may risk a run-in with angry island history buffs - or worse - the coveted structure could come crashing down.

“In an age of rapid change and unstoppable growth, a century-old home or classic storefront links us to our past,” Maribeth Crandell, Oak Harbor environmental educator, said. “The pioneering families that came to Whidbey Island built our communities from scratch. Now their homesteads wither under the strain of long exposure to the elements and the pressures to make a profit.”

In addition to private individuals who have stepped in to preserve the one-of-a-kind pioneer homesteads, Ebey’s Landing National Historic Reserve was established 30 years ago in an effort to preserve the historic, working landscape.

The reserve makes it possible for farms to remain farms, instead of being razed and converted into housing developments or shopping centers.

The reserve includes more than 200 buildings on the National Historic Register, Fort Casey and Fort Ebey State Parks. Historic preservation is an ongoing process: the Admiralty Head Lighthouse, built in 1901, is slated to receive a new roof and windows. More historic construction may be seen at Deception Pass State Park, where the Civilian Conservation Corps built rustic-looking rock and timber frame picnic shelters and restrooms.

In recent years some of these structures, including those on Ebey’s National Historic Reserve, received a needed boost from Harrison Goodall, an expert in the field of historic preservation, with over 30 years of experience in 46 national parks, 49 national forests, eight Bureau of Land Management locations, 90 museums and numerous historic sites throughout the country. While Goodall continues to work internationally, he makes his home on Whidbey Island.

Goodall will share tips on historic structure preservation during a free seminar, Tuesday April 14 from 7 to 8 p.m., and Dave Bennick, founder of Re-Use Consulting, will offer advice on ways to salvage historic building materials for use in other projects.

“We help building owners find sustainable alternatives to demolition and often save them money,” Bennick, who travels nationally to train and supervise deconstruction efforts, said. Re-Use Consulting has also offered assistance and materials to flood victims in neighboring counties to help them rebuild.

According to Goodall, historic preservationists and building salvage professionals are often at odds with their differing views on the treatment of historic structures.

Crandell said the building salvage industry is booming.

“In this slow economy, it makes perfect sense to shop for used materials, which also saves our landfills,” she said.

For example, Island County collected 173 tons of wood waste last year, King County has an on-line exchange for used building materials and do-it-yourselfers often list needed or wanted items on craigslist.com. Whether you’re in the market for building supplies or you have a building in question, you could learn a lot from these two pros, Crandell said.

The seminar, “Don’t lose it. Re-use it! Preservation and Deconstruction” takes place at 7 p.m. Tuesday night at Oak Harbor City Hall, 865 SE Barrington Dr. Email digital photos of your building ahead of time to mcrandell@oakharbor.org for expert advice from Goodall and Bennick. Call 279-4762 with questions.

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