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Historic house is spared, at least for now
Demolition of an historic farmhouse located on the Navy’s Outlying Field just south of Coupeville didn’t happen as planned Monday after the community hastily organized to save the structure.
Laura McDonald, a Coupeville resident and amateur historian, reported the demolition plan Friday morning, saying she just found out about it Thursday night. She immediately started spreading the word, hoping to stop the demolition.
She and supporters handed out several hundred flyers around town Sunday and gained support from the Island County Historical Society.
Monday morning, McDonald and a handful of supporters were at the OLF main gate at 6 a.m., hoping to stop the demolition crew, which rumor had it would start work at 7 a.m. As it turned out that wasn’t necessary, as the Navy had apparently changed its strategy.
“It’s still standing,” McDonald said of the house at 10 a.m. Monday, having just ended her vigil. Speaking of what she heard through the Central Whidbey grapevine, she said Whidbey Island Naval Air Station Capt. Gerral David and Island County Commissioner Angie Homola have been trying to find a way to save the old house, while meeting a Jan. 1 deadline for its removal.
Homola later confirmed the scenario outlined by McDonald, saying Capt. David “got us a stay of demolition.” The planning department will have to issue a permit before the house can be moved.
McDonald said she was hopeful the building will now be saved. “But I have mixed feelings ... there’s only a few working days until January 1.”
According to McDonald, the white, two-story house visible from Highway 20 dates back to 1915 when it was built by Ralph Kingma and three of his sons, John, Bud and Gerben. The Kingma house was originally located in Clover Valley near Oak Harbor where the family had a chicken farm. The Navy purchased the house and property to build Ault Field in the 1940s. McDonald said the Navy moved the house to the OLF in the 1960s.
“My grandparents moved here in the 1890s and I’ve been researching history the last nine years,” McDonald said, explaining her interest in the issue.
She said she’s been researching the old farmhouse for a couple of years. “This house is perfect,” she said of its condition.
A company called Forest City that builds Navy housing contracted with a company called Interwest Construction to demolish the house Monday, according to McDonald. The Navy refers to the old house as Quarters ‘W’ at Outlying Field.
Michael Nanny, Forest City spokesman, said Friday afternoon that demolition of the house is part of a Navy plan for the OLF area. “We’re basically the contractor,” he said. “We’re implementing the scope of work.”
Nanny said the Navy intends to replace the old house with a modern caretaker’s residence.
Forest City has built hundreds of units of new Navy housing units in recent years. In a complicated arrangement, the private company jointly owns the housing with the Navy. “They control it and we manage it,” he said.
According to McDonald, one local contractor, Curt Youderian, has offered to move the house so it won’t have to be destroyed if the timing can be worked out.