Hundreds gather to take a gander at the Ferry House

Hundreds of people enjoyed the Ferry House event Sunday afternoon.  - Nathan Whalen/Whidbey News-Times
Hundreds of people enjoyed the Ferry House event Sunday afternoon.
— image credit: Nathan Whalen/Whidbey News-Times

Hikers often peer through the windows to see what's inside the Ferry House located in Ebey's Landing National Historical Reserve. Yet few people have ever ventured inside the iconic, 150-year-old building.

That changed for several hours Sunday afternoon when hundreds of people showed up for an open house. Residents from across Whidbey Island enjoyed food and live music as they had a chance to wander around the first floor of the two-story Ferry House.

Mark Preiss, manager of Ebey's Landing National Historical Reserve, estimated 700 people showed up to the open house, which was quite a surprise since officials anticipated about 250 people would take the tour.

"We think yesterday's event demonstrates the commitment of the community," Preiss said in a Monday morning interview. He attended Sunday's event dressed as Winfield Ebey.

In addition to the tour, people enjoyed listening to live music and eating hot dogs and cake, while waiting in line to get inside.

The tour allowed people to view several rooms on the building's first floor. Guides were in the ladies' parlor, living room and kitchen to highlight specifics of the building that was built in the mid-19th Century.

"This brings history alive," said Coupeville resident John Purcell during Sunday's tour. He was one of the volunteers last year who chipped in to help restore the Boyer Barn on Crockett Prairie.

The Ferry House is something of a curiosity for hikers who visit Ebey's Landing and enjoy the surrounding trails and beaches. The historic building was constructed in 1860 by Winfield Ebey and originally functioned as a wayside stop for people arriving at Ebey's Landing. The building served as a boarding house and post office. It never had such amenities as electricity and indoor plumbing.

"We've peeked in on the outside before," Coupeville resident Mel Rogers said as he walked by the Ferry House waiting to take a look inside.

Sunday's open house comes as Ebey's Landing National Historical Reserve is competing for a piece of $1 million in funding provided through Partners in Preservation, which is sponsored by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and American Express.

Ebey's officials want help to pay for a $155,000 project that would rebuild the front porch and further stabilize the building.

People can vote daily by going to the Web site through May 12.

As of Tuesday morning, the Ferry House was in eighth place. Preiss said he wants to see the project move up into the top five to improve its chances to receive some money.

Historical preservation projects currently ahead of the Ferry House in voting include a project to repair the schooner Adventuress moored in Tacoma, along with restoration projects of such buildings as the Seattle Town Hall, the Fifth Avenue Theatre in Seattle and the Orting Soldiers Home.

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