A historic Coupeville home where more than 3,000 babies were born will be open to the public Thursday.
Helen Taylor, the former executive director of the WhidbeyHealth Foundation, recently completed the restoration of the Polly Harpole Maternity Home on 404 NE Haller Street. She is hosting a community open house from 4-7 p.m. on May 11. All are welcome to stop by, but she’s especially hoping that people who were born in the house will attend.
Taylor explained that she has experience restoring historic properties from when she lived in California and jumped at the chance to save an important part of the island’s history. She found that the house, however, needed a lot of work and held many surprises.
“It was a longer labor than I was expecting but we still have a beautiful baby in the end,” she said.
The cottage-style house was originally built in 1927 at 900 square feet but grew over the years as it was added on to. It is currently about 1,800 square feet. The original weather vane was found, repaired and mounted back on the house.
Taylor said she has a great deal of respect for Harpole, who was the island’s first public health nurse and worked from 1934 until she had to quit for health reasons in 1958. She passed away in 1962. At the request of doctors, Harpole turned her house into a maternity home in 1936, according to her obituary. Many of the 3,000 babies born in the home over the years were “second generation.”
Harpole also set up the island’s first child health clinics, free dental clinics and mobile X-ray visits. She trained graduate nurses in field work.
“She did so much for the people with minimal resources,” Taylor observed.
In commemoration of the compassionate and tireless nurse, the Polly Harpole Guild worked to open the island’s only hospital in 1970. Since then, the guild has raised money to furnish and equip the hospital.
Now that the maternity house is restored, Taylor said she will put it on the market and hopes that a family will make it home for many years to come.
In the meantime, she is looking for the next property to restore.