Ferry House or Picnic Shelter – when historic buildings compete for funding

Image of Bowman Bay picnic shelter, a historic building in need of preservation

Two Whidbey Island landmarks are finalists in what local literary icon Knute Berger has called the American Idol version of historic preservation, the Million-Dollar Preservation Grant Competition.

The Ferry House, at Ebey’s landing and the Bowman Bay Kitchen Shelter (technically on Fidalgo Island) at Deception Pass State Park are two of  25 area structures selected as potential recipients of funds for refurbishment.

A large percentage of the other nominees also have something to do with the water and hence a connection to Tidal Life – customs houses, net drying sheds, a schooner, a tug and a lighthouse are included in the list. Though all of the historic buildings, the two vessels and the one train car are deserving of the funds and I want to see them all preserved and protected, I do especially care about the two Whidbey sites. Being more remote and smaller scale than most of the other nominees, they are less visible and in danger of falling off the preservation radar, and at least one is in

Image of Ferry House Ebey's Landing historic building

pretty rough shape and needs help soon. They also happen to be the only two that I have personally taken pictures of. So they are the stars of this post and I’ve been voting for them.

Every time I go to the voting page – you can vote every day until May 15th  – my fingers itch to hit other buttons. As a boat nut, the schooner Adventuress and the Arthur Foss both tug at me. As a devotee of  train travel and believer in the value of our rail system I really want to see the restoration of the beautiful King Street Station finished. As a kid who spent her formative years at the Seattle Center I want the Horiuchi Mural to live on. As an advocate of our need for beautiful public spaces I want to see the Spanish Steps return to their former glory.  And as a valuer of old stuff in general, I want all the entrants to receive all the funds and volunteer support we can give them.

Of all the competitors, I most want to vote for the Bowman Bay kitchen. It’s an example of an organic architecture and building style that we’ve lost completely in our headlong rush to demolish old buildings to codify and standardize building practices.  It’s perfect for its site in the forest and IMHO should be the model for all park structures – hand built using indigenous materials. It broke my heart when the Park Dept, instead of repairing the old local stone guardrail pillars along the scenic route through Deception Pass, replaced then with dressed sandstone trucked in from some desert. I REALLY do not want to see the Bowman Bay shelter replaced with something made of concrete block and painted institutional green.

In the voting for the funds the Bowman Bay shelter is sinking fast, getting less than 1% of votes while the Adventuress is winning. I’m glad the schooner is doing well. I want to see her continue her job educating kids about the environment and the old way of doing things for many years to come.

As for my own vote, I’m torn between throwing it away on a symbolic gesture – voting for the Bowman Bay shelter – and abandoning my favorite in order to make sure the Ferry House stays in the running.  What to do, what to do.

While I dither, all of you go vote for your favorite every day – this time you really can vote often.

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  1. I grew up in Coupeville and I was glad to see your post about the two Whidbey Island sites in the Partners in Preservation program. I used to jog past the Ferry House almost daily and I am happy to see it get the attention it deserves!

    1. Thanks Zach, you’re absolutely right. Not only is the Ferry House worthy, it sits in one of the most picturesque sites imaginable. A great place for a jog.

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