New life for bunkhouse

South Whidbey Historical Society fixes up old digs

By BRIAN KELLY

Herald Writer

LANGLEY — Jacob Anthes might not recognize the place. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

After a three-year closure, the South Whidbey Historical Society Museum is reopening this weekend.

Located in a loggers’ bunkhouse built by Anthes, the founder of Langley, the museum has been shut down for structural repairs and other improvements. But with the renovation complete and exhibits in place, museum supporters are celebrating the end of an effort that cost almost $200,000.

"We’ve worked so hard and so long for this time, and we feel it’s a gem," said Winnie McLeod, president of the South Whidbey Historical Society.

A grand reopening ceremony will be held this afternoon.

"We’re just so anxious for people to see it," McLeod said. "We’ve had several groups through, and they’ve all said it’s just darling."

So far, the old-time kitchen has been the most popular attraction, eclipsing the draw of the museum’s mastodon bones and Indian artifacts.

The bunkhouse was willed to the historical society in the early 1980s.

"Within a few years we found dry rot," McLeod recalled.

Despite the bad news, society members still loved the building’s prime downtown location and decided to rebuild the bunkhouse.

But that meant getting a better base than the hand-hewn logs that had been holding up the bunkhouse.

"Three years ago this month, we found we had to lift the whole building and put all new forms underneath," she said.

The bunkhouse, built about 1902 for the loggers who cut the wood fuel for steamers plying Saratoga Passage, has been converted inside from one long room to a number of separate exhibition areas. Storage space was added, along with a new roof and sidewalk.

"A couple of hundred thousand dollars later, and three years, we’re reopening it to a really fine museum instead of just a bunkhouse with things put in it," said Jerry Dunham, a board member of the historical society.

Museums play a vital role in developing an appreciation of the past, he said.

"It’s helpful for young people to get some perspective on how the world is and how it has been," Dunham said.

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