Jefferson County group takes over house museum

PORT TOWNSEND — The Jefferson County Historical Society became the official manager of the Commanding Officer’s Quarters at Fort Worden State Park in a brief but colorful ceremony Tuesday.

Vicki Davis, historical society president, signed the contract on the desk in the office of the three-story residence on the bluff, the home of the fort’s commanding officer during its half century as an Army post.

New management

The historical society is taking over management of the house museum from the Fort Worden Heritage Group, a group of volunteers who served for 30 years.

“The state owns it, we operate it and the community still gets to enjoy it,” Davis said. “It’s a win-win-win situation for everybody.”

The state park has been looking for a partner organization to run the house museum since last spring, when the Heritage Group decided to no longer take on the full responsibility.

Several groups applied, park manager Kate Burke said, but the historical society shared the state park’s mission of stewardship of the park’s history.

“We already had a partnership going with the Jefferson County Historical Society with the Rothschild House,” Burke said, referring to a state park house museum in Port Townsend that the group also manages. “It seemed like a perfect fit.”

Burke also presented Bill Conklin, former manager of the COQ for the Heritage Group, with a framed certificate of appreciation signed by State Parks Director Rex Durr.

Docents who volunteered with the Heritage Group, including Conklin, will continue to volunteer at the house, which will be managed by Steve Bailey.

In honor of the posting, Bailey ordered an 1899 U.S. Army Coast Artillery day uniform, which he wore to the signing ceremony.

Conklin and George Thomsen, who portray Capt. Manus McCloskey and Col. Clarence Deems, respectively, two commanding officers who served the fort, came in uniform, as did George Wagner, in a sergeants’s uniform. Docent Joan Thomsen was attired as Col. Deems’ wife.

“I cannot give enough praise to Bill Conklin and his volunteers with the Heritage Group for the excellent job they have done running the COQ for so many years,” Bill Tennent, historical society director, said. “They have set a high standard for the historical society to maintain.”

Activities planned at the house include a military history summer camp for boys and special Father’s Day activities for dads, Tennent said.

A special passport will be issued to allow visitors to see the COQ, Rothschild House and the Jefferson County Historical Museum for a reduced rate, Tennent said.

The COQ will be open weekends until June, then daily throughout the summer.

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Jennifer Jackson can be reached at [email protected]

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