Article by Brian Cullin, published in the Winter 2021 Tracing the Fjord.
The idea was hatched three decades ago in a school cafeteria. A modest vision for a “grass roots museum” for the North Hood Canal region. That modest vision became an extraordinary undertaking. Punching far above its weight, the Quilcene Historical Museum launched the formation of a community treasure and a one-of-a-kind events center celebrating the rich culture and history of its communities.
In July 2011, nearing the end of her life, Eilleen Worthington made a special offer to the museum to purchase her home, the 1892 Victorian Mansion, the 1915 barn, and ten acres, some bordering the Little Quilcene River. Eilleen’s offer of her house to the Quilcene Historical Museum stemmed from her interest in furthering education and ensuring that the house would remain standing as a local landmark. Following the receipt of grants and extensive fundraising efforts, the Quilcene Historical Museum purchased the Worthington Mansion, historic barn, several outbuildings, and ten acres in 2013.
The residence was rapidly deteriorating, but its cultural and historical significance were central motivators in restoring it as a community asset. What followed was nearly a decade of efforts marked by close to 40,000 volunteer hours to deliver on the museum’s vision.
Earth-moving has marked the birth and the completion of Worthington Park’s restoration. The photograph’s included in this article tell this story. Before the mansion could be restored it had to be moved off its foundation in order to stabilize the structure. Once on a solid footing, the work began in earnest to restore the exterior and interior – an effort that took six years and that has just concluded. The extensive landscaping and concrete infrastructure work was necessary in order for the Museum to move the facility from a rural residential to a commercial use facility. A major focus of this huge undertaking was to accomplish it in close partnership with Worthington Park’s neighbors.
For example, every effort was made to screen the expanded parking areas with original trees and plantings – and will include new plantings as well. This new infrastructure will support 120 vehicles and up to 99 visitors in the mansion at any given time.
“This summer the park set attendance records for the events it hosted.”
The project manager and Museum board member, David Satterlee, whose family has deep roots in the Quilcene community, summed up the significance of the extraordinary progress over the last months:
“I’ve been completely amazed with this final implementation of our long journey. It is one thing to look at a site plan and adjust sidewalk alignment – it is quite another to finally see this magnificent parking area and walkways take shape. When suddenly all of the hard work of the last ten years comes together – it is a wonderful fulfillment of a vision that at times seemed unattainable.”
Today, Worthington Park is a magnificent rustic property with old world charm. The 1892 Late Victorian Worthington Mansion with French 2nd Empire Mansard roof, has plenty of sleeping and entertaining space with 17 rooms, 3 stories, and ADA accessibility. The outdoor grounds offer picturesque sites with over 660 feet of river frontage on the Little Quilcene River, along with the wide open meadow and outdoor theatre, Linger Longer Stage.
With the transformation complete, the Quilcene Historical Museum will have delivered on its vision – a unique historical and cultural center prepared to host major public and private events, and offering overnight stays for those who want to explore the Olympic Peninsula.
Worthington Park will host a grand opening and open its doors in May of 2022.