BI history to take root in Winslow

History marches on, this time from Strawberry Hill into the heart of Winslow.

Bainbridge Island Historical Society board members and city officials signed a lease agreement Tuesday, formalizing a plan to move the historical museum to Ericksen Avenue and the so-called “Three Tree Park.”

The move could take place as early as this summer, if fund-raising efforts and the permit process fall in line.

“We’re simply going to start raising money, and when we have enough to move it, we’ll move it,” said Will Shopes, BIHS treasurer. “It depends on the generosity of islanders, the economic times and what foundations are out there.”

The fund drive will be launched at the organization’s annual potluck, slated for 12 p.m. Feb. 23 at Island Center Hall. The event is open to the public.

Representing the historical society at Tuesday’s lease signing were Executive Director Joan Piper, board President Gary Loverich, board member Jack Maher and several others. On hand from the city were Mayor Darlene Kordonowy, city Administrator Lynn Nordby, and former mayor Dwight Sutton, serving in his new capacity as “elder statesman.”

Under the agreement, the historic school building that houses the museum will be moved to the vacant parcel once occupied by a pet store and grooming business. The city purchased the property during development of the new city hall, and the pet store building was razed.

The property still boasts a trio of massive trees, one of which is said to be the oldest red oak in the state. The trees will be maintained, with the building set at the west side of the property.

Parking would probably be shared with the Playhouse, Nordby said.

Volunteers hope the move will increase the visibility of the museum, currently host to a collection of Ansel Adams photographs of the Japanese-American internment as well as various displays of island artifacts.

“Maybe we can get the community to feel like they own it, rather than the historical society (owning it),” said Linda Costello, architect and historical society member.

Cultural corridor

The move will complete what is being called a “cultural corridor” in the center of Winslow, comprising the museum, the Bainbridge Performing Arts Playhouse, the seasonal farmers’ market and the new city hall.

The agreement had been in the works for some months, and was approved in principle by the city council in December.

The lease is for three, 30-year terms, contingent on the continued operation of the museum on the site. The historical society will be charged a small percent of museum revenues, an arrangement modeled on the lease agreement Bainbridge Performing Arts has with the city.

Piper said the board considered a number of locations before beginning negotiations with the city. The “Three Tree” property was preferred for its proximity to downtown activities and tourists arriving on the ferry.

The schoolhouse and its small annex will be relocated, and historical society officers also hope to see construction of a small administrative office.

The fate of the giant steel retort, a relic from the Wyckoff creosote plant that adorns the present museum grounds, has yet to be decided.

The move, historical society members said, will be the third for the building that began life as Island Center School.

It was first moved to the Bainbridge High School campus, where it served as a practice room for band and choral groups.

The building was taken to Strawberry Hill Park in 1972, and became home to the museum. But the location has long been viewed with disfavor, beyond walking distance and bus service from downtown.

“I hear from people who say they’ll come volunteer for us when we move downtown,” Piper said.

Kordonowy mused that if one looks at all-island government and other recent changes along the continuum of Bainbridge history, it represents “less than an inch on a 12-inch ruler.”

Bringing the museum close to city hall, she suggested, will complete a symbolic link between “old Bainbridge” and new.

“To me, it’s the long-term memory of the community,” agreed Bainbridge Historical Society President Gary Loverich. “The better the facility, the better the staffing, the more the community has access to it, the better that memory’s going to be.”

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