The former Carlich House, now recognized as the Hoquarton Historical Interpretive Center, has a new role to play in the history of Tillamook.
“It’s not often that one has the ability to become a part of history, and it’s even more seldom that one is invited to resurrect a piece of history, revitalize it, and incorporate it into the city’s revitalization plan,” says Charles Wooldridge, the project manager who has been instrumental in saving the 130-year-old Tillamook landmark.
For his efforts, the Tillamook County Historical Society awarded Wooldridge the title of Historian of the Year in January. The home needed to be moved to make way for the new Highway 6 entrance into Tillamook, and Wooldridge helped orchestrate the many challenges to make that move possible.
“Located on 1st Street near the post office, the house has been moved, repositioned on a new foundation, and is now in phase two of restoration,” Wooldridge says of the project taken on by the Bay Area Arts Center of which he is a founding board member.
When finished, he says, “HHIC will be a key element in expanding the evolving dream of a gateway to Tillamook County.”
More than 12 years ago, a consortium of local and national organizations including the Tillamook Estuaries Project, the city of Tillamook, the National Parks Service, the Oregon Arts Commission and Bay City Arts Center, came together to initiate the Hoquarton Trail Project, according to Wooldridge.
“A former vibrant and central settlement for the native tribes of the area, the Hoquarton had transitioned in the last 50 years to a weed-choked, trash-strewn and neglected industrial site,” he reported in a recent letter to supporters. “As the historical value of the Hoquarton was identified, restoration efforts by volunteers, school children, multiple partners and multiple funders united, and there is now an enhanced park and interpretive trail.”
In 2013, the Bay City Arts Center incorporated the Hoquarton Historical Interpretive Center project under its umbrella and has since been working to facilitate the completion of the project, Wooldridge says.
The HHIC is a three-phase project that will provide a venue for historic and cultural outreach as well as economic land community development for Tillamook County residents and visitors, he adds.
When completed, the project will create a standing exhibit rich with history and educational outreach opportunities that will focus on the historical significance of the historical center as it pertains to Tillamook County’s heritage.
Currently on the to-do list for phase two of the project are rewiring, lighting, interior plumbing, basement and front porch.
“Last year, we reconnected the facility to sewer, water and electricity and constructed a public parking lot in front of the building,” Wooldridge says. “Phase three will consist of insulating the building, finishing the interior, installing displays and painting the exterior. We plan on completing the wiring project in late summer. Combined with the plumbing, this will be a major step toward our desired grand opening late this year or early next.”
Many area businesses, nonprofit organizations and individuals are supporting the project, which will also be instrumental in Tillamook’s efforts to support and expand historical and eco-tourism, he says.
“By attracting and increasing the number of visitors to the area, local businesses, including retailers and members of the hospitality industry, will see a direct benefit from the facility,” Wooldridge says.
Exhibits, displays and events will offer visitors a look at Tillamook’s past, including history and transportation modes used to establish and facilitate area lumber mills and oceanic industries.
“Hoquarton is a Tillamook word for ‘landing,’” Wooldridge says. “Ships came into the slough with their wares. The Army Corps of Engineers had to channelize, create dikes, and do mid-bay pilings to guide the current — pretty historic stuff. There is evidence of most of that still today.”
Wooldridge says finding a vast amount of material —memoirs, city records — motivated the group to put on a show at the Tillamook County Museum. The display gave birth to the idea of locating a permanent home, he adds.
Today, the HHIC sits 70 feet back from the highway on a spot leased at $10 annually for 49 years from the city of Tillamook, to be renegotiated at the end of the lease, Wooldridge says.
“We found out after all of this, it’s the oldest building in downtown Tillamook,” he says. “Now it will be used for science classes in the new, state-of-the-art Science Lab in the basement. Tillamook Pioneer Museum might want to use it for some of their workshops. Art workshops, writing, reading and other workshops and events can take place there. And we see things happening there that are in harmony with historical aspects of the materials used in our area.”
Wooldridge says fundraising efforts continue to add to the funds remaining from an urban renewal grant, funding from small foundations such as the Oregon Cultural Trust and the local historical society, and other donations.
“We will be seeking funding, maybe a larger grant, to finish the project,” he says.
Arts in small communities are chronically underfunded and under-supported, he says, but the idea to have a permanent location that is “historical and tells a story” is catching on.
A link to the evolving Hoquarton Interpretive Trail, the HHIC can be visited during Tillamook’s annual Step Back in Time event, held in August.
For more information, visit the Bay City Arts Center at baycityartscenter.org.