Seniors & Aging

It takes a lot to maintain the state’s oldest wood structure on its original site

Edradine Hovde is the vice-president of the Daughters of the Pioneers of Washington, which oversees maintenance and operation of Pickett House in Bellingham.
Edradine Hovde is the vice-president of the Daughters of the Pioneers of Washington, which oversees maintenance and operation of Pickett House in Bellingham. For The Bellingham Herald

Not many locals know this, but Bellingham is home to the state’s oldest wooden structure on its original site.

The historic building is Pickett House, a residence occupied by Capt. George Pickett from 1856 until 1860. Pickett fought in the Mexican War, built Fort Bellingham in the 1850s and also was involved in the Pig War with British forces on San Juan Island. As a general in the Civil War, he led the doomed Confederate charge at Gettysburg in 1863.

While it had other occupants after Pickett left, the cedar slab home’s last resident was local seamstress Hattie Strother, who called Pickett House home from 1889 until her death in 1936.

She deeded the house to the Washington State Historical Society, which promptly transferred its ownership to the Daughters of the Pioneers.

There are five active members of the Daughters of the Pioneers of Washington’s Whatcom Chapter, and under the careful eye of Edradine Hovde, they oversee the maintenance and operation of the 160-plus-year-old house.

Hovde, a Bellingham resident and vice president of the Daughters of the Pioneers of Washington, became involved in the organization when she retired from teaching in 2004.

We’re working very hard to advertise and make known this historic spot. Because it’s important people know about this.

Edradine Hovde, vice president of the Daughters of the Pioneers of Washington

Donations fund the maintenance of the building, and those expenses run high, given the age of Pickett House. Fortunately, Hovde and her team have received some financial assistance from Questers, an international organization dedicated to preserving antiques and restoring old buildings.

But finances remain an issue, Hovde said.

“It costs $4,000 per year just to maintain the building,” Hovde said. “In the last few years we’ve put insulation in the house, completely redone an upstairs bedroom and called it the Hattie Strother Sewing Room, replaced the windows and redone the roof and two sides of the house with new shingles.

“Last spring we repainted the fence, kitchen and back porch, and installed a Monarch wood stove exactly like Hattie Strother had in 1936. Presently we’re working on renovating the bathroom and military room.”

Today Pickett House is officially a museum, and the Daughters of the Pioneers of Washington give monthly tours to the public for a donation and private tours on demand.

The house sees up to 400 visitors a year – but that’s not nearly enough, Hovde said.

“We’re working very hard to advertise and make known this historic spot, because it’s important people know about this,” she said. “Pickett House is connected to our national history. It’s part of the history of our nation.”

Pickett House

Where: 910 Bancroft St., Bellingham

Tours: Public tours are given on the second Sunday of each month from 1-4 p.m.

Donations: Gratefully accepted.

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