Town requests rural development funding to preserve Julia Butler Hansen (JBH) home


March 16, 2023

Submitted by The Town of Cathlamet

The Town of Cathlamet has requested $600,000 in federally-earmarked USDA Rural Development funds to save and conserve legendary 3rd District Congresswoman Julia Butler Hansen’s home, including its historic structure, contents and grounds. With support of Wahkiakum County, the request also includes development of an adjacent visitor’s center in the historic Johnson house that will allow the JBH Heritage Center to regularly open to the public. The funding requested will facilitate structural repairs to save and conserve the JBH home along with its existing inventory of historic treasures, including art, pioneer artifacts, photographs, correspondence and written tributes from Congress, former Governors and five US Presidents.

The proposal is designed not only to safeguard the full integrity of the JBH house (oldest structure in Wahkiakum County, built c. 1867) and its unique and priceless contents, but also to conserve and protect the existing JBH heritage gardens (including heritage trees dating from Washington Territorial days) as well as the historically significant Johnson House on an adjacent parcel.

Broken out, the $600,000 request sets aside $250,000 (repairs/restoration at JBH House), $150,000 Johnson House repairs and renovations and $200,000 (architectural services, including civic, mechanical, and structural engineering, landscape restoration and ADA-compliant renovations) developed in consultation with Hennebery Eddy Architects, a Portland-based historic architecture firm with notable preservation projects in Oregon, Washington and Montana. Further consultation and partnerships are contemplated (and pending) with USDA-WA Rural Development Grants staff, the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation and Washington State Department of Archeology and Historic Preservation. The request includes in-kind contributions (Phase 1 of the project) valued at more than $1 million from JBH heir David Hansen (JBH home + contents) and Wahkiakum County (lease/facilitation of Johnson House subject to mutual agreement).

Mayor David Olson stated “This request if funded will conserve and preserve Julia’s home and its priceless contents, establish a Heritage Campus in Cathlamet to the great benefit of our community and the entire state, and create and retain critical ancillary jobs in construction and tourism. In conjunction with development of the adjacent long-awaited Waterfront Park, this request can help revitalize Cathlamet’s economy and downtown core. We are very grateful for the support and endorsement of Wahkiakum County, the Wahkiakum Chamber and Wahkiakum’s renowned historian emeritus Irene Martin.


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