The quest to preserve "the most significant heritage home in the state"
The state legislature will consider turning the Hansen house into a state park
January 25, 2024
A bid to protect and preserve the home and estate of Julia Butler Hansen is underway thanks to Washington State Representative Joel McEntire and 11 bipartisan cosponsors, who introduced House bill 2310 to legislators on Jan. 11, proposing the creation of a state park heritage center at her historic Cathlamet home.
Washington State Senator Jeff Wilson issued a companion bill in the senate, SB 6262, six days later.
HB 2310 recognizes Hansen’s historic contribution as the first woman to chair a congressional appropriations committee, a “close protégé” of Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson, as well as “an influential transportation leader, a catalyst behind some of the most significant infrastructure in the Pacific Northwest, including the Astoria-Megler bridge.”
Hansen’s home, which is located in Cathlamet and currently belongs to her son David Hansen, has been on the Washington state historic register for many years, and may one day join the national register of historic places.
According to the bill, Hansen is willing to donate the home and grounds to the state, along with a substantial portion of JBH’s historic inventory for public ownership and public benefit, so long as the home can be adequately cared for and open to the public as a state historic site.
This designation could mean outreach throughout the state and region, signs on the highway, state park staff, and regular visiting hours.
“We are extremely grateful to Joel McEntire,” Mayor David Olson said. “This is our highest hopes to have this happen, to save that priceless, historic home and its inventory. To save it, preserve it, and open it to the public.”
“It is the most significant unprotected heritage home in the state,” Olson added. “There is nothing to compare to this home. It is intact as it was when Julia lived in it.”
Olson pointed out that the endeavor to preserve the Hansen home was not initiated by the town or the county. If the bill passed, however, it would benefit county residents, economically and culturally.
“It’s marvelous to see everybody stepping up the way they are to try to save that house,” Olson added. “It’s a wonderful bill, and I give Joel McEntire all credit for making sure it’s as full as information as it is.”
McEntire received support for the bill from across the aisle, and is joined by 11 co-sponsors: Kelly Chambers (R-Puyallup), Stephanie Barnard (R- Tri-cities), Cyndy Jacobsen (R-Puyallup), Suzanne Schmidt (R-Spokane Valley), Bruce Chandler (R-Granger), Mari Leavitt (D-University Place), Tarra Simmons (D-Bremerton/Kitsap), Greg Nance (D-Kitsap), Tina Orwell (D-Kent), Carolyn Eslick (R-Sultan), and Stephanie McClintock (R-Vancouver).
“Julia Butler Hansen came from a long line of women who pioneered this country, and their role in the advancement of women’s rights is an admirable one,” she wrote. “The house itself is very much worth preserving, in terms both of its age and its history. Built in 1867, it is a very old house by Pacific Northwest standards (157 years!), and in remarkable condition considering its age.”
Martin spoke of the need to properly conserve paintings depicting life along the Columbia River by Hansen’s mother, Maude Kimball Butler, for their historical value, and to preserve the library and artifacts from Hansen’s life and career in local, state, and national politics, where she served alongside nationally known politicians.
And there is Hansen’s garden as well.
“This is an amazing and rare opportunity to invest in a piece of Washington’s and the nation’s history and ensure the stories surrounding it and its owner and her place in Washington’s history are not forgotten,” Martin wrote to McEntire. “You have my full support and gratitude for your hard work.”
Dan Evans, a former Governor for Washington state, has also written a letter in support of the house bill and the companion senate bill.
“The State has many monuments honoring pioneering men from our history,” Evans wrote. “It is past time to honor one of our foremost pioneering women. Julia’s home in Cathlamet is a treasury of state, federal, and local history and should be preserved.”
According to Olson, the bill will need to be heard in the Washington State House of Representatives and the Washington State Senate. It it passes there, the final bill will be sent to Governor Jay Inslee for his signature.
“The timeline is very rapid,” Olson said. “This is the 60 day short session of the legislature. Bills have to be passed by the legislature by the time they’ve adjourned. We will know by the beginning of March if we have a bill, and then it is our hope the governor sees his way clear to signing it.”
HB 2310 is scheduled for a public hearing before the House Committee on Capital Budget at 1:30 p.m. today (Thursday). To submit comments to legislators, or to sign up to testify go to shorturl.at/fpJZ8.
Senate Bill 6262, which was introduced by Wilson, is scheduled for a public hearing before the Senate State Government and Elections on Friday at 8 a.m. To submit comments to legislators, or to sign up to testify visit shorturl.at/fpJZ8.
Letters of support are welcome and can be sent to Rep. Joel McEntire, 19th Legislative District, 409 John L. O’Brien Building, PO Box 40600, Olympia, WA 98504 or Joel.McEntire@leg.wa.gov.