Nearly history, museum gets shot in arm

POULSBO — The clock’s ticking away on the Poulsbo/North Kitsap Historical Society’s ownership of land for a museum.

But for a group that’s under the gun, there’s a whole lot of smiling going on.

The society, which marked its 13th year in February, has until the end of 2004 to break ground on the Jensen Way property the City of Poulsbo purchased for it in 1999. If that does not occur, the land reverts back to Poulsbo’s ownership. While that date is only six months away now, historical society treasurer and building committee member Jeff Uberuaga said he sees no problem.

“The city has given us a timeline and we’re going to meet within that,” he commented. “We’re not too worried.”

“It’s going to happen. It’s finally going to happen,” president Kathy Hogan added with a grin.

Breaking ground is something that society members have long hoped for but that had seemed far away for some time. Hogan said she actually recalls talk of building a Poulsbo historical museum even before the society was officially founded.

Last year, the group came the closest yet to the goal when it unveiled a conceptual drawing for a building. But while members adored the idea and the architect they were working with, the plans eventually had to be scrapped after months of planning.

“Our other architect did a great job. We just realized that it was sort of a Taj Mahal that we couldn’t afford,” Uberuaga explained.

The new museum plans, by Poulsbo’s LaMont Design, offer a scaled-back building that will likely be much more affordable for the non-profit. While the older version planned about 14,000-square feet in two floors, the new building will be about 11,300 in two floors.

The facility is planned to be metal, while a facade on the front (facing Jensen) and rear (facing Bjermeland) will give the look of a traditional Norwegian building. Wayne LaMont came up with the designs for the facades, which include carved, wooden dragons, after looking at several Norwegian structures.

“I just watched a TV show on Norwegian architecture the other day and this looks just like some of the buildings they showed,” Hogan commented.

The society plans to have the first floor become the museum portion and the top floor be storage and a community meeting room. Hogan said she envisions the room being used by the City of Poulsbo and also by small convention groups.

“There really is no place downtown except the Sons of Norway where a small group can gather,” she said. “That can only help Poulsbo. LaConner has something similar and they have a lot of conferences that come through there and when the people have free time, they go downtown and spend money.”

A new historical society building committee, one of three working on different aspects of the project, has some seed money that will allow ground to be broken and a small amount of work to be done. The project is also planned to be built in floors to allow for phasing.

But everything will depend on money. The society is now taking donations for the building project and will be planning some fund-raising activities in the next year.

“Some of it’s going to be a little field of dreams and once locals see what we’re doing, they’ll start to get excited and get behind it,” Uberuaga said.

The historical society’s building committee filed for a pre-application meeting with the City of Poulsbo Planning Department June 1. The step requires a number of blueprints to be submitted for review by entities like the fire department and public works. Once the city’s requirements are known, Uberuaga said the society will be able to accurately estimate the building’s cost.

Once the museum facility is built, members feel they’ll have no problem filling the space. Donations from various community sources are now in storage, include hundreds of photos and memorabilia, antique farming and boat-building tools, a Bergman loom, a doctor’s buggy from Norway and the working soda fountain from the former Poulsbo Compounding Pharmacy location. Society members hope to have the fountain in working order inside the museum.

But besides a place to put their stuff, those working toward the museum goal say there’s another reason that the facility has been a goal for so many years.

“It’s so important to tell the story of how Poulsbo and this area came to be from day one to where we are today and now what we’re going to do,” Hogan said.

“My drive is to help the historical society and its goal of keeping some of this area’s history alive,” Uberuaga added. “Saving some of the memories and getting them some place where you can see them.”

Aside from donations, Hogan said new members could also help speed the museum along to completion. Anyone is welcome to join the society’s regular meetings at 9:30 a.m. the second Tuesday of the month at the Sons of Norway. The June 8 meeting’s featured speaker will be Clarence Moriwaki of Jay Inslee’s office.

For more information about the Poulsbo/North Kitsap Historical Society, call Kathy Hogan at (360) 598-5591, Jeff Uberuaga at (360) 697-4066 or Bob Hakanson at (360) 598-4882.

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