Interview With Jean Dunbar

From the interview with Jean Dunbar of Port Townsend conducted by Sandra Lizut on December 7, 2004 at the Fort Worden History Center.  Ms. Dunbar serves as the volunteer coordinator for Fort Worden State Park.  She has volunteered at the park for more than 30 years, and one of the meeting rooms in the Headquarters building is named in her honor.  Here she discusses the future of the Fort as it becomes the Lifelong Learning Center and challenges the park faces:

“I think it is going to become more business oriented.  I think we’re going to grow carefully but steadily.  That’s the whole goal the Parks Commission has, and it is Kate Burke’s plan.  She has watched the plan carefully.  We want to retain what we have.  We’re going to have to take everything within the historic context of this facility because it is on the National Historic Registry.  That’s one of the problems with restoring the buildings.  They have to have slate roofs, that’s expensive.  When the pillars go out on one of these buildings, they have to be replaced with exact replicas.  Craftsmanship is a problem, craftspeople aren’t trained like that anymore.  Our top maintenance man is Joe Benson, whose father was in the maintenance department here for many years.  He trained young Joe well, but that is an exception.  Ultimately, we want to restore Building 125, and provide hotel-style accommodations. Elder Hostel has finally said that they’ve had it with our facilities.  They don’t want dorms.  The people in Elder Hostels want private rooms, they don’t want two to four to a room.  I’ve attended quite a few Elder Hostels and I can understand, I’ve had all types and it doesn’t really bother me.  But plumbing down the hall for a whole floor isn’t appealing.  We lost the Elder Hostel crowd, too, because they weren’t getting the food they wanted . The food was inconsistent and there were problems with the kitchen  in the old Army mess hall.“

In answer to a question about the construction of a new building on the campus, the Nora Porter Commons:

“The Commons building was a good 20 years in the making.  Anything built on state property, particularly an historic property, takes that long to get through the hoops that it has to go through.  But this was part of the concept when Fort Worden became a conference center, because the old Army mess hall just wasn’t cutting it.  It wasn’t meeting health standards, it wasn’t meeting fire standards.  It had to be brought up to standard, otherwise this couldn’t become a conference center, so the design went through all the historic commissions and passed their requirements plus the health and safety codes.  I think the design fits in very well with the other buildings.”

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