An excerpt from the interview with Patricia Johnson Monroe of Lacey, WA conducted at the Fort Worden History Center on February 8, 2003 by MonaLou Stefflre. Mrs. Monroe led the effort of the Heritage Group to furnish the Commanding Officers Quarters at Fort Worden and develop it as a museum that would reflect the lives of the military families who lived in the house during the early years of the 20th century. She served in the organization from 1978 to 1990. Her mother, Mary Johnson, was responsible for the renaissance of Port Townsend by sparking interest in historic restoration of the city’s Victorian buildings and establishing the Summer School of the Arts, the forerunner of the Centrum Foundation.
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“The committee that had been advising the furnishing of Officers Row called me and said,’Would you like to start the museum at Fort Worden?’ The Commanding Officer’s Quarters had been restored back to its original state and needed furnishing. I was quite flattered by the whole idea, but I think they felt because I was Mary Johnson’s daughter, maybe I had a gift or something. It was a good time for me to pick up and become better acquainted with the community and gave me a project. So I formed a committee and the state gave us $14,000.00 to begin. The light fixtures and the paint and all of that had already been done, so we were just furnishing. Lucy Vane was my colorist and my best friend. Lucy and I did a lot of shopping together in Seattle and Oregon and all around. We had great fun doing it. We would laugh and tease people about giving up their precious items. Tom Fisher was our treasurer, then Jean Fee took over the job. Her sister Evelyn Allen was our secretary. Gerri Glockle, Jean Dunbar and so many wonderful people–Amy Rickets worked in the yard and many of my friends from the Garden Club joined us. We formed a club called the Heritage Group.
…With the $14,000.00 we bought the dining room set, the master bedroom set, the carpeting and some of the draperies. All of the curtains and original draperies were made by us or by a friend of Lucy’s in Seattle, who made all the valences. Out of our homes we began to bring a few things that looked like they would fit in. At the same time, my late grandparents’ home was closed. Just about the time that the museum was started, my Aunt Hilda and my Aunt Tracy passed away and I was helping to settle those two houses. I picked out some of the kitchen things that dated way back to the time they settled in Tacoma; for instance the Kitchen Queen, a lot of jars, and the ice cream mixer in the pantry. Some of the pictures upstairs came out of those residences. The two portraits in the master bedroom are my grandmother and grandfather’s wedding pictures, Nels and Betsy Johnson, my father’s parents who came over from Sweden at the turn of the century. We gradually began to put things in and we called for volunteer help to keep the house open, but it wasn’t open for another year and a half until we felt that we had enough furnishings to make it interesting for the public.”