Interview With George Thomsen

From the interview with George Thomsen of Port Townsend conducted at the Fort Worden History Center by Clio Ward on January 13, 2013. Mr. Thomsen and his wife Joan were co-directors of the Heritage Group, the organization than ran the Commanding Officers Quarters Museum for many years. Here he responds to a question about how the group acquired furnishings for the house.

Edited transcripts and verbatim recordings of this and all interviews conducted for the Fort Worden Oral History Program are available at a nominal fee to cover duplicating and shipping. Inquire at infocenter@fwfriends.org or 360.344.4481 for details.

“Well, many ways. People in town who were closing up or discarding things would call us. We were pretty fussy about what we took. We did not want to take things that didn’t belong to the period. One of the big heartbreakers was, during a big reunion here, a large family reunion, they very kindly presented us with a silver tea set that they wanted to go into the Quarters. It was from a relative who had worked here at the Fort. They made a big presentation at a dinner that we were invited to, which we went to in uniform and everything. At the end of the presentation they said, “Of course this is on loan.” We immediately had to say, “Thank you but we are not interested. We would love to have it but we can’t take it. We’re not going to take any loans.” But we got some furniture from people.

A friend of mine was in touch with the couple that got us the silver pieces that are in the dining room now. The pieces had a long history. They had belonged to the gentleman who had been an architect who did a lot of the early work in laying out the Fort. This gentleman was somehow connected and married into a family that lived in one of the big Victorians right behind Aldrich’s Market up there on the hill. The silver had been a wedding gift to him and his wife. It was, as I remember, we were told, somehow or other they had somebody working in their house who stole it. He was in the Coast Guard or Navy or something. But our friend knew who he was and they tracked him down and he finally did return it all, but took a hammer to some of the pieces before he sent it back. So some of those pieces–we had them turned just right, so that you can’t see the dents . We looked into having the dents removed. They’d need a real specialist to do it but we couldn’t find one. So we had to be creative.“

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