Worthington Place

The Worthington house in Quilcene was built in 1891-1892 for Millard Fillmore Hamilton, a developer who came Pacific Northwest from Indiana. He expected Port Townsend to become the urban hub of Puget Sound. He also expected the Port Townsend Southern Railroad to be built down the west shore of Hood Canal and to continue to Portland. The railway was built as far as Quilcene in 1891, but construction went no farther south. Beginning in 1883, Hamilton and his partner Squire L. D. McArdle bought up land along the Big Quilcene and Little Quilcene Rivers and platted the townsite of Quilcene in 1889. Hamilton bought 80 acres on the Little Quilcene River, where the house is located, from Catharine White, the widow of Postmaster Joseph White in 1883, the year of his death.

Original Construction

The large, three-story, 15 room, Queen Anne style “mansion” was designed similarly to a lovely house Mr. Hamilton had admired in Baltimore, Maryland. It reportedly cost $5,000. It had 6 large bedrooms with walk-in closets, one bathroom, an elaborate parlor, living room, dining room, kitchen with pantry, and a ballroom on the third floor. There were two stairways between the first and second floors. The first stairway was in the front hallway. The second stairway went from a dark, second floor, storage room off the upstairs hallway down to the back of the kitchen; it was termed the “servant stairs.” The ceilings were 12 feet high on the first floor and 10 feet high on the second floor, making the large rooms seem even more spacious. There was a large wooden back porch on the north side of the house with attached large woodshed, root house, and canning room which housed the cream separator and a host of canning jars.

The Hamilton house was built by Leonard G. Flickinger and M.F. Hamilton according to the most modern standards of the day, and the progress made in its construction was recorded regularly in the Quilcene Queen newspaper. Some fine curly maple lumber was cut on the property and shipped to Hastings Manufacturing of Port Townsend to be milled into doors and woodwork for the first floor of the house. Andrew Boley was the painter, and Jack Conway and Billy Richards were the plasterers. The plasterers outdid themselves in the fine panel work in the parlor, which was said to be “without a doubt, equal, if not superior, to anything of the kind on the Pacific Coast.” Billy Richards built the fireplace and the two flues. Water was furnished by a pump operated by a large wind mill erected by L. G. Flickinger in the back yard to the northwest of the house. R.S. Fulton, a skilled iron worker, made the iron hoops for the large water tank. Ben G. Smith was the skilled cabinet maker who made the kitchen cabinets and a large burl maple bookcase for the house. The newspaper articles took pride in the fine workmanship provided by skilled, local craftsmen.

Sale to Worthington

M. F. Hamilton, his wife Fannie L. McArdle Hamilton, and his children Hattie Mary, Ana M., and Roy were not able to enjoy living in his beautiful new house for long. A depression developed across the whole nation in 1893, and those who had speculated in land buying were hit hard. Hamilton lost his house and land to his creditors and moved to Port Townsend to become the county sheriff. Squire L. D. McArdle took over the house and rented it out for a while, but times were hard, and it often sat vacant for the next 10 or more years. By 1905 The Daily Call newspaper advertised 10 acres of the Hamilton “ranch” for sale in 1.5 acre tracts at “hard time” prices. In 1907 William J. Worthington struck a good deal with McArdle and bought the elegant large house and 35 acres. The house needed repair, but it provided a home for his growing family which now had 7 children. The house has remained in the Worthington family as their “home place” for 105 years, and two generations of Worthington children have been raised there. Robert E. Worthington's widow, Eilleen, lived there for 38 years until her death in 2012.

There was no furnace in the house at the time it was purchased by Worthington. The only heat in the large house was provided by the fireplace in the living room and the wood cook stove in the kitchen. Will Worthington and his wife Grace had the bedroom on the first floor which adjacent to the living room and the only bathroom in the house. Will used the front east bedroom with the bay window as a convenient office for his timber and logging business, as its entry was just inside the front door in the main hallway. The 8 children shared the four large upstairs bedrooms, and some of the 6 boys slept up in the third floor ballroom at times. In the winter time it was so cold at times that the chamber pots froze over. Washing with a pitcher and basin in the mornings must have been a quick ritual for many months of the year.

Improvements

Many improvements have been made to the house since it was finished in 1892. The first furnace was put in place several years after the Worthingtons purchased the house. It brought heat throughout the first two floors of the house. In 1910 W.J. Worthington and Henry Vallad put in a fine, new septic tank to the east of the house, when septic tanks were barely heard of, according to Robert. The upstairs bathroom was built in 1927. It was located in space taken from the northeast bedroom at the back of the house. It was remodeled and doubled in size in January of 1985. The downstairs bathroom was remodeled and expanded in October of 1984 when the 6 foot by 4 foot kitchen and bathroom addition was added to the northeast corner of the house on the first floor.

A major renovation to the house took place in 1932 when the mansard roof, which leaked consistently over the years, was replaced by a gabled roof due to significant ongoing wind and water damage. Harold Worthington, the fifth child in the family, was a graduate in structural engineering from the University of Washington and ably supervised the big project. Harold also put the house on a new foundation, as until that time it was resting on huge cedar blocks. In the mid-1940s there was a significant earthquake in Quilcene which actually knocked the house off its foundation. Robert Worthington shored up the house again with huge timbers put in under the full length of the house.

The kitchen was remodeled in 1948. The wood stove was removed, and the pantry and cabinets were dismantled making the area into a breakfast nook in the northeast corner of the kitchen. New custom kitchen cabinets were installed to make a more efficient kitchen with a counter island. Janet and Robert did a great deal of work themselves to make the large old house more comfortable for everyday living for their family in the 1950s. All the rooms upstairs and downstairs were stripped of their wallpaper and given new wall coverings of colorful wallpaper to set off the beautiful curly maple woodwork in the downstairs and the Western red cedar woodwork in the upstairs. All the ceilings were repainted and the living room ceiling was actually replastered by Janet. The house's Douglas fir floors had been installed without the proper drying process, which resulted in problems with the floor boards swelling and shrinking with the weather changes during the course of each year. Filling the wide gaps between the boards only resulted in the caulking coming up during dry periods, so reluctantly Robert and Janet painted the floors to try to seal them. On the downstairs floors they used colorful woolen braided rugs handmade by Mrs. Esta McCoy, whose large farm was just south of the Big Quilcene bridge. Janet and her sister, Nancy Izett Egr, made several similar braided rugs of old woolen clothing for the house as well. The outside of the house was repainted by Robert and Janet keeping the white color with dark green trim in the mid-1950s and again by Robert in the summer of 1964. Robert demonstrated his engineering skills both times in erecting his own home-made scaffolding to safely reach the second floor siding and that of the gable of the attic.

In 1932 a new furnace was installed which burned four-foot long slab-wood and did heat the house well until 1969, as long as someone lit and tended the fire each day. It was replaced by a Lennox oil furnace which provided automatic heat for the house for the first time. In 1979 when fuel oil became $.90/gallon, an electric heat pump was installed which still heats the house. In April of that same year Robert had all the windows in the house fitted with permanent aluminum storm windows after decades of observing “the wind having free play” at his house. Charles McClanahan and a carpenter from Port Townsend worked for 3 weeks putting the windows in shape, replacing rotten wood in the casings and sills. For decades the bay windows in the parlor, office, and two front upstairs bedrooms leaked with every rain storm from the south; water blew under the windows across the sills and down the walls making puddles on the sills and floors. Once in the 1950s a leak in the roof caused a large section of the plaster ceiling in the upstairs hallway to fall to the floor causing great surprise to the family. Again Janet's new plastering skills were put to good use.

In 1981 library shelves were installed on the north wall in the downstairs bedroom to make it more of a library and two new windows were added on either side of the existing window to let in more light. That same year Claude Boland and Hans Vodder enlarged the kitchen by 4 feet on the east and 6 feet on the north. The laundry facilities were brought up from the basement to a closet in the enlarged breakfast room. The partial basement where the Worthington women had done the laundry for decades was subject to periodic flooding and had walkways made of boards on the floors to allow keeping one's feet dry while working in the basement or tending the furnace. A skylight of 3 feet by 5 feet was installed in the north facing kitchen making the room much lighter and more cheerful. An enclosed back porch was added to protect the back door from the elements.

In the mid-1980s Robert and Eilleen had the house painted a bright red with white trim like the rural houses they saw on a visit to Sweden. Robert judged his house to be the oldest house still inhabited in Quilcene.

Barn

The barn was built in 1915 after the old barn had burned down, due to storing some green hay according to one account. It had a loft for the storage of hay on the east side, and stalls on the west side for livestock. The W.J. Worthington family had cattle and horses who used the barn. In recent years the barn has been used by a family who rented the pasture for their horses and by Robert's son, Jim Worthington, to store his sailboat, a 26 foot ketch.

In 1981 a young woman carpenter put a new roof on the east side of the barn. It has remained sound while the previously done west side roof has deteriorated.

The horse shelter in the east pasture was built in November of 1985 by Jim Worthington with help from is brother-in-law, David C. Jenner, to give Jim's horse, Sur, protection from the weather while he was pastured on the home place.

Garages

The first garage was built in 1913 when the family purchased an automobile, a Model T Touring Car with a two man top. That Model T cost $684.00 and was delivered by a Mr. Wilcox who gave 2 hours of instruction to Will Worthington on how to drive it. Harold (age 12) was allowed to go along on the driving lesson as he was the most mechanically minded of the 7 boys. That “old garage” is a small building next to the driveway on the west side of the property and can accommodate only a small vehicle with no space for storage.

Robert carefully planned the new double garage which was built in 1954 to the east of the house. He chose trees on the home place to provide the wood and had a portable mill brought in to saw up the wood. The larger double garage was built by local carpenters, Charles McClanahan and Lonnie Kuegh. The new garage was large enough for a good sized car and to store tools, garden equipment, and bicycles. The Robert Worthington children, Ellen and Jim, remember helping shingle the roof and paint the building white with green trim to match the house. The carpenters also built a cement block wall around the house from the SW corner clockwise to the SE corner of the basement to strengthen the foundation of the house.

In April of 1954 Robert Worthington dismantled the milk parlor (which was located between the house and the barn), the old wooden back porch, and the big building which housed the woodshed, root house, a milk separator, and canning room. They were replaced with a cement patio and small lawn area. A weeping willow tree was planted in the center of the lawn. The patio was a big improvement as it enabled the family to enjoy the area as a gathering place outside in good weather with family and friends on a picnic table, redwood chaise, and canvas chairs.

In June 1983 Robert had the roof of the house renovated with plywood sheeting, removing a couple of layers of cedar shingles and layer of composition roofing to put on new shakes.

Grounds

The old apple tree which still stands between the old garage and the barn is a Pumpkin Sweet Apple tree and was planted by Joseph White, the homesteader of the 160 acres on which the house stands. Joe was the first postmaster and worked from the first post office which was located on the site of the old milk parlor between the house and the barn. Robert estimated that tree was planted about 1880; the tree is still producing apples for baking, canning, or eating. Pumpkin sweet apples are large, yellowish-orange, and are crisp, juicy apples which originated in the 1800s in Connecticut and were especially popular in the southern states.

The large orchard of apple trees to the east of the house was planted soon after the house was built in the 1890s and produced many good apples for decades. By 1979 Robert reported that the trees lacked vigor, were producing little fruit, and being blown down due to rot in the upper trunks. He ordered and planted some new apple trees but was unsuccessful in renewing the orchard.

In December of 1978 Oscar W. “Red” Cook took down the two dying cherry trees just east of the house with his small bulldozer, plugged the entry of the irrigation ditch to the upper field, and dug a sluiceway in the southwest corner of the duck pond to thwart damage from the 100 year flood which was then imminent.

In February of 1979 the "Big Blow" took down the smaller of the two California Black Walnut trees in the back yard and effectively blocked the circular driveway at the back of the house. Robert had Red Cook come again and remove the downed tree and another adjacent walnut tree, as well, and then sought a buyer for the walnut logs.

In January of 1981 a new 1,000 gallon septic tank and new drain field were installed by Frank Hyde taking part of the garden area just to the east of the house. The previous septic tank was kept to be used as a back-up if it was ever needed. It had given the family little trouble in the 71 years of use, and Robert and Jim had bailed it out only once in 1955.

Little Quilcene River

This river has always been a main attraction of the Worthington home place as it runs along the 600 feet of the present northern boundary of the property. Watching the river change its course over the years is an interesting example of one of the mysterious forces of nature. Robert loved to tell his family of the many changes the small river had taken over the decades of his lifetime. When he was a small child the river actually ran just behind the barn, quite a distance from its present location. With the seasonal changes in the flow of water small islands and sandbars were made and destroyed each year. Log bridges were set up often in the summer and washed away each winter. In the 1950s Jim and a friend spent the night camping on one of the small islands in the river. The neighborhood children enjoyed playing along the river for decades.

In the 1940s and 1950s irrigation water for the vegetable garden was diverted from the river for the Worthington place and several others along the river. The neighbors formed an irrigation district which operated for years. This river was an important community resource.

The most exciting time for us to go down to the river was in the fall when the “dog” salmon returned to their spawning grounds. Robert would judge the volume of the salmon run by whether he could smell rotting salmon from his backdoor; he was pleased when he could smell it. He reported in 1980 that bald eagles would gather along the river banks to get what they could from the dead fish.

Hamilton Pond

Robert constructed a 0.6 acre wildlife pond in 1970 which he named Hamilton Pond. This well thought out dream of Robert’s was built in the river flood plane behind the house just to the east of the barn. There is no inlet or outlet, and it is just ground water. When there is threat of the river flooding, it can be used as a dike with a little excavation. The community has enjoyed Hamilton Pond at sunrise Easter services hosted by the Quilcene Presbyterian Church over the years.

Robert and Eilleen kept a close eye on the ducks who visited their pond. In 1981 they reported red winged black birds in the cattails there. In 1983 they saw mallards, golden eyes, buffleheads, and mergansers. In 1984 ducks were reported all year long with blue herons and beaver on occasion. In the late l980s a family of beaver really moved in and was seriously chewing down the small trees encircling the pond. That was tolerated by Robert and Eilleen. Then the beaver went after Robert's favorite huge, old black cottonwood tree which was just west of the pond. In 1983 Robert had Red Cook rig up guy wires on the south side of the tree to help stabilize it in wind storms. The beaver chewed off a large ring of the bark all the way around the tree, eventually killing the tree. That was too much! Eilleen hired a bulldozer to come in and clear out their beaver lodge to encourage them to move out of the pond area. The demolition efforts were successful, but yet there is evidence of beaver in residence even now. Recently they have dug their lodge under the ground among the tree roots at the south end of Hamilton Pond.

Families Who Lived in the House

Millard Fillmore Hamilton, his wife, Fannie L. McArdle Hamilton, had three children, two daughters and a son. Their names were Hattie Mary, Ana M., and Roy. They lived in the Hamilton House from 1892 for several years until the house was foreclosed. Millard Fillmore Hamilton II, the son of Roy, and his wife visited the house in May, 1983.

Squire McArdle took over ownership of the house and rented it out at times in the next few years, but it often stood vacant in those hard economic times in Quilcene.

William J. and Grace Legg Worthington bought it and moved in on January 1, 1907 with their 7 children: Grace (1893), Mariette (1894), William Jenner, Jr. (1896), Robert Edgar (1900), Harold Legg (1901), Norman Parker (1903), & John Clinton (1905). Their last child, Kenneth Taft, was born in 1909 while they lived there. It was the family home which was greatly loved during the children's growing up years and beyond. Grace Legg Worthington died there on May 4, 1935 after a 7 year long illness with pernicious anemia congestive heart disease during which she was bedridden in the parlor. Will developed dementia and died there nine months later on February 28, 1936. The eldest daughter Grace continued to live in the house occupying the northwest bedroom until her marriage to Laurence A. W. Swabey in 1937. Then caretakers, Mr. and Mrs. Mahler, were hired to live on the first floor of the house to take care of it keeping it ready for visits from family members who wished to return to the family home. Mariette, her husband, Merritt Major, and their son Merritt, Jr. came to spend each summer in the house and occupied the front bedrooms on the second floor. Merritt Major, Jr. (1931) reports that in the summer of 1940 a Mr. Ira Thoman and his lively 9 year old daughter, Gracia, rented some of the downstairs rooms. Gracia had just lost her mother, and her father worked for the Quilcene School District. Gracia provided some companionship for 9 year old Merritt that summer, a clever fort, and a great selection of comic books. The W.J. Worthington children jointly owned the home place and all considered it their home, visiting often during those years after the death of their parents.

In June 1944 Robert E. Worthington and his wife, Janet Main Izett Worthington, returned from 12 years living on the US east coast, the US southeast, and the US mid-west, and moved into the family home. Robert had worked for his graduate degree in forestry economics at Yale University and worked in forestry research for the US Forest Service. In 1943 they had a daughter, Janet Ellen and in 1945 a son, James Norman, was born to the family. In 1946 Robert purchased the house from his siblings. In 1948 Robert had five head of cattle, one Guernsey milk cow, a pig, some New Hampshire hens, and four Shropshire ewes who produced 7 lambs that spring. He usually had a big vegetable garden, 60 feet by 100 feet, just to the east of the house. The Robert Worthington children attended Quilcene elementary school until 1955, when they commuted to Port Townsend for junior high and high school returning to their Quilcene home on weekends and vacations until l961. Then they stayed in Seattle where Ellen attended the University of Washington. Jim attended high school at Roosevelt H.S. and then studied engineering at the U. of W. Robert and Janet Worthington were divorced in 1966, and Robert remained in the family home.

On April 6, 1974 there was a wedding in the Worthington house when Robert married Marie Eilleen Miller Criscuola, a widow from Coupeville on Whidbey Island. The previous summer they had met on an REI hiking trip to Norway. Robert and Eilleen led an active life for 20 years in his family home. They hosted a concert of string instruments in the early years of the Olympic Music Festival. They had many holiday dinners and gatherings for Eilleen’s four children and nine grandchildren. There were “world class” Easter egg hunts that extended down to the banks of the Little Quilcene River. In 1995 Robert died of dementia at 95 years of age, and Eilleen continued to live in the Worthington house for 17 more years until her death there on May 8, 2012. The Quilcene Historical Museum bought the house from Eilleen’s estate in the summer of 2013 after an amazingly successful capital campaign in which the local community embraced the creative idea of using this historic house and property as Worthington Park for everyone to enjoy.


Ellen Worthington Jenner, December 30, 2013

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