A home full of history: Haller House project preserves the past

— Created February 24, 2021 by Kacie Jo Voeller

By Kacie Jo Voeller

After four months of suspension over the ground, the historic Haller House now rests on its newly poured concrete foundation. The Coupeville home, purchased by Historic Whidbey in October of 2018, is in the process of being restored in an effort to preserve the home for future visitors.

Lynn Hyde, executive director for the nonprofit Historic Whidbey, said the building is one of the oldest historical homes in the state and its preservation will provide a window into the checkered history of its former inhabitant, Granville Haller, who lived in the house from 1866 to 1879. Hyde said restoration plans for the front portion of the first floor of the two-story colonial section of the house will include exhibit space.

“The era of the Hallers is what we will be talking about, and that will include all of the treaties with the Native Americans, the hostilities that ensued and it will deal with the international boundary dispute with Great Britain and all of these things that Haller actually took part in,” she said. “That is what will set the Haller House exhibits apart from the [Island County Historical Museum]. It is going to be a very specialized period in time that goes down deep, where the museum has a much broader purview of what it is interpreting.”

Hyde said Historic Whidbey hopes to be able to open the doors of the house to the public in 2024 if all goes according to plan. She said the second floor will house offices and the Coupeville Historic Waterfront Association plans to lease space as well. Hyde said one area of the house in particular has drawn a great amount of interest.

“Probably the most exciting part is the back wing of the house – the older 1859 Brunn house – is going to be a mercantile/general store with a Victorian soda fountain and that should be what brings tourists in,” she said.

Hyde said as part of the process, a new roof was installed and the original windows were rehabilitated. While progress is steadily being made, she said there is a great deal of work left to be done after the house’s lowering onto its new foundation in January. Hyde said the organization will work on rebuilding the chimney, which had to be taken down to lift the house. Hyde said the porches will also get rebuilt, and plans include the installation of house systems such as plumbing.

“We are really excited about this next phase,” she said. “The house is doing well, it came down with almost no bad effects.”

Hyde said the effects of COVID-19 have also factored into the progress of the house. 

“We had three different fundraisers planned for 2020 and they all had to be cancelled so we were kind of panic-stricken about that, and I know that we are not the only non-profit that has had this happen,” she said. “But it seems like for some of us the donations have been more than usual and maybe some of that is because our community is afraid for us, that we really need extra help.”

Hyde said Historic Whidbey is continually grateful for the ongoing donations and support as work on the house continues. She said now that the organization has bought the house, the project is eligible for more grants and funds and the group has applied for a Washington state Heritage Capital Project grant, along with federal programs.

“It has been a real community effort, we could not do it without everybody in the region that is supporting us and cheering us on,” she said. “I just wish we could have more big parties where we got to celebrate with them in person – nobody has been able to come into the house for over a year and it is really different in there. It is completely gutted, but it is really fascinating to get a good look at the bones and how it was put together and see the history of where there have been fires and that kind of thing, but we are just going to have to keep waiting until this COVID stuff passes.”

Hyde said there has been good feedback about the house and the progress made on the project. She said there was a sense of relief when the foundation was able to purchase the house in 2018, as opposed to the house meeting a different fate.

“Everybody is excited, because you know what, it is always good to see something that looks like it is about to be lost forever and find it gets a lifeline,” she said. “I wish it did not take so long for the full gratification to hit but I think the community is pretty excited. I think it is really going to change Front Street. And now that you can see it, and it has visibility, people are really starting to be able to imagine how it is going to change Front Street and I think everybody is pretty happy with it.”

For more information, visit historicwhidbey.org.