The Administrative History of Fort Vancouver National Historic Site
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Chapter Eight:


The primary management concern at Fort Vancouver has always been its cultural resources. Since it simultaneously serves as a historic site as well as an urban park, natural resources, as traditionally defined, have played a very small role. The current direction for managing resources at the park is to integrate both natural and cultural resources; for example, managing the present orchard and parade ground as natural resources with their attendant problems of noise, air quality, and vegetation. However, echoing the Park Service's new emphasis on managing cultural landscapes, this chapter will focus on three areas of cultural resource management--archaeology, curation, and interpretation--which have had an important role in shaping the development of a resource management program at Fort Vancouver National Historic Site.


Fort Vancouver's historical significance as the Hudson's Bay Company's principal supply depot from 1829 to 1849 has been underscored by its extensive archaeological resources. In 1990, Fort Vancouver National Historic Site had 28 completely or partially excavated archaeological sites. Although methods and theoretical questions have changed over the last 45 years, archaeological investigation has provided the foundations for planning, interpretation, and reconstruction at Fort Vancouver.

Louis Caywood and the Early Years

In September 1947, Park Service archaeologist Louis Caywood began excavating the fort site with the assistance of Regional Historian Aubrey Neasham and a $7,500 budget. The National Park Service directed Caywood to locate the original stockade site while negotiations were underway between the City of Vancouver and the Park Service for surplus land in Vancouver Barracks. If the exact location of the original stockade could be found, the Park Service would have a strong case for obtaining the surrounding property. It was "a game of hide and seek," according to Caywood. [1]

For the 1947 excavation, Caywood divided the site into 100-foot square sections, oriented on true north, in a grid pattern measuring 500 feet (north/south) by 900 feet (east/west). These sections were further divided into 10-foot squares. Only after extensive digging, he found the powder magazine and was able to approximate the location of the stockade area. "The next step was to locate definitely the rotted stockade posts," Caywood recalled. "The spot chosen for trenching was in the northwest corner of the stockade. Trenches were dug to intercept both the west and north walls, and strangely the remains of both walls were found simultaneously." Using both the excavation results and historic documentation, Caywood was able to locate the stockade's position. [2]

The stockade posts of Fort Vancouver were revealed after exploratory excavatios by archaeologist Louis Caywood in 1947 and 1948. (Louis Caywood, National Park Service)

Though the location had been found, determining the extent of the fort was more difficult. Some sections of the stockade wall were obscured by the remains of the 1917 U.S. Spruce Division Mill which overlapped parts of the northeast corner of the stockade area. Yet, the four stockade corners, the burnt foundation of the bastion at the northwest corner, and portions of the stockade wall remained intact underground, actually protected by the large slab of flooring built underneath the Spruce Mill. [3]

During 1947, the excavation uncovered "large quantities of English earthenware, china, glass, iron, and clay pipes," which was not surprising since Fort Vancouver had been the headquarters for the Hudson's Bay Company's western fur trade and a center for trade of English goods. Caywood collected 3,555 pieces of strap iron from the blacksmith's shop, as well as some 2,000 trade beads, and a large cache of clay pipe stems. The earthenware was mostly blue and white Spode, Copeland & Garrett, or W.T. Copeland, all manufactured in England. Some of the pieces were so well preserved that the manufacturer, named Copeland & Garrett in the 1840s, was able to identify 32 separate China patterns. [4]

The following year, Caywood returned to Fort Vancouver with a crew of five to seven members and $8,718.36 of funding. But a spring flood of the Columbia River made excavations difficult; "activities on the airport, and the growth of grass and weeds almost obliterated the stakes marking the corners of the grid system" put in place during 1947. Between August and November 1948, more than 40,000 additional artifacts were recovered. "By far the greatest number of finds were made in the three trash pits encountered while trenching for the foundations of the carpenter's shop," Louis Caywood reported to the Park Service, "These pits proved extremely rich in the quantity of restorable objects. In other parts of the stockade only portions of objects have been found, but here all pieces of many artifacts were uncovered." [5]

Trash Pit No. 4 was found by Louis Caywood's two assistants, Rod Smith and Rex Gerald. Many of these Fort Vancouver era items were left in make-shift storage until more satisfactory storage facilities were built in the 1970s. (Louis Caywood, National Park Service)

In addition, Caywood located many of the individual buildings within the stockade during 1948. He identified the bakehouse, a dwelling house, the Chief Factor's House, the kitchen and servants' quarters, the Owyhee Church or schoolhouse, the priest's house, and a carpenter's shop. Unfortunately, at the end of the 1948 season, vandals destroyed portions of the excavations at the site of the Chief Factor's House and along 25 feet of the stockade. [6]

Louis Caywood returned for further excavations in 1950 and 1952. During these later excavations, he was able to locate fourteen additional trash pits, the west stockade wall, and remains of the north stockade wall. He also found a small office and wheat storehouse. Caywood fully explored buildings uncovered earlier, including the bachelors' residence, the Chief Factor's House, and the old and new offices. [7] Besides the new excavations, Caywood further studied the unearthed artifacts to help develop the interpretive program for Fort Vancouver National Monument. Working with Dr. John Hussey, Caywood compiled significant information about Fort Vancouver and the fur trade at the Hudson's Bay Company post. His research helped determine the construction methods for the stockade walls and interior buildings. Caywood also suggested that there remained a wealth of artifacts still in the ground.

Perhaps the most significant find in the 1950 season was evidence of what Caywood called the Emmons stockade of 1828-29, "which was mentioned as being under construction by Jedediah Smith." This stockade measured roughly 313 feet by 320 feet (nearly square) and the north wall corresponded with the main north wall that replaced it. "The bottoms of all of the posts of the first stockade show evidence of having been burned to prevent decay." [8]

In 1952, his last year of work at the fort, Caywood completely excavated the well on the east side of the fort. Superintendent Frank Hjort left the well structure open and planned to dig down "to the level of the well top and we plan to slope the banks around this depression and fence it in with concrete posts and wire mesh fencing leaving two openings with paths provided for entrance and exit." With a circular concrete walkway and a "low ornamental wire fence" Hjort hoped to allow visitors a close view of the rock structure. [9]

First Steps Toward Reconstruction

It was not until January 1966 that archaeological excavations resumed at Fort Vancouver. The 1961 legislation had opened the way for reconstruction and the new national historic site planned to rebuild a portion of the north stockade wall. Between May 10 and 27, 1966, under the direction of John D. Combes from Washington State University, a crew dug trenches along the entire distance of the north wall. They located the north gate and collected artifacts in preparation for the reconstruction. [10]

Though Combes's dig ended June 10, 1966, the Western Regional Office hired Edward McM. Larrabee to finish the excavation of the east wall in July 1966. He found two trash pits with a number of interesting artifacts, including a tumbler base with an "L" engraved on the bottom, which were thought to be the property of Adolphus Lee Lewes, a clerk at Fort Vancouver between 1840 and 1856. [11]

Kanaka Village

Kanaka Village, west of the Fort Vancouver stockade, was another major archaeological site which defined the historic context of Fort Vancouver. The majority of the Hudson's Bay Company employees lived in Kanaka Village, which was named by modern historians for the many Hawaiians (or Kanakas) who lived there. There were probably 20 to 40 houses and other peripheral buildings, but only a little is known about the village itself or the culture of its inhabitants. In 1963, the Vancouver Rotary Club donated a sign that marked the location which read: "The Servants and Laborers of Fort Vancouver built homes around a pond located here. The small village these houses formed was populated with half-breed Indians, French-Canadians, Scots, and Hawaiians who gave the village its name." [12]

In 1968 and 1969, Edward McM. Larrabee was hired to investigate the village site. That summer Larrabee and his wife Susan Kardas "conducted test excavations which located the general area of the Kanaka Village, and two specific `domestic concentrations' within it." [13] The village site, about 800 feet west of the stockade, was partially obscured by a railroad spur and still had Army buildings located on it. Larrabee's initial report in July 1968 recommended that the Park Service conduct extensive excavation of the area. The expected construction of an interchange on Interstate 5 increased the sense of urgency. [14]

During the test excavations over 2,000 objects were collected and cataloged from various parts of the village on Park Service property. "All excavation was by hand," the team leaders wrote in their initial report, "because it was found that the major evidence consisted of a thin, shallow layer of artifacts, which would have been lost in any form of mechanical excavation....Trowelling was used in areas of high artifact yield, and for uncovering features." In Larrabee and Kardas's experience, "shallow excavation, with careful removal of the sod followed by shovel-shaving, will locate most of the evidence of occupation at the Kanaka Village." [15]

Perhaps the careful excavation methods were employed because Susan Kardas hoped to use the archaeological data for her doctoral dissertation on social and cultural aspects of the Kanaka Village inhabitants. In order to complete her research in 1969, she hoped to uncover a few more house sites. "I need a small ($2500) amount of money to cover the expense of digging a few more house sites, and have submitted such a proposal to the Park Service," she advised Representative Julia Butler Hansen in February 1969,

Because I intend to use the data recovered for my dissertation, I am not asking for any salary for my services as excavator, or my travel and living expenses. This, combined with the time of my advisor and use of Bryn Mawr facilities to write up the material the following fall comes to a contribution of about $8000. It would seem that $8000's worth of work received for $2500 spent is a bargain, but perhaps in scholarly enthusiasm I have undersold myself. I have since learned that, attractive as this offer is, and sound as my past work has been, there is at the moment no political pressure on the National Park Service Office of Archaeology to do more research at Fort Vancouver. My chances of getting the money may also be lessened because I am a woman, and archaeology unfortunately is still not fully open to them. [16]

Political pressure did indeed help. Congresswoman Hansen persuaded Park Service Director George Hartzog to provide the additional $2,500 and created a joint summer Field School in Archaeology with Bryn Mawr and University of Washington students. Susan Kardas was appointed as co-instructor. By the summer of 1969, the team prepared to locate the eastern boundary of Kanaka Village, to excavate a few more house sites, and to determine whether the village was well preserved. Backhoe trenches were cut and a 5-foot-square grid laid down to be excavated by hand. Four village houses were found and the eastern boundary located some 800 feet west of the stockade.

However, "All has not been sweetness and light in the archaeology camp," observed Superintendent Eliot Davis, in a memo to the regional director. The problem seemed to be personality conflicts with the husband and wife team who supervised the dig. Edward Larrabee and Susan Kardas seemed to communicate poorly with the students and several threatened to quit. "Ed Larrabee has been in charge of two digs here and I will be the first to say that he is one of the most competent archaeologists I know, but he is also a hard man to get along with," admitted Eliot Davis:

He has antagonized everyone he has had to work with, including my staff and some of the Army personnel we have to live with all year and from whom we get the work space. Bringing Mrs. Larrabee into the picture has compounded the personality problems as she is harder to get along with than he is and she has a paranoic feeling about her theses which she claims someone is always trying to steal from her. [17]

Susan Kardas, of course, saw the situation very differently. It was more complicated than simply being protective of her research. In a letter to Representative Julia Butler Hansen, Kardas disclosed a disagreement between the University of Washington and the Larrabees over the management of the excavation. The person she distrusted most was Dr. Robert Greengo, the faculty advisor for the University of Washington students. The Larrabees were kept from excavating a western portion of the village site slated for highway construction. Instead, David Munsell, the state highway archaeologist, "who operates out of the University of Washington where he is a graduate student," was asked to excavate the site. [18] Consequently, Susan Kardas felt excluded from the original project for which the Park Service had contracted her services. The embitterment of her letters came both from this exclusion and her perception of the sexism that unfortunately prevailed within the field of archaeology in the 1960s. [19]

According to Kardas, Dr. Greengo or David Munsell gave the student workers the impression that this was a University of Washington dig and that they were being exploited to assist Susan Kardas with her dissertation. Kardas felt Greengo was "trying to jockey me off this site." [20] Despite the obvious distrust, conflict of interests, and not so subtle sexism, the excavation at Kanaka Village was completed and Kardas' work "turned up such items as pottery, china, household utensils, coins, gun flints, cannon balls and door handles." Both students from Bryn Mawr and the University of Washington were involved in the dig. [21] And in 1971 Susan Kardas completed her dissertation entitled "`The People Bought this and the Clatsop Became Rich,' A View of Nineteenth Century Fur Trade Relationships on the Lower Columbia Between Chinookan Speakers, Whites, and Kanakas."

The Hoffman and Ross Years--1970 to 1975

In the late 1960s, the Fort Vancouver staff prepared an Archaeological Research Management Plan. The Park Service estimated that $500,000 was needed to complete the "necessary" excavations. Congresswoman Julia Butler Hansen visited the fort site in October 1969 and agreed. She contacted Director George Hartzog immediately: "I was told that additional research money was going to be necessary. If this is true, will you people see that it gets in the budget. Lord knows that you get everything else that you put in the budget, so don't spare the ponies." [22] Hartzog replied that they could put together a 5-year program with $100,000 a year to complete the excavation of the fort site in preparation for reconstruction.

The Park Service provided $100,000 a year for Fort Vancouver in its budget between 1970 and 1974. The original plan for the 5-year archaeological program included a laboratory at the University of Washington. "A laboratory is a necessary adjunct to any archaeological project," wrote the director of the Western Service Center, William Bowen. Seventy-five thousand dollars were set aside for Dr. Robert Greengo to supply all equipment and hire labor for the field and lab work. The Park Service would provide two Service archaeologists to direct the field work. "We very much like to give Service people experience in historic sites archaeology," wrote Bowen, "It is obvious that there will be more and more of this type of research going on in the Service, and we need to develop an in-house capability in it." [23]

Dr. Greengo wrote Congresswoman Julia Butler Hansen in July 1970 to justify the expense of the new lab; "it would be much more economical and efficient to establish the laboratory for the Fort Vancouver restoration at a center of research where supporting services and facilities are readily available." [24] Representative Hansen, however, thought the lab a poor idea and wanted funding to go directly to the excavation work at Fort Vancouver. Frankly, she had a low opinion of university professors, such as those who "came back here this year on another matter to say `we have come to educate you.' I was somewhat dismayed. Congressmen are not stupid, they are not uneducated, and they don't need these pompous kinds of pronouncements." [25] Needless to say, Dr. Greengo did not get a laboratory.

Another archaeological plan that fell by the wayside was a 20-foot-high inflatable tent that would cover a quarter acre during winter month excavations. Superintendent Eliot Davis needed to work out details of the tent with Pearson Airpark Manager Ken Puttkamer and City Manager Alan Harvey since excavation would take place within the avigation easement. [26] After the National Park Service purchased the Pearson Airpark property in 1972, the easement was not a problem, but other obstacles deflated the tent.

National Park Service Archaeologist John J. (Jake) Hoffman was put in charge of the excavations and Lester Ross joined him later as laboratory director. With a crew of about 20, many of whom were Vietnam veterans, and facilities in an abandoned Veterans Administration building near the fort site, they began work in the summer of 1970. [27] They began excavating inside the stockade using a "mining" technique which exposed all the "original living surfaces." This technique insured uncovering structural remnants, examining "inter-house features," and retrieving cultural artifacts. [28] In order to start the excavation, the asphalt pads which had marked the footprints of the fort buildings had to be removed. Superintendent Eliot Davis was relieved to see them go since the black top had been difficult to maintain and repair. Each pad had a concrete "collar" that went 8 inches to a foot deep. The information gathered from the excavations was to help the Park Service reconstruct the stockade buildings and prepare interpretation of the cultural life of the Hudson's Bay Company at Fort Vancouver.

During 1970, a large number of artifacts were uncovered including a "modern dump of Hudson's Bay period materials" that had been culled from the site during the Caywood excavations. [29] Bryn Thomas, a member of Hoffman's crew and currently an archaeologist for Archaeological and Historical Services at Eastern Washington University, described this modern dump northeast of the bakehouse as "Hjort's Hole," which included mostly metal artifacts in cardboard boxes. He speculates that the first superintendent may have reburied the artifacts deliberately to preserve items for which the Park Service had no funding to preserve or store. Jake Hoffman retrieved the material and sent it to the University of Idaho to be cleaned. [30]

In March 1971, the Regional Archaeologist Paul Schumacher complained to the director of the Western Service Center that "some people in the Service" had criticized or questioned "the need for the very thorough archaeological investigations" proposed at Fort Vancouver National Historic Site. [31] "Some people in the Service" meant specifically superintendent Eliot Davis, who was less than happy with the management and progress of the excavations. "We have no way to check on the amounts of money programmed nor spent on the various phases of the project though we would like to know the percentages spent for labor on the ground, overhead and for supplies," Davis argued to the Pacific Northwest regional director. "If we are to start a three year restoration and be ready for the Fort sesquicentennial in 1975 more speed is essential, and more ground must be covered if we are to justify our appropriations." [32]

Paul Schumacher insisted that "one does not measure archaeological research by the amount of earth being moved." He planned three months of lab work for every month in the field. The need to clean and catalog "thousands of artifacts from previous excavations, a great deal of which had been miscataloged by local staff members" or extracted from Hjort's Hole, also slowed down the dig. The lines had been drawn. Eliot Davis, feeling public pressure, needed swift action in order to reconstruct the original context of the historic site. Paul Schumacher, on the other hand, wanted to use the Park Service archaeological team to conduct meticulous, perhaps academic, quality archaeological research. Neither extreme seemed appropriate for Fort Vancouver's needs. [33]

Eliot Davis's desire to speed up excavations was not without adherents. In his first year archaeological report, Jake Hoffman indicated that

Present excavations are conducted less selectively than past efforts at Fort Vancouver. Rather than concentrating on specific structural remains, we are completely exposing the original fort living surfaces. This method is quite successful for gaining information on inter-house features as well as ensuring that major structural remains are completely exposed. This also results in a virtually complete retrieval of artifacts and faunal remains.

Because of the increasing number and complexity of features uncovered, seasonal excavators also took more of the field notes and collected data. [34]

By July 1971, the bakehouse had been excavated as well as the Chief Factor's House, with firm evidence of the "post-in-sill" construction. In September 1971, they located the base of the flagpole near the southeastern front of the Chief Factor's House. The team had cataloged 96,294 specimens, which represented only a fraction of what had been uncovered. [35]

Despite the remarkable progress in over a year of archaeological work, problems surfaced during the project. For instance, when the National Park Service's Service Center moved to Denver in 1971, some programs were canceled and allotments withdrawn. Superintendent Eliot Davis found that Fort Vancouver only received $50,000 of $100,000 slated for archaeology in 1971. All excavations were stopped on October 22, 1971, when Jake Hoffman learned that no funds would be available for his laborers. Bryn Thomas recalls that they "lined those units that were incomplete with plastic sheets and backfilled them and the crew was laid off." [36]

The following spring, the excavations were revived once more. Besides uncovering the washhouse in May, the most significant find may have been two additional stockade lines at the south end which indicated at least three major periods of fort construction. "Presently, we believe the outermost line to be the latest and thus, the one to be selected for reconstruction," Hoffman informed Regional Archaeologist Charles Bohannon. "Our observations of stockade remains indicate that construction and rebuilding of these features were quite complex." Though Louis Caywood had found one of these stockade lines in 1950, Hoffman was able to explore them more thoroughly. In 1972 the team also uncovered a major fur warehouse with the remains of a fur press and a large quantity of glass beads "below the warehouse's floor validating its former use as an Indian Trade Shop." [37]

During the winter of 1972-1973, Bryn Thomas and Hugh Buten stayed on to excavate the entire west stockade wall and test the east and south walls slated for reconstruction. By the fourth season of digging, excavation methods had changed. Bryn Thomas recalls that they were under pressure to complete the stockade area so they excavated with a backhoe while crews gathered artifacts from the upturned piles of dirt. [38] However, they completed work on the Indian Trade Shop and Powder Magazine with hand tools. Unfortunately, the crew discovered that a lot of the foundation evidence had been destroyed "by the laying of asphalt as an interpretive device." Yet, they recovered large numbers of trade goods, "including gun parts. We have also found native-made objects." [39]

During 1974, the last year of excavations under the 5-year archaeological program, the Hoffman crew unearthed the blacksmith shop, parts of the Bachelors' Quarters, parts of the iron shops, and excavated the southeast corner of the stockade in search of a second bastion. Like several other stockade buildings, some of the structures "seem to have been obliterated when the asphalt pad marking the shop's location was put down." Yet, in the Bachelors' Quarters, they recovered brick and mortar and found subsurface wooden footings. In the blacksmith shop they found "an interesting arrangement of features which reveal how the smith worked; the hard-packed, soot-stained floor where he stood, clean-out pit marking the location of the forge, foundation for the anvil and a barrel-lined quenching pit." As well, they uncovered evidence of "relatively heavy forging activities, e.g. hardware and tool manufactures, wagon and gun repairs, and possibly ship fitting." [40]

Back to Kanaka Village--The Chances

While Jake Hoffman and Lester Ross wrapped up the excavation of the stockade, David and Jennifer Chance, affiliated with both the University of Washington and the University of Idaho, were hired to do "salvage archaeology" at Kanaka Village in 1974 and 1975 for the Interstate 5 right-of-way. They discovered a "previously unknown Hudson's Bay Company fort" which probably enclosed a shipyard, boat repair shop, and residential area built between 1825 and 1829. David Chance informed the Park Service in his progress report that

not all major features of an occupation can be predicted from historical sources, even in the case of such a well-documented site as Vancouver. This is the first time in the Northwest that a historic structure as large as a fort has been discovered solely on the basis of archaeological evidence.

With a crew of 16 students from the University of Washington, the University of Idaho, Central Washington State College, and Portland State University, they excavated 5,144 horizontal square feet between June 16 and September 9, 1975. They worked on the Ingalls House, a Hudson's Bay Company site, the Kanaka Village pond, and a Hudson's Bay Company servant's house. Nearly 80,000 items from both the Hudson's Bay Company period as well as the later Army Barracks period were cataloged in the field, with additional items recovered but not inventoried. [41]

The Chances, like the Larrabees before them, used careful excavation techniques with a shovel and trowel within five-foot grids. Several different areas were chosen to test because of their varied depth. For instance, the pond area, covered with a layer of garbage from the post-Hudson's Bay Company era, needed deeper excavation. Some areas, such as the Ingalls House, were dug in a checkerboard pattern. Though the five by five-foot unit strategy was "rewarding in some cases," the crew discovered that "common auguring" was a less expensive method of testing for occupation. [42]

The Hudson's Bay Company period artifacts recovered included beads, buttons, ceramic sherds, glass bottles, clay pipe stems, and iron work. Like Edward Larrabee and Susan Kardas before them, the Chances found that "the multi-ethnic nature of the fur trade labor force is not reflected in the artifacts. The Hawaiian, French-Canadian and other groups working for the Hudson's Bay company used manufactured items like other laborers since the Industrial Revolution." [43] The Chances were even more cautious in their report, writing that "there is virtually no evidence of a multi-ethnic or polyglot community at Vancouver during Hudson's Bay Company times. We recovered not a single identifiable Hawaiian (Kanaka), French Canadian, Shetlander, Ordneyman, Norwegian, Iroquois or Cree artifact." [44]

In 1977, the Washington State Department of Transportation hired Caroline D. Carley, from the University of Idaho, to return to Kanaka Village to take another look at the Hudson's Bay Company Riverside complex found by the Chances three years earlier, and perform more stratigraphic and artifact collection at the pond site. Despite the lack of definite structural evidence, and though the Chances originally identified this feature as a shipyard and residential area, by additional historic research Carley was able to conjecture the presence of a hospital inside the stockade at the Riverside complex which had been constructed to treat patients struck by periodic fever epidemics during the 1830s. However, many questions about this stockade were left unanswered. [45]

One more excavation of the western portion of Kanaka Village occurred in 1980 and 1981 under the supervision of Bryn Thomas. A new freeway interchange was planned for the property so the Department of Transportation requested mitigation of construction impacts. From test excavations in 1980, Thomas found that significant archaeological resources remained in areas that would be covered indefinitely by the freeway. Mitigation included data recovery excavations, covering excavation sites with fill to protect them for possible future research, re-routing utility systems, and monitoring all other demolition of buildings. Thomas was able to identify 26 significant building or activity areas from the pre-1860 Village area. [46]

Volunteer Excavation Efforts at Fort Vancouver

Besides the professional efforts of archaeologists, Fort Vancouver has also benefited from volunteer-run excavations. As early as 1974, volunteers from the Oregon Archaeological Society excavated the Sale Shop within the Fort Vancouver stockade. Ten years later, the Oregon Archaeological Society began to excavate the jail and new office sites. Chuck Hibbs was hired as site director and James Thomson, the regional archaeologist, supervised the project. [47] This excavation raised some intriguing questions concerning the relationship of archaeology to the interpretation of Fort Vancouver as a historic site, as well as questions about archaeology as a unique cultural resource in itself. Volunteer Dick Lillig suggested that the archaeological project become on-going, to provide a means of interpreting archaeological resources at the historic site. Indeed, by August 1984 Park Service Archaeologist George A. Teague, from the Division of Internal Archaeological Studies, wrote that the "local consensus is to have some, or all, of the jail excavations left open in order to display archaeological procedures and deposits." Teague suggested that Fort Vancouver display photographs or perhaps a videotape or film to interpret "the principles of stratigraphy, the processes of site formation, and the careful, controlled techniques necessary to make sense of a buried site." [48] However, the Park Service wanted to reconstruct the jail on its original location. If the building were reconstructed on the original site, the archaeology would be lost; if the building was reconstructed next to the site, it would confuse the visitor. Because of these concerns, no action has been taken to date on the reconstruction of the jail. Similarly, the new office site, which was excavated by volunteers during three seasons between 1986 and 1989, has not been reconstructed.

Recent and Future Projects

In 1947, Caywood spent about $7,500 to locate the Fort Vancouver stockade and its structures. His discovery was the driving force behind subsequent planning for Fort Vancouver National Monument. In 1985, after the effects of inflation, Fort Vancouver needed $75,000 simply to fund the utility corridor mitigation excavation for the proposed reconstruction of the fur store. Methods and costs have changed in the past 45 years, but more surprisingly, archaeological investigation in the Park Service has become a response to meet federal compliance regulations for proposed projects rather than an integral part of park planning. [49]

Plans for the fur store at Fort Vancouver have changed all that. As an archaeological study center, the new facility has the potential to attract scholars to study both the cataloged collection of artifacts and the computer data base to expand our knowledge of the fur trade and other themes at Fort Vancouver. It would become the center for symposia and publications, a place to pool information on the preservation of Fort Vancouver as an archaeological site.

To date, only an estimated 20 to 30 percent of Fort Vancouver National Historic Site has been excavated. Archaeologists always take a gamble when a site is dug since the field data and artifacts address only particular questions at a given moment: "What did the architectural structure look like? What kinds of material culture was there and how does this help interpret life at Fort Vancouver during the mid 19th century?" Chances are, however, that once a site is "mined" and a reconstructed building erected, or a freeway constructed, the archaeological resource will be lost to new questions that might arise as techniques change and historical data reveal new cultural issues. Better collection preservation and data analysis techniques may extend the usefulness of the information already gathered, even though archaeologists cannot return to the original site.



The archaeological excavations at Fort Vancouver helped uncover significant cultural resources of the site. By 1990, Park Service staff, special contractors, and volunteers had cataloged approximately 30,000 diagnostic artifacts. But, nearly 1 million additional pieces of metal, ceramic, glass, bone, and brick have been recovered over the past 45 years and are stored in hundreds of cans in various locations in the Chief Factor's House and Indian Trade Shop. The preservation and management of this growing collection is one of the most pressing collections management problems at Fort Vancouver National Historic Site today.

What to do With the Caywood Collections?

As Louis Caywood and his small crew dug up artifacts from the ground, they had to clean, restore, catalog, photograph, and store the pieces. "Work will continue on cleaning up iron objects, preserving them with anti-corrode solution and cataloging the finished objects," Caywood assured the regional director in April 1949, "A general spring cleanup of the museum laboratory will be made." There were no fancy techniques or equipment in the early years. The material was cataloged and stored in cardboard boxes labeled with simple catalog numbers and placed on racks in easy reach. [50]

The primary need was to preserve iron objects, which showed the worst signs of rust and corrosion. Caywood tried many methods of preservation but settled on "boiling [the pieces] in paraffin instead of the acid and anti-corrode method previously used." [51] Yet, in October Caywood reported that

after these objects have been placed back in storage for a time they show evidence of a desire to rust through small rust pits which the hot paraffin did not replace. Apparently the only satisfactory method of preserving iron objects in this region will be the zinc-sodium hydroxide-paraffin treatment. Apparatus should be procured for this work for next season. A small collection of some of the best specimens of iron objects is being held in readiness awaiting word as to whether or not they can be treated in the Jamestown archaeological laboratory. [52]

Even those badly rusted metal artifacts treated at the Jamestown laboratories continued to rust when returned to Fort Vancouver. In the spring of 1950, Caywood even contacted the Rust-oleum Corporation to see if its product had any preservation potential. [53] Nothing came of these inquiries.

It is not surprising that Fort Vancouver had problems with metal corrosion. All materials were stored in buildings with no heat or humidity controls. "The dampness is so bad that the gummed flaps of envelopes stick," Caywood admitted. "Sandpaper soon deteriorates. Tools become rusty. Rust continues to form on the already preserved iron objects from the excavations." [54]

By 1951 there was still no money for even basic storage for the growing Fort Vancouver collection. Ned J. Burns, chief of the Park Service's Museum Branch, regretted that Caywood's request for "one standard storage case, one herbarium case and one large map file" would go unfilled. "Unfortunately," he wrote, "the high cost of this equipment has prevented us from meeting all the urgent needs. The only equipment we can supply Fort Vancouver this year is document boxes." [55]

The number of artifacts continued to accumulate from the Caywood excavations, creating a serious problem of storage for the monument. Louis Caywood estimated that about 75% of the preservation and cataloging of artifacts from the 1950 excavation was completed but none of the 1952 artifacts had even been cleaned. In 1952, Superintendent Frank Hjort worried that storage needs and artifact preservation had not kept pace with the digs themselves. "I should like to suggest that the funds include amounts for the construction of adequate shelving and either good substantial cardboard or light, wooden boxes of a uniform size in order that the material can be stored in an orderly manner," wrote Hjort to the regional director. [56]

The regional office finally appropriated $500 to hire someone for cataloging artifacts and building shelves to store them. [57] But confusion reigned as the "extra" $500 appeared to exist only on paper. "All archaeological funds for the remainder of the year are programmed," Acting Regional Director Herbert Maier informed Hjort, "and, unfortunately, no additional funds are available for cleaning and storing of artifacts." [58] Bearing in mind the continued problems with preservation and storage of metal artifacts, it is not surprising that the superintendent reburied these artifacts in "Hjort's Hole," waiting for a day when space and funding were both available.

Early Efforts to Create a Museum

As early as February 1949, Louis Caywood suggested that a museum workshop be equipped to construct exhibits for Fort Vancouver. [59] The regional office suggested, instead, that a museum be put on hold "until the Army settles definitely the boundaries of the area." [60]

Later that year, Walter G. Rivers, Park Service museum curator, prepared "Fort Vancouver National Monument Project Museum Prospectus," which strongly suggested that Fort Vancouver needed a museum to adequately interpret the history of the Monument. Rivers envisioned "an archaeological exhibit-in-place at an interesting corner or other point of the original fort, it may be necessary to limit visitors to the museum area because of the proximity of the airfield to the post site." [61]

However, it was Superintendent Frank Hjort who struggled with creating a temporary museum space with a limited budget to display the artifacts from Caywood's excavations. Just as the regional office had dragged their feet about storage space, it took issue with Fort Vancouver's museum plan. Herbert Maier, the assistant regional director, wrote Frank Hjort that by installing an exhibit case which held, identified, and explained artifacts, he was "going further than the original intent of the authorization. To go beyond that intent would require an exhibit plan." [62] In other words, the regional office approved exhibit labels but did not approve a fuller narrative of explanation or events at the Hudson's Bay Company post, which would require an exhibit plan specifically created by the Regional Office. Hjort, not one to tolerate bureaucratic machinations, retorted that "it is impossible for me to believe that you intended to have these artifacts stacked into exhibit cases without regard to order, design and proper explanation." [63]

Temporary museum facilities did however open on August 4, 1952, in an old Army fire station. Within twenty days, 625 visitors wandered through to examine such artifacts as metal forks, knives, beaver traps, glass beads, and clay or porcelain pieces. By May 1954, the "temporary" museum and park office opened to the public 7 days a week from 8 am to 4:30 pm. Though "temporary," these offices served Fort Vancouver National Monument for nearly a decade. [64] The museum was completed and opened to the public in 1962.

MISSION 66 and the New Visitor Center

By the mid-1950s, the number of visitors to Fort Vancouver was increasing, anticipating the need for more exhibit space. In January 1960, as construction plans for the MISSION 66 Visitor Center went into high gear, Superintendent Frank Hjort and Historian Jerry Wagers prepared a museum prospectus for 21 new exhibits including panel, case, and diorama exhibits with an emphasis on the fur trade, the Hudson's Bay Company, the founding of Fort Vancouver, and Dr. John McLoughlin's influence on the site. Peripheral exhibits included the establishment and development of the Army post at Vancouver Barracks. [65]

The museum prospectus also outlined the need for fireproof storage facilities and further preservation of the many artifacts being excavated from the historic site. Since Hjort still had a very small staff, additional museum exhibits would make certain features of the site clear when personal contact with a ranger was not available. The exhibits would also serve as a starting point for tours of the fort site where visitors would receive brochures for self-guiding tours. Finally, the museum would provide necessary research and administrative space. [66] In order to realize the new museum plan, Fort Vancouver worked with the Hudson's Bay Company and the Oregon Historical Society to create exhibits. For instance, the Hudson's Bay Company suggested that Fort Vancouver buy a trade blanket and small items like tobacco twists through their wholesale stores. [67]

In January 1967, the exhibit space at the Visitor Center was again revised. Harry Lichter, the former curator of the Oregon Historical Society Museum, initiated improvements such as refinishing maps and features of the Whitman diorama, correcting misspellings, and repairing a beaver trap replica and "the Barkley Medicine Kit." Museum cases were cleaned, the sea otter pelt was cleaned and glazed, and Superintendent Eliot Davis promised that "if we can get one of the four `S's' out of Massachus(s)etts we shall at last feel free of embarrassment." [68]

Cataloging and Curating Old and New Artifacts

Though the Visitor Center allowed for greater exhibit space and flexibility, it did not immediately alleviate Fort Vancouver's collection management problems. According to Superintendent Eliot Davis, the early methods of treating recovered cultural material was so slack that by 1965 "artifacts taken from the Caywood digs of 1947 have been lost, strayed or stolen, and some have never been cataloged." [69] In 1967 and 1968, Fort Vancouver attempted to recover as much data from these "lost digs." Alan Cherney was hired to catalog or recatalog the material from the Caywood excavations. Even so, the park may never know what or how much had been misplaced.

Superintendent Eliot Davis also wondered what to do with some 800 to 900 pounds of metal artifacts which were beginning to flake and rust, despite the temperature and moisture controlled storage vault in the Visitor Center. Davis sent a good portion of the iron work to Rick Sprague, professor of archaeology at the University of Idaho, for conservation. Though Sprague's method of preservation was adequate--"the iron was cleaned with an air blast and coarse garnet and...dipped or painted with plastic"--Eliot Davis was not terribly pleased with "the finished product [which] is not something that I will want to exhibit in a museum as it does not look like iron. A heavy coat of plastic covers the iron and many of the pieces look as if they had been dipped in gray paint. In some cases it is impossible to see the metal through the preservative." He was disappointed with the "trial and error basis" of the lab work. [70]

By 1968, Fort Vancouver acquired approximately 2,500 additional fragments from Edward Larrabee and Susan Kardas's dig at Kanaka Village. These recovered artifacts were more systematically cataloged into the permanent collection at Fort Vancouver. [71]

Fort Vancouver also cataloged the artifacts collected from the stockade excavations of the early 1970s. For instance, when digging ceased in the fall of 1971 because of budgetary problems, the team members retained in the winter of 1971-72 continued with museum cataloging and analytic activities. With the help of the National Historic Sites Service of Canada, Jake Hoffman

launched an extensive program of ceramic analysis and identification based on the Fort Vancouver collections. Much of this involves crosschecking of pattern samples between Fort Vancouver and the Hudson's Bay component at Lower Fort Garry, Manitoba [which] should provide us with manufacturers' names and probable dates of manufacture. From these data, we anticipate making credible statements regarding the use and distribution of various ceramics through time at Fort Vancouver. [72]

Reconstruction and Curation in the 1970s

During the 1970s at Fort Vancouver the excavation of the stockade area and planned reconstruction offered new challenges to provide "sufficient physical surroundings" for interpretation of the historic fort. In 1974, Superintendent Donald Gillespie wondered how to best create a new kind of "exhibit space" inside the stockade. [73] It was a simple matter when the only structure to furnish was the bastion. But after Fort Vancouver completed the bakehouse, Chief Factor's House, and kitchen, the Park Service realized that more specific furnishing plans were needed for the stockade structures. David Hansen, the new curator transferred to Fort Vancouver in October 1974, appeared to be "the logical person to head up the furnishing program." [74] With assistance from John Hussey, Regional Historian Vernon Tancil, and the NPS archaeologists working on the site, David Hansen, formerly with the Division of Reference Services and an expert in 19th-century furnishings, revised the Oregon Historical Society Furnishings Plan and converted a $179,000 budget into well-researched and detailed interiors for the Chief Factor's House and the kitchen. Furnishing of the reconstructed buildings inside the stockade was completed by the end of 1979. [75] Objects for the Chief Factor's House and kitchen were cataloged by 1980.

David Hansen became curator at Fort Vancouver in October 1974 and furnished the reconstructed buildings at the fort site, including the Chief Factor's House Mess Hall, shown here. (National Park Service)

Besides providing historic structures for interpretation, the reconstructed buildings also provided a potential solution to the continuing storage problem at Fort Vancouver. As late as 1975, much of the artifact collection was stored off-site in old Army buildings and a building owned by the Veterans Administration, which had no humidity control. Robert Olsen, staff curator at the Park Service's Division of Museum Services, worried about the archaeological specimens which were being stored in paper bags and cardboard cartons. "Every time the containers are handled damage will occur," Olsen told the Chief of the Park Service Division of Museum Services. "Changes in humidity and temperature will effect both the specimens and the containers." Olsen suggested that the majority of non-diagnostic artifacts be stored in sealed five-gallon cans which would provide an air-free environment. [76]

To test this project, specimens from the Jake Hoffman and Lester Ross excavations of the early 1970s were canned with silica gel, sealed, and stored. [77] By 1977, approximately 1,400,000 artifacts were preserved in some 1,800 five-gallon cans, which provided better protection than the paper bags and cardboard boxes in which they had once been. However, once the sealed five-gallon cans were stored on the top floor of the Chief Factor's House, their weight created problems, "putting stress on the rest of the house, as the house was not built to carry so much concentrated weight in the attic." [78]

When the Indian Trade Shop was reconstructed and furnished in 1982, some of the collection was moved to the loft of that building, as well as the basement of the Chief Factor's House. Most of the artifacts from the Hoffman/Ross digs and the "non-diagnostic" material "recovered from data recovery excavations, monitoring activities in the park, and casual donations," remained uncataloged, but were placed in five-gallon cans to be sorted and cataloged later. By the mid-1980s, Fort Vancouver National Historic Site still had not finished curating thousands of artifacts. [79]

The Fur Store and the Future

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Fort Vancouver continued to improve its methods of preserving and managing the archaeological record. By 1987, a computer cataloging system (ANCS) was in use after the initial glitches were eliminated. The data base will become one of the major research tools for scholars working on the Hudson's Bay Company period. [80] From the summer of 1987 to the summer of 1991, cataloging add-on funds, provided by the Park Service's Washington Office, funded a museum aid to assist park curator David Hansen in cataloging artifacts recovered during the 1984 to 1988 excavations of the jail and new office sites inside the fort. By the spring of 1992, Douglas Magedanz, a former seasonal park ranger, filled the position, which had been converted to a full-time museum technician position.

In addition, the Caywood material was re-cataloged in 1988 and 1989 to bring the collection up to current NPS 28 cataloging standards. In 1990, other portions of the diagnostic collection were re-cataloged, especially those artifacts recovered during the 1971 to 1975 archaeological excavations of the fort interior. During this ongoing project, all of the park's old catalog cards were entered into a cultural resources data base on the ANCS computer program, standardizing the entire system and making the information easier to access.

Another continuing project was the preservation of iron objects. Some preservation had been done on site in large tanks with an electrolytic solution from 1985 to 1988. Though the results were better than Rust-oleum, there remained a concern with the disposal of the potentially harmful solution, which could only be "neutralized" with acetic acid, then disposed. [81] The fur store, once completed, will have an air-abrasion unit which cleans the metal before it is coated with tung oil for protection.

Fort Vancouver acquired a new preservation problem by the 1980s. The reconstructed buildings and interior furnishings were susceptible to long-term deterioration. In July 1989, Regional Curator Kent Bush found evidence of "wood rot in the floor of the Bakehouse, accelerated deterioration due to wood rot of the cannon carriages, and a powder-post beetle infestation in the Chief Factor's House." The most serious of these problems was the powder-post beetle infestation in some pieces of furniture in the Chief Factor's House. In 1990, a team from the Pacific Northwest Regional Office and Fort Vancouver developed a collections management plan to take care of these preservation problems as well as outline archive management techniques and security and storage procedures. [82]

Another resource issue of the late 1980s was the fate of the Native American remains in Fort Vancouver's collection. Though the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (Public Law 101-601) was not enacted until November 16, 1990, the draft legislation affected Park Service policy several years earlier. The federal legislation required all governmental agencies, including the National Park Service, to inventory their collections, identify the cultural affiliation, and attempt to return any Native American skeletal remains to the affiliated tribes. Fort Vancouver's collection contained more than nine identifiable human skeletal remains that were recovered during the excavation of the North wall of the stockade in 1966. The forensics report on these remains provided strong evidence that they were of Native American origin. In February 1988, the regional archaeologist and regional curator inspected the collection at Fort Vancouver and decided that it was best to try and repatriate the remains. But, many of "the Coastal groups require the remains be `sponsored' for re-burial by tribal members willing to accept the costs associated with the required ceremony." [83] Though members of the Chinook tribe, the local band along the Columbia River, were contacted about the skeletal remains, they have not requested their return and Fort Vancouver still retains them in their collection.

The recently reconstructed fur store has great potential as both an archaeological research center and a controlled storage facility. With an estimated 1,400,000 objects in Fort Vancouver's collection (about 20% "diagnostic"), the fur store will not only bring together the artifacts in one repository at the national historic site, but will ease the problems of cataloging that collection and making the specimens readily available for research and analysis.



Once cultural resources are uncovered, recovered, preserved, studied, and cataloged, they become the basis for interpreting a site's significance. At Fort Vancouver, with the help of many researchers, the recovered archaeological resources have provided a strong basis for interpretation. Yet, how the Park Service has presented the historic interpretation of Fort Vancouver has not remained static. From simple wayside panels and asphalt pads that marked stockade structures to volunteer interpreters in period dress who convey the feeling of the period, the goals and methods of interpretation at Fort Vancouver National Historic Site have changed dramatically over the past 45 years.

Interpreting the Archaeological Site

During the 1947 excavation, Louis Caywood allowed the public access to the archaeological site. Indeed, local interest in the excavation was so high that Caywood was often overwhelmed by visitors. For example, one day in October 1947, he was forced to close the doors of the building where he displayed artifacts after 100 people squeezed their way inside. He only let the remaining people in 15 at a time and the "open house" lasted from 2:00 to 4:00 pm, though he could not estimate how many visitors came through that day. In the first month of the second year's excavation, a total of 71 curious visitors came to view the excavations and unearthed artifacts. [84]

Continued public interest and the ad hoc nature of the monument's interpretive program presented challenges to Caywood. He tried desperately in the fall of 1948 to get the regional office to print even the most basic folder explaining the site. Instead, he received a memo from the assistant director, Hillory A. Tolson, which regretfully informed him that "In view of the current unsettled status of Fort Vancouver National Monument it has been decided to postpone the preparation and publication of a 2-fold folder relating to that area, at least for this fiscal year." [85]

In 1949, the archaeological site and Louis Caywood's artifacts continued to attract attention. September brought 51 visitors who "inspected exhibits in the museum and looked over the site of Fort Vancouver" and by the summer of 1950, when Vancouver celebrated the 125th anniversary of the founding of Fort Vancouver, thousands of visitors flocked to the excavation site as well as the museum laboratory. [86]

When the first superintendent, Frank Hjort, arrived at Fort Vancouver in the winter of 1951, he pressured the Park Service to develop interpretive programs for the yet-to-be-established monument. The first such program simply entailed four weatherproofed panels and an orientation map to be placed "at the parking area overlooking the stockade site at Fort Vancouver National Monument." The panels were to outline the story of the Quest for Furs, Fort Vancouver, the Tide of Migration, and the advent of the United States Army. By August 1952, the panels were completed at the Park Service's Washington, D.C., Museum Laboratory and sent to Fort Vancouver. [87]

Two years later, Superintendent Hjort continued to prepare an interpretive plan for the monument. [88] Though the basic interpretive needs of the monument would be met by the four-panel outdoor display when installed in the fall, Frank Hjort lamented in September 1954 that other "interpretive devices such as a self-guiding tour at the fort site is impractical at this time due to the fact that aircraft [from Pearson Airpark] are using the runway which overlaps the fort site." [89]

Once the monument was officially established in 1954, Superintendent Hjort was able to establish a museum and install interpretive signs. He still wanted to instigate the self-guided tour at the fort site with "a numbered-post, mimeographed-leaflet type tour." [90] But Hjort also believed that on-site markers were of limited use with few "uniformed, well-trained personnel." [91] The small staff precluded constant personal interpretation at the fort site.

Though not the best solution for interpretation of the fort site, the avigation easement restriction in the late 1950s only allowed marking the building sites with concrete pads and flat markers. (Frank Hjort, National Park Service)

MISSION 66 Interpretation

Interpretation was an important part of the MISSION 66 master planning process beginning in March 1958. The plan reiterated the importance of integrating archaeological and historical research to create the context for interpretation. Prior to building the museum, the fort site was treated as the primary "exhibit." Since reconstruction was not being considered at that time, the new exhibits had to convey a sense of the original fort through visual aids. Elaborating on his earlier ideas for a self-guided tour, Frank Hjort envisioned that visitors would "travel through the monument by private automobile, in organized tours, by bus," on restored historic roadways leading to the fort site, by way of the parade ground, the Hudson's Bay Company cemetery, Kanaka Village, and the replanted orchard. [92] At various tour stations, three push-button-controlled tape recordings would describe the story of Fort Vancouver and the footprint of each structure at the stockade would be identified by a numbered "concrete marker flush with the ground" that corresponded to numbers in a brochure. [93]

By June 1960, however, a "temporary and not very satisfactory system" of weed killer on the grass was used to mark the building foundations at the fort site. The excavated well in the northeast corner of the fort stockade also provided a visible marker for interpretive tours. In 1961, the building foundations were covered with blacktop and, after the north wall was reconstructed in 1966, new aluminum interpretive signs on metal posts marked the buildings within the stockade wall, replacing the four display panels at the fort site. [94]

Technology and Interpretation

Visitors in automobiles following push-button self-guided tours with audio-visual stations--these were the visions of a new technological age that influenced the Park Service and the development of interpretation. When Fort Vancouver completed the Visitor Center in 1962, audio-visual capabilities were added to Fort Vancouver exhibits. The first such device purchased in September 1961 was a Selectroslide, as the staff prepared to install the new exhibits for the museum. [95] By 1963, Fort Vancouver added a Bell & Howell projector and a projector screen. Fort Vancouver traded its Viewlex projector for a Kodak Carousel in 1964 and in June 1965, a Mohawk Repeater with a ceiling speaker and wall button was installed near the Whitman diorama. [96] By the spring of 1966, Fort Vancouver received a new 900 Kodak Carousel projector and Cousino Repeater to add to its growing audio-visual melange.

New technology allowed Fort Vancouver to provide entertainment and educational services to the public. In the spring of 1964, Fort Vancouver initiated a motion picture program. Regularly scheduled "educational" films from "oil companies, agencies of the Federal Government, and from leading automobile manufacturers" were shown in the audio-visual room. A total of 5,340 individuals attended 345 showings. [97]

Technology, however, came with a price tag. When new Superintendent Harold Edwards arrived at Fort Vancouver in July 1963, he found the 1961 model slide-sound cabinet out of commission. "This monster has sat silently and dark in a corner of our A.V. room since its arrival at FOVA some two years or more ago." [98] In addition, the Viewlex projector was without a remote control and the staff could not "run a full box of slides through the projector without jamming and ruining the slides." [99] Fort Vancouver realized it could not become a slave to technology, but had to rely more on human contact as a means of conveying the historic message.

Interpretation During the 1960s

By February 1962, the new museum exhibits were installed in the Visitor Center. Visitation sky-rocketed. More than 7,000 people viewed the new exhibits during March alone, nearly 6,500 more than March of the previous year. By the summer of 1962, visitation was up dramatically because of the Seattle World's Fair and an influx of tourists from California. [100]

Because of the increased visitation, the staff at Fort Vancouver was spread thin. By the middle of the 1960s, Superintendent Eliot Davis initiated a volunteer "Junior Rangers" program to assist with interpretation and general operations at the park. Local youngsters donated their time in exchange for the experience of working at the historic site. By 1969, however, the program was phased out due to the public concern for the young teenagers' safety. [101]

Historian Robert C. Clark and Superintendent Eliot Davis developed performance guidelines for these volunteers and seasonal interpreters which stressed communication skills and cooperation with both the public and other staff members. The 1969 guidelines encouraged park employees to develop a social consciousness. The interpreter was to be "active in developing his commitment to the importance of environmental understanding in our society and an environmental approach to his interpretive efforts." [102]

Off-Site Visits--School Services

Throughout the 1950s, Superintendent Frank Hjort traveled to public schools and addressed civic groups in Vancouver and Portland to give "the regular Fort Vancouver lecture with slides." [103] By the 1960s, Fort Vancouver had developed a fuller school program; together with State and local assistance, park staff developed a variety of educational programs for students. For example, in 1963 and 1964 the Oregon State Department of Education and Fort Vancouver produced a fourth grade television series called "Explorations with Bucky Beaver!" Two or three episodes dealt specifically with the history of the Hudson's Bay Company and the fur trade which fit neatly into school curriculum. [104]

Besides visiting schools, park rangers conducted audiovisual programs and tours of museum exhibits and the fort site for many school groups. They used props such as seal pelts, sea otter skins, and beaver hats to help describe life at Fort Vancouver. By the late 1960s, there had been a dramatic increase in school group visitation and the park staff created another specially targeted interpretive slide show for third grade children. [105]

In an attempt to engage city children more directly with a living history concept in the 1970s, the director of the Park Service, William J. Whalen, established an Urban Initiative program "to better serve urban and special populations by expanding cultural, recreational and educational programs." The program stressed environmental awareness, job training (urban partnership), recreation, workshops, exhibits, and creative programs. [106] The park, under the guidance of Bruce Guisti of Washington County's (OR) Special Education Division, created a program for fourth, fifth, and sixth graders in the fall of 1979. The students would plan a particular research project leading up to an overnight stay at the park. For instance, some students worked with the fort's interpretive staff to prepare food in the kitchen attached to the Chief Factor's House under the same conditions as a 19th century Hudson's Bay Company employee. [107] The program tied into already established school curriculum, where Fort Vancouver played an important role and was extremely popular with the children. The Urban Initiative program only lasted a year, but the park continued to work with local schools and tailor presentations to school group needs at the fort. [108]

In the 1980s, Supt. James M. Thomson renewed an off-site program for elementary schools which used interpreters wearing period clothing who visited classes for an hour and showed reproduction fur trade items. [109]

New Social Issues of the 1970s

By the 1970s, the needs of Fort Vancouver and its interpretive program shifted just as the social world around them changed. Increasingly, the public showed concern for the state of the environment which, in turn, brought a new angle to interpreting the fur trade. In June 1971, Fort Vancouver prepared an "Interpretive Prospectus for Fort Vancouver National Historic Site," which described the fur trade as exploitative and endangering various animal species. The regional office wanted Fort Vancouver to emphasize this environmental theme more clearly and tie the fur trade directly to environmental problems of the present day. For interpretive purposes, the Hudson's Bay Company fur trader became an inadvertent exploiter who

came to the Northwest country to use the natural resources. He sought the hides of animals to satisfy his growing need for luxuries. He knew little of the balance of nature and few, if any, could envision the effect on the natural resources of the future. And so he set about unbalancing the balance, without realizing it. [110]

The Park Service also explored the growing interest in "multi-culturalism." Instead of focusing on the fur trade as indicative of a British white male culture, the interpretive program could acknowledge the myriad cultures which made up the economic and social life at Fort Vancouver. For instance, inter-cultural marriages between fur traders and native women were common, yet they were probably not acknowledged by park interpreters in the 1950s. [111]

The new emphasis on environmental awareness and multi-culturalism was not necessarily rewriting history, but it did highlight history in a way that reflected late-20th-century social concerns. In order to emphasize the new themes, Fort Vancouver's interpretive prospectus proposed omitting much of the written text. Instead, the visitor would be surrounded by the aura of the 19th century using audio-visual stimuli, displays, dioramas, and background music. The artifacts, too, would become self-explanatory within this new ambiance, thus making excessive labeling unnecessary. Most importantly, a "freewheeling manner" of interpretation would not bore the visitors. [112]

Although most of the 1971 interpretive plan was not implemented, environmental concerns and multi-culturalism have been enduring themes for interpretation at Fort Vancouver National Historic Site. In 1981, Fort Vancouver's "Annual Statement for Interpretation and Visitor Services" emphasized environmental and energy-minded interpretation. As well, the interpretation of the reconstructed buildings would expose the visitors to "the cultural differences of the many racial, ethnic and social groups that lived at the fort site in the early 19th century. Among these groups are middle class British gentlemen, laboring class Europeans, French Canadians, Hawaiians, Northwest Indians, and women." [113]

1970s--Living History

According to the 1972 superintendent's annual report, the Fort Vancouver interpretive program consisted of "individual contacts at the visitor center and on the grounds, guided tours through the fort area and formal talks in the visitor center with audiovisual programs on request." [114] But, as the reconstruction of the buildings within the stockade continued in the mid-1970s, "individual contact" took on a new meaning. Living history demonstrations by interpreters in period clothing, who recreated life at Fort Vancouver in 1845, provided the new historical ambiance at the fort site. Robert C. Amdor, the chief of interpretation and resource management at Fort Vancouver, initiated "spinning demonstrations in the Visitor Center; Hudson's Bay spodeware repair; vegetable garden on Fort site grounds; establishment of an interim trade store inside the stockade which was manned by a costumed clerk of Hudson's Bay period." [115] The produce from the vegetable garden was distributed to both the park visitors and local food bank programs.

In November 1974, as the reconstructed bakehouse neared completion, Fort Vancouver sought State approval to operate the ovens as part of its interpretive program. "As a trial our initial effort will be to operate through the cooperating association and secure a work-study student as a baker," Superintendent Donald Gillespie wrote the regional director. Clark College, with its baker's program, would have an accessible pool of applicants. [116]

Historically, the bakers of Fort Vancouver baked enough loaves of bread for 300 people a day as well as sea biscuits for rations to lower class employees, the company's fur brigades, company ships, and Russians in Alaska connected with the fur trade. The staff at the historic site had less ambitious plans and estimated a modest start up cost of $1,000. However, they had not estimated the red tape. The Washington State Department of Agriculture, Dairy, and Food Division performed an on-site inspection of the bakehouse ovens and found water leaks, an open stairway, rough and exposed timber beams, and unsealed wood work tables and bins to be a danger to "product reliability."

Another snag for the bakehouse program came from the Southwest Air Pollution Control Authority. Fort Vancouver's initial plan called for 20 hours of bread baking a week, mostly on weekends, producing nearly 320 loaves of bread and 400 sea biscuits, then selling them at a nominal price to visitors. [117] But, the Southwest Air Pollution Control Authority filed an "Order for Prevention" before bakehouse construction was even complete. The order threatened to prevent construction if "all known and available reasonable means of emission control are not provided." The bakehouse would have to install "equipment [which] incorporates advances in the art of air pollution control developed for the kind and amount of air contaminant emitted by the equipment." The application submitted by the Park Service to construct wood burning ovens did not "provide all known and available means of emission control, evidence that the system is designed and can be operated without causing a violation of the emission standards nor demonstrate that the facility will not aid in the contravention of the ambient air standards." [118] In plainer words, modern air pollution standards threatened to stop the use of the reconstructed 1844 bakehouse.

Though Fort Vancouver received special permission to fire up the bakehouse ovens on March 19, 1975 for Fort Vancouver's Sesquicentennial celebration, it was doubtful whether the Environmental Protection Agency would let it run baking demonstrations on a permanent basis. [119] Indeed, the ovens lay dormant until the fall of 1976, when they were fired up for the second time. Apparently, poor construction would not allow for extended use. "The shape of the oven roof is improper and mis-layed," bemoaned Superintendent Gillespie,

The mortar joints should not have been used in preference to abutting the brick (in the arch of the oven). The cracks that have developed are said to be normal and we were advised that concern for structural damage is not necessary. We were concerned because of substantial cracks on the oven face and rear of the exterior that have developed. [120]

Despite the structural problems, the ovens were again used for baking demonstrations once the State legislature passed a bill that allowed Fort Vancouver to burn wood for occasional use. [121]

Park Ranger Dick Maxwell demonstrates baking techniques in the wood burning ovens of the reconstructed bakehouse at Fort Vancouver National Historic Site. (Bill Murphy, Oregon Journal)

Besides the bakehouse, the reconstructed blacksmith shop also functioned as a specific site for historic demonstrations. After its reconstruction, Michael Darrig was hired in March 1982 as a museum technician/blacksmith to furnish the shop with proper forging tools and develop a "living history" interpretive program. The development of a fully functional shop proved to be a considerable challenge due to design deficiencies in the reconstruction of the shop and lack of information about 19th-century British forges. The safety problems included improper forge firepot designs, forge flues which would not draw, nonfunctional bellows, insufficient lighting to work safely, excessive infrared radiation from the forge, unreliable structural integrity, and a lack of weatherproofing and heat for winter operations. [122] Over the years, most of these problems have been resolved.

In the spring of 1982, Darrig began recruiting and training volunteers to assist in the blacksmith shop interpretive program. The dedicated group eventually grew to about 30 individuals and has organized as the Fort Vancouver Blacksmith's Association, the first independently organized volunteer group at the park. This group began producing iron objects to furnish the blacksmith shop and Indian Trade Shop by the late spring of 1982. The group has produced all of the hardware for the fur store and intend to produce hardware for other fort buildings.

In 1987, Mike Darrig won a position classification appeal which resulted in his position being converted to a wage-grade blacksmith. Despite this position classification change, Superintendent James Thomson and Darrig disagreed over the basic purpose of the blacksmith shop. According to the policy of the regional office at that time, the primary emphasis of the blacksmith shop was to demonstrate the process of 19th-century smithing. Under this policy, the volunteer blacksmiths would not be allowed to manufacture objects at the forges, but simply assist the activities of Darrig as the interpreter. The volunteers complained bitterly about the restrictions on their activities and the superintendent decided not to enforce the production prohibition, though questions remained about whether and how park policy might be administered. [123] When Dave Herrera replaced James Thomson as superintendent in 1990, he gave his support to the growth of the blacksmith program, which now operates the shop five days a week year round, with 30 or more active volunteers.

Besides the bakehouse, the Chief Factor's House opened for tours in September 1976. In the attached kitchen, cooking demonstrations and occasional candle-making took place. By 1977, the living history demonstrations occurred at the bakehouse, a temporary trade shop, the kitchen and the visitor center information area. [124] The historic orchard and garden are also important to interpretation at Fort Vancouver. The orchard was replanted in 1961 and 1962 with a variety of apple, pear, plum, and cherry trees (the peach and nectarine trees which were planted did not survive). There was no formal nor consistent interpretation of the orchard area until the late 1970s when Superintendent James Thomson prepared an orchard policy for Fort Vancouver. Among other things, the policy gave the chief of interpretation and resource management responsibility for managing the orchard and insisted that only uniformed personnel harvest the fruit. [125] The orchard was not only to visually represent the historic varieties of Fort Vancouver tree species, but also provided an area for interpreting early 19th century agricultural practices, for which the Hudson's Bay Company was famous. [126]

The garden program "really blossomed" in 1986 when Robert Appling became chief of interpretation and resource management. At that time, the garden was tended by the maintenance man for several seasons. Since then, Park Ranger Rick Edwards and VIP Julie Daly have overseen the volunteer program of 30 to 35 master gardeners who research plants and seed sources to maintain an historically accurate garden. In October 1990, "garden ornaments" were added, including "a sundial, two rose trellis manufactured by the fort blacksmiths, and two benches built by one of the garden volunteers." [127]

Special Interpretive Events

Some of the most rewarding aspects of the living history program, especially for the volunteers, are the special events which Fort Vancouver hosts throughout the year. Unlike the annual activities such as the Fourth of July celebration, these events fit more comfortably within the historic context of Fort Vancouver. For instance, in May 1978, Fort Vancouver National Historic Site, along with Canadian dignitaries, celebrated Queen Victoria's Birthday for the first time. The following year was the first for another special event, the Fur Brigade Encampment. Outside of the stockade, about 20 participants set up a camp for two days in August and displayed crafts, tested their trapper's skills of tomahawk throwing and story telling, and generally lived the life of 19th-century Hudson's Bay Company fur trappers and traders for the benefit of visitors. [128] In 1984, Fort Vancouver observed the 200th birthday of Dr. John McLoughlin with a ceremony on the Chief Factor's House veranda and a dinner served in the mess hall. Guests included some descendants of Dr. McLoughlin, as well as Congressman Don Bonker, Oregon Historical Society Director Thomas Vaughan, Deputy Regional Director William Briggle, and other distinguished citizens.

Two other annual special events are the Candlelight Tour and the Christmas celebration. The Candlelight Tour began in the fall of 1983, and is meant to give the visitors an accurate picture of early evening life at Fort Vancouver in 1845. Each year the staff strives for more authenticity in their depiction. By the late 1980s the chief of interpretation and resource management insisted on dress rehearsals, which would help volunteers pay attention to details of setting and period clothing, development of a particular character, authentic accents, and consistency of action. The staff wrote a general scenario for the evening, in which scenes are enacted in the Chief Factor's house, the kitchen, the bakehouse, the Barclay Quarters, the hospital dispensary, and the Indian Trade Shop. Each scene is lit simply by candlelight and the visitors pass through designated areas to watch the interpreters cooking, eating, or discussing trade. [129]

Fort Vancouver VIPs (from left) Clay Shelton, Marv Benson, and Art Wagner as Hudson's Bay Company gentlemen playing cards in the public mess hall of the Chief Factor's House during a candlelight tour. (Ed Vidinghoff)

Interpretation in the Late 20th Century

Today Fort Vancouver feels its 20th century surroundings more than ever as it struggles to maintain a 19th century context for interpretation. Pressure from Pearson Airpark and its supporters has especially touched a raw nerve. Chief Ranger Robert Appling and Management Assistant Glenn Baker pessimistically assessed the situation at Fort Vancouver several years ago: the historic site "is not attractive enough to sway the thinking of local politicians or citizens who somewhat resent the federal presence and view the park as a resource to make inroads for their own purposes." [130] Without public support, how does a park survive? Some of the staff feel that to tap the potential support, a reconstructed fort is not necessarily enough. The key is an expanded interpretive program and a promotional package to match. Instead of two or three volunteers in period clothing, visitors should encounter 8 or 10 clerks, gardeners, blacksmiths, or bakers at a time, to awe the visitor with a sense of the past. Unfortunately, the current budget for interpretation at Fort Vancouver National Historic Site cannot provide for this level of interpretation.

The reconstructed fur store will probably help Fort Vancouver obtain local support. The interpretation of the store will include a history of fur processing. Inside, 2,500 fur pelts, hides, and skins, as well as kegs, casks, scales and weights, ledgers, account books, wheelbarrows, leather water buckets, and lanterns will furnish the bailing room. [131] Yet, the new space for interpretation also demands sensitivity to changing social issues. The fur store has generated some complaints from animal rights advocates who condemn the "glorification of the exploitation of animals." These concerns might affect the way in which the fur store is interpreted.

The Cultural Landscape Report, completed in 1992, promises to help redefine the interpretive direction of Fort Vancouver. As it identifies significant layers of the constantly changing history of the Hudson's Bay Company complex, it will give the park guidance for both treatment of the natural and cultural landscape, including how to restore historic vegetation and how best to interpret those historic features that have been reconstructed. The study will induce Fort Vancouver to look beyond the immediate environs of the stockade and seriously consider the entire complex and how to interpret the surrounding fields, Kanaka Village, the historic waterfront, and other areas adjacent to the site. Whether the Cultural Landscape Report guidelines and recommendations are used by Fort Vancouver, however, depends on the disposition of the Pearson Airpark property after 2002, a decision which now awaits recommendations by the Historical Reserve Commission, and may ultimately depend on a vote in Congress.

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Last Updated: 02-Feb-2000