Construction of the Native American-inspired Gathering Place at Washuxwal longhouse pavilion at Washougal’s Two Rivers Heritage Museum has resumed after a three-month shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Jim Cobb, president of the Camas-Washougal Historical Society, said the long-awaited project is now in its final stages.
“Right now our estimate is that (construction) will be done by the end of September,” Cobb said. “Then we’ll put down the bark dust, apply the finishing touches and clean things up. From that point on, we’ll install the artifacts and artwork.”
Historical Society organizers had planned to have a dedication ceremony for the pavilion in the fall, but Cobb said he doesn’t think that will happen so soon, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The design of the pavilion, located on a 10,000-square-foot lot on the museum’s southern side, is based on the traditional cedar plank houses used by Native American tribes who lived in what is now East Clark County in the early 19th century. With its inclusion of wood carvings, the pavilion will pay homage to this area’s indigenous heritage and serve as an outdoor exhibit that can be used for cultural and community events and field trips.
“We are excited to be nearing completion and are looking forward to using (the Gathering Place at Washuxwal) to tell important stories of the earliest inhabitants of our area,” Cobb said.
The museum opened for one day in March before closing down again due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Cobb said that, at this point, he doubts the facility will be able to open before October, when it’s scheduled to close again for the winter months.
Cobb said the nonprofit museum is losing tourist revenues during the pandemic, but is lucky to have revenues coming in from grants and donations.
“The only income that we’re losing is tourism income,” Cobb said. “We’re very lucky. We’re not flush (with money), but we have enough to pay our bills. But we’re always looking for more donations.”
A recent, $2,500 grant from the Price Foundation brings the historical society closer to its goal of raising $260,000 to fund the pavilion and its artwork.
The Price Foundation, founded by Frank L. and Arlene J. Price, provides funding for education, health and historical preservation projects in Clark and Cowlitz counties.
“The Prices would be happy to know their funds are being used for such a worthy cause,” Price Foundation Executive Director Kay Dalke-Sheadel stated in a letter to the local historical society.
Cobb said the grant marks the third year the Price Foundation has contributed to the Washougal museum.
“They’ve been very good to us,” Cobb said. “This $2,500 helps out a lot. The total budget for the project is $260,000, and we’ve raised a little over $200,000 through donations and grants. It looks like the project will hopefully be way under budget, however.”