A trip back in time: Hovander Park Manor

When someone thinks of a park it normally doesn’t include a farm full of animals and a house so old my great great grandmother could have lived there. Yet, that is exactly what I encountered when entering Whatcom County’s Hovander Park.

As I approached the park a sense of calm instantly came over me. Golden wheat lined the entire roadway and guided my way as I entered into the reminisces of this historical world.

Walking into the park by myself I became instantly overwhelmed with memories. Although I had never been to this area before I felt at home. Growing up in Logan, Utah the scenes of the park took me back to my childhood. Everyday I woke up glancing out my window to a red horse barn placed on top of a giant field of wheat. And as I looked around in the park that’s all I could see.

Scarf and flower found next to a family picnic

After dealing with my semi-overwhelming flood of memories I began to see the park for what it really was, a huge family estate. It almost seems ridiculous that at one point a family owned that much land. About 350 acres to be exact.

For those like me who knew nothing about the history of the park or the family manor I was lucky enough to stumble upon one of their guided tours. This not only thought me about the manor but the once famous Hovander family.

A Victorian home clearly built with highly suffocated taste for the time, it would be amazing to live in the house even now. Rooms upon rooms leave enough space for an average family of four, plus a few dozen of their friends.

Paying the small price for a tour of the grounds gave a different perspective to the Victorian buildings around me. Being only one out five people in the group on a Saturday afternoon, I was surprised the park wasn’t a bouncing tourist destination. Glancing around to the four strangers around me it was also obvious I was the youngest one there, by at least two decades.

According to the tour guide, Ted, and the Whatcom County Parks and Recreation website the manor and all buildings in the park were completed in 1903. Built by a Swedish pioneer family who migrated just before the gold rush, the house held couple Hakan and Lousia plus their six children. Establishing their wealth in Sweden, the Hovander’s owned a large mansion in Stockholm and replicated their new Northwest home off their original estate.

Looking around the slightly creepy yet beautiful home it was clear that no detail was missed. It was truly as though someone was living in it while we toured. Beds still placed in rooms made with quilted blankets. A dress hung over a sewing table ready for its finishing touches. The lives of the family that once lived there loomed over me.

For a historical buff like myself I thought the best part would be the house. As I exited the grand doors of the manor I looked to my left and was greeted with pure joy.

A mini goat was frolicking through the tall grass along with five sheep in tow. Little did I know, that estate also included a petting zoo. Although I had to battle my way around 50 children and their families to get a close up look at the animals, it was well worth it.

The most popular animal in the petting zoo eats food given to him from park feeders

It was clear the obvious attraction was the mini goat that was more like a circus performer. Jumping and running around no child under five could take their eyes away. A turn of events from the historical tour, as it was very clear I was the oldest one surrounding the goat by a decade.

As I reluctantly walked away, I discovered the dozens of animals the park houses. There are over 20 animals wondering around the park at one time according to the Whatcom County Parks and Recreation website. That does not include the actual wildlife that also wonders around the park.

Looking around I saw multiple rabbits and chickens I couldn’t help but take pictures, 50 to be exact.

One of the 20 birds cared for in Hovander Park

After taking in the whole park it was clear to me why the manor wasn’t filled with people yearning to learn about history. The park is really meant for families. Dozen of picnics were happening around me. Each with a better platter than the next.

It reminded me of every traditional American movie ever made. Families eat picnics together on the weekends next to a farm. It gave me comfort.

Molly Roely, mom of two, said she brings her kids here every weekend. “I notice a lot of the same families come back a few times during the summer. It’s a tradition for us at this point.”

Like Roely I feel the draw to Hovander, a picturesque place only 15 minutes away. As I left the park I felt reluctant. I knew I had found my new comfort spot and a place where I can come back to my roots. All I could think was, “I’ll be back next week.”

Sources:

History of Hovander House: https://apps2.whatcomcounty.us/parks/hovander/pdf/hovander-house-brochure.pdf

Whatcom County Parks and Recreation: http://www.co.whatcom.wa.us/1957/Hovander-Homestead-Park

Archives West: http://archiveswest.orbiscascade.org/ark:/80444/xv78668

Molly Roely: (503) 833–2053

Tour Guide Office: (360) 384–3444

Target publication: Whatcom Go

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