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News / Clark County News

Panelists reflect on hard work, dedication required to rejuvenate Officers Row

Historic Vancouver site was in rough shape when the city bought 19 buildings for $1

By Carlos Fuentes, Columbian staff writer
Published: May 26, 2023, 3:43pm
4 Photos
Historic houses sit along Officers Row at the Fort Vancouver National Site. Many of the houses date back to the 19th century.
Historic houses sit along Officers Row at the Fort Vancouver National Site. Many of the houses date back to the 19th century. (Taylor Balkom/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Officers Row in Vancouver hasn’t always been the historical landmark that it is known as today — just ask Pat Jollota.

When she moved to Vancouver years ago to work at the Ulysses S. Grant House, she didn’t know it would lead to a yearslong effort to restore the 21 white houses on the row.

In 1980, the city of Vancouver purchased 19 of the buildings on Officers Row for $1 from the Department of Veterans Affairs. Eight years and $11 million later, the efforts to restore the houses finally paid off.

“We had to figure out No. 1, how to repair them,” Jollota said at a panel Thursday evening discussing the history of Officers Row and the efforts to preserve it. “They were a mess. Those of you around here now know it was pretty dismal. (They) needed lights, needed roofs, needed paint.”

At the panel, hosted by The Historic Trust and Vancouver Barracks Military Association in recognition of National Historic Preservation Month, several speakers spoke about the history of Officers Row and the importance of the historic landmark.

The houses on Officers Row date back to the late 1800s as a series of log cabins built to house officers and soldiers at the Vancouver Barracks. The oldest building, the Grant House, was built in 1849 and now contains Willful Wine at the Grant House.

After World War II, the houses slowly fell into disrepair under the ownership of the Department of Veterans Affairs, until the city of Vancouver bought the houses and began restoring the houses to what they are today.

“We chose the low risk, low return (option),” Jollota said. “Instead of stores, shops and touristy things, we went for offices, commercial and residential. We did it and we couldn’t have done it without the public supporting this.”

Gayle Rothrock, another panelist, described several affiliations with Officers Row, including fundraising for the preservation efforts, and perhaps more significantly, living on the row today.

Officers Row and the adjacent West Barracks have several residential units, offices and commercial space. Rothrock said she spent eight years as a guide at The Marshall House and enjoyed sharing her experiences with visitors.

“When I leave tonight and I finish greeting all of you and enjoying all those remarks, I’ll be going back home to a spot on Officers Row,” Rothrock said.

Julie Garver has spent more time on Officers Row than most. She started as an intern helping with various projects on the row, during which she lived in one of the houses. Garver had several responsibilities during her time there, including going through the houses and collecting antiques to sell.

Years later, she became the project manager for the restoration of the O. O. Howard House, which today houses The Historic Trust offices. She described meeting descendants of Gen. Howard visiting the house and the sense of pride and connection she feels toward Officers Row.

“Thanks, everyone, for your support, and for your ongoing love and support of Officers Row,” Garver said. “It certainly changed my life, and I really think it’s changed the face of Vancouver, as well.”

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect that Willful Wine is in the Grant House on Officers Row. An earlier version named an incorrect business. 

Columbian staff writer