On November 14, 2015 Superintendent Tracy A. Fortmann spoke at the public re-opening of the Visitor Center at the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site. Following are some excerpts from her comments:
“This building was built in 1961 and was part of a national initiative, with grassroots support. It was built in anticipation of the National Park Service’s 50th anniversary. In 1961 this facility was state-of-the-art and was dressed with the latest design and decor of the time. It was heralded for its use of modern material and geometric design elements.
The building is Mid-Century Modern architecture and the philosophy behind this style of architecture is the desire to bring the outside, or nature, into the building - and the building out into nature. We did not want to lose that vision - although much of what made this building so amazing in 1962 had been lost through time over the years. We wanted to reclaim that early day vision - that connection with the outdoors, and especially with this historic place that we all know as Fort Vancouver National Historic Site and the Vancouver National Historic Reserve.
To make the most of this structure and to do it justice would not be an easy task. As we all know, this is a very complex place. It is a National Park with a Historic Reserve and numerous partners. It is also a place with seemingly unlimited stories, spanning pre-contact to 20th century, and from indigenous American Indians to U.S. soldiers. I have never shied way from this complexity as distracting or confusing, but recognized that this place has a power which emanates from its many stakeholders and descendant communities. Unlike the many other special places that we Americans hold in our hearts, this urban National Park and Historic reserve is more than one historic building, or one history or the commemoration of one event. All of the histories - indigenous peoples, Lewis and Clark, fur trade, Oregon Trail, aviation,military history from the early 19th century up and through World War II - are interconnected and critical, essential elements of this place. It is our interconnected stories that lure many, many different people to this place and will always make us relevant.
This newly rehabilitated historic building is the centerpiece of the National Park and the Vancouver National Historic Reserve. It is warm and welcoming. It is designed to be open and dynamic, with rotating exhibits and hands-on activities for visitors to explore. Our exhibits are inclusive and theme related. This is not a traditional Visitor Center, it will give voice to the many people and stores; those better known and those not well known. It is also here for the community, and will be host to many lectures, meaningful events, and important meeting opportunities. Ultimately, for those visiting this place of the first time, this Center is here to whet your appetite and provide you with a few ‘ahas’ and surprises, but then to entice you to get out and spend time in the venues of Fort Vancouver and the Historic Reserve.
…It seems fitting that we are opening this Center as we begin celebrations for the Park’s 100th anniversary. What a wonderful gift to give to our community, our region, and our nation!”