My first trip to Hovander Homestead Park in Ferndale was as a child. My mother had visited, and thought I would enjoy seeing the historic home, barn and surrounding park lands.
It made enough of an impression that, years later, I brought my own children.
The Hovander Homestead became a park in 1971. The remaining member of the Hovander family, Otis, a bachelor, sold the homestead to Whatcom County for the purpose of becoming a park.
This was a fitting tribute to his father, Hakan Hovander, who built the home to leave as a legacy. Hakan and his wife Louisa immigrated to the United States from Sweden. Hakan had been to the states numerous times, learning to be a skilled carpenter and self-taught architect.
He returned to Sweden to formally study architecture. After the sale of his mansion to Swedish royalty in the 1880s, Hakan and his family, including six children, left their home country, eventually settling in along the Nooksack River.
Hakan purchased the original 60 acres (now 333 acres) for $4,7000 in gold in 1898, and soon got to work designing and building the Hovander home.
Today, you can visit the home, which is still has many of its original elements, such as the linseed-oil treated woodwork on the ceiling, floors, cabinets and even some of the original furniture.
The wonderful docents at the Hovander House can tell you stories of the home’s construction – like the furnace that burned six-foot logs and cleverly constructed closets – as well as what life was like more than a century ago.
My kids were interested to see the old clothing, ornate period furniture, a cheese-wheel knife, a mustache cup (for keeping bushy mustaches out of the tea!), and old family photos – among the many treasures to be found in the house.
But there is much more to see. The massive old barn, 65 feet tall, is now filled with old farming implements and other barnyard tools.
Visit the farm animals next to the barn in their own enclosures. Rabbits, goats, geese, chicken and cattle are happy to come say hello. Bring a quarter to get a handful of feed for the chickens.
A forest-themed playground is located adjacent to the animals, and more play equipment is close by.
The old lookout tower is here, too. At 50-feet tall, it may be a bit nerve-wracking if you don’t like heights, but it’s sturdy and safe for littles to climb. The view from the top of the tower is worth the climb.
The grounds also include trails for exploring, ample places to picnic, and demonstration gardens from the Washington State University Extension’s Master Gardeners. The Children’s Story Garden is a place to come and read a book while sitting among Jack’s beans and Peter’s pumpkins.
Beautiful dahlias, sunflowers and roses are just a handful of the flowers planted in the gardens. Herb and vegetable gardens are planted here, too. It’s a great way to introduce kids to what their veggies look like before they’re on the plate!
If you want to extend your visit, nearby Tennant Lake Park offers more to see and do, with a Fragrance Garden and boardwalk around the lake’s marshes.
If you go: The park is open year-round, but tours of the home are limited to the summer months, between Memorial Day and Labor Day, Friday-Sunday. Call for hours or to arrange a tour, (360) 384-3444.
Getting there: Heading west from the City Center freeway exit from I-5, turn left onto Hovander Road. Look for the turn lane just past a railway overpass – it comes up quickly. Once on Hovander, take the first right onto Nielsen Avenue, and another right onto River Lea Road.