The Barclay House

16 11 2013

IMG_2133Do you know those stories where the main character has a sidekick who’s interesting enough for the plot but receives less recognition? I have a sidekick of sorts to share about, stemming from the life of Dr. Forbes Barclay. The Barclay House, sidekick to the McLoughlin House and ultimately, the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site, deserves it’s own merit. It shares property with the adjacent McLoughlin House, and a tour of both homes briefly begins in the Barclay House. Both museums are units of the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site.

The Barclay House, built in 1849 on the waterfront of the Willamette River, moved uphill in the 1930s to its current location at 719 Center Street in Oregon City, Oregon. This Classical Revival style home hosts offices for the National Park Service and the McLoughlin Memorial Association, and a gift shop with items specific to Pacific Northwest history such as books, toys, décor, and food.

The Barclay House provides a free monthly Victorian Craft Demonstration, teaching participants a specific craft unique to the era of Queen Victoria. The hands-on projects focus on arts and crafts ranging from currently popular to nearly forgotten. The annual Open House on a Saturday in December allows visitors to wander freely through both houses, enjoy Christmas decorations, and ask questions of those dressed in period costumes.

IMG_2134The house’s original owner, Dr. Forbes Barclay (1812-1873), was born in Scotland to a prominent physician and author. A physician himself, Barclay arrived from Scotland in 1840 to work at Fort Vancouver as a fur trader and chief physician for the British Hudson’s Bay Company. A decade later, Barclay settled in Oregon City with his wife, Maria, and two of their remaining children. His oldest son passed away at two from diphtheria. Four more children were born in Oregon City. Barclay became a community leader not only as a doctor, but also as Mayor of Oregon City, Superintendent of the first public school, and the first coroner in Oregon.

To tour the Barclay House and the McLoughlin House, and browse through the gift shop, visit the site between 10 a.m. – 4 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays. Both homes close for the winter from mid-December to mid-February. Wheelchair accessibility is limited. For more information, call (503) 656-5146.

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