By SCOT PEARSON
TOKELAND - Holcomb Acres has extended their education to the Tokeland Hotel and is bringing both beauty and brains to the historic location.
"This is the fourth year that I have been working with the seventh grade class at Willapa Valley Middle School," said Darlene Smith of Holcomb Acres. "And this year we have started an Enrichment Class for the eighth graders - similar to what we have been doing with the sunflower houses out at the farm."
For the first time Smith has partnered with the Historic Tokeland Hotel, owned Scott and Katherine White, to see if Smith and her class could bring a little extra beauty to the 3.5 acres of the hotel/restaurant and possibly highlight some of the areas that people do not see right away.
"We just started talking one day," said Katherine White. "I had noticed her sunflower vest and we first were talking about crocheting...it was not long that I learned some about her abilities with sunflowers."
Smith took her classroom and went for a visit to the Tokeland Hotel. The group brought with them 50 varieties of the Helianthus annuus, and planted the grounds in various locations.
"They arrived and brought so many sunflower seeds. I had no idea that there were so many different types of sunflowers. It will be nice to see just how they come out and it will add a little more beauty to the grounds here at the hotel," said White.
Visitors will soon see new croppings of flowers in and around the boat that sits at the entrance of the hotel, as well as around a water trough that is believed to be from an old farm that was once at the location.
"Katherine wanted to bring a little more attention to the water trough, so we thought that a few sunflowers would help highlight that area for people to notice," said Smith.
With a full social calendar at the hotel, the original thought was to place a sunflower house on the grounds, but with recent underground systems and wedding parties already scheduled, a sunflower house may have to wait until next year.
"The seventh graders learn how to use their math skills in application to design," said Smith. "And the new Enrichment Class I started for the Willapa Valley eighth grade class, gets them out into local communities and puts those skills to work by planting the flowers and enhancing the beauty of an area."
The class focused at the eighth graders is much more than a field trip, as it is a way for the youth to understand cultivation in not only flowers but vegetables and edible gardens as well.
"I am so excited to see what will grow here at the hotel. You cannot talk to Darlene and not smile when she engages you. I am delighted to help promote the beauty of our hotel and to work with the kids. It is very contagious to see the enthusiasm that Darlene brings about her projects and her work with the kids," said White.
The Historic Tokeland hotel is a national landmark overlooking the Willapa Bay and Pacific Ocean. The present building took part of its original shape in 1885 as the home of William S. Kindred and the daughter of the homesteader, Elizabeth Brown. In 1889, the Kindred's expanded their farmhouse and opened the Kindred Inn.
Two steamers, Shamrock and Reliable, made trips from South Bend to Tokeland. Mr. Kindred used to meet the boats with a big, horse-drawn tally ho. It was during this time that Tokeland gained a reputation as a fine beach resort, attracting guests from as far away as Idaho and southern California. And with the enhancements from the recent additions of sunflowers, it is sure to bring in more visitors and locals to see the work of Smith and her students.