Labor of Love

Property Watch: A Historic Maternity Ward Becomes a Cottage Once Again

The Polly Harpole Maternity Home birthed a generation of Whidbey Island residents. Now it's a restored craftsman home.

By Sarah Anne Lloyd May 17, 2023

A recent open house for this single-story craftsman drew at least 26 attendees who had been born inside, according to listing agents. Over the years, thousands of Whidbey Island locals were born in this home that's just a 10-minute walk south from the Coupeville Wharf and historic waterfront.

Whidbey didn't even have a hospital when Polly Harpole, the island’s first public health nurse and queen of the midwives, purchased this home in the 1930s. At the request of local doctors, she turned her residence into the Polly Harpole Maternity Home in 1936. Until her retirement in 1958, Harpole not only delivered most of the island’s babies, but set up child health clinics, free dental clinics, and mobile X-ray services. She also trained other nurses, vastly increasing the island’s health care resources. When Whidbey finally got its own hospital in 1970—just a couple of blocks away from the former residence—it was thanks to the work of the Polly Harpole Guild, named in her memory. Now the cottage that started it all is on the market as a private home.

The exterior of the house doesn’t look too different from its maternity home days, except for a restored Polly Harpole weather vane mounted on top of a dormer. That was part of a recent, larger restoration by Helen Taylor, the executive director of the WhidbeyHealth Foundation.

“It was a longer labor than I was expecting,” Taylor told the Whidbey News-Times, “but we still have a beautiful baby in the end.”

What started as a 900-square-foot home doubled in size over the years. The interior now bears little resemblance to a maternity home. Still, it has plenty of 1920s craftsman details, like brass and crystal knobs, french doors, and a cozy brick fireplace.

An open kitchen leaves plenty of room for a dining area between it and the living area. A generous island adds more visual separation, along with more seating and workspace.

Just behind the kitchen, the largest of the home’s three bedrooms has a full ensuite bath and an ample walk-in closet. The corner office, conveniently located just inside the front door, could also serve as a den, media room, or playroom. It’s not included in the bedroom count.

The back door, located through a large laundry room, helps contain messes from the yard. Outside on the corner lot, a vast lawn gets plenty of sunlight—and aside from a few trees, is a pretty blank canvas for gardening, playing, and basking. This house introduced a lot of life into the world, and has a lot of life left in it, too.

Listing Fast Facts

404 NE Haller Street, Coupeville
Size: 1,788 square feet/0.2 acres, 4 bedroom/4 bath
List Date: 5/10/2023
List Price: $875,000
Listing Agents: Michael Tenore, Windermere

Show Comments