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Originally published Thursday, August 18, 2005 at 12:00 AM

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Museum of the Month: La Conner Quilt Museum

Museum location: 703 S. Second St., La Conner, Skagit County Permanent displays: This restored Victorian, the only quilt museum in the Pacific...

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Museum location: 703 S. Second St., La Conner, Skagit County

Permanent displays: This restored Victorian, the only quilt museum in the Pacific Northwest, is one of 12 quilt museums in the United States. The first floor of the mansion is furnished with period furniture, along with Victorian-era quilts (quilts in the kitchen are mostly Depression-era). The second and third floors display quilts from temporary exhibits that change every two to three months, featuring quilts and quilters from the United States and around the world. Displays include both stunning contemporary quilts that border on textile sculpture and treasures from regional and historical collections.

The stately mansion, with its original floors of Douglas fir and wood-and-tile fireplaces, was built in 1891 by George and Louisa Gaches. After later serving as a hospital and apartments, the house caught fire on the top floor one night in 1973 (see photos of the blaze on the Web site and in the mansion). Local citizens, with help from the Federal Historical Preservation Fund, raised funds and restored the mansion, and the quilt museum opened there in 1997.

Temporary exhibits: Now through Sept. 18, the museum spotlights the works of two contemporary quilters. The second floor displays contemporary quilts of Anna Hergert, who was raised in Europe and now resides in Canada. Hergert holds diplomas in Creative Studies, Embroidery, Patchwork, Quilting and Design through the prestigious City & Guilds of London. The third floor features quilts created by Sonia Grasvik, a Northwest quilter and teacher who has won awards locally and nationally.

Other highlights: Don't miss the Civil War-era quilt block in the kitchen, stitched by a woman who escaped (with her five completed quilt squares) before Sherman's Union army burned down her Mississippi home. Also, check out the third-floor tower room, with its fine views of Swinomish Channel.

Special event: The museum's eighth anniversary Quilt Festival is Sept. 23-25, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission $7.

Hours: Wednesdays through Saturdays, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Sundays, noon to 4 p.m. Open Fridays through Sundays in December; closed first two weeks of January.

Admission: $4 (members and children younger than 12 free).

Directions: From Interstate 5 in Skagit County, take Exit 221 (northbound or southbound), head west off the exit ramp, take the first right through the town of Conway and follow signs to La Conner. After several miles, turn left on Chilberg Road, which turns into Morris Street in La Conner. Turn left on South Second Street, and the museum is at the top of the hill on the left.

For more information: 360-466-4288 or www.laconnerquilts.com.

Cathy McDonald is a Renton freelancer and regular contributor to Northwest Weekend.

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