The Langley Marina was vital to the economic survival of early Langley settlers, where passengers and freight were transported since its beginning in 1890. Historian Bob Waterman presented the History of the Langley Marina May 25 at Langley Methodist Church, sponsored by the Langley Main Street Association as part the Langley Centennial Celebration.
Waterman evokes a journey from the original 1,000 foot wharf built at the foot of Anthes Avenue to the present day location, telling the story of the early pioneers to present day entrepreneurs. Early photos illustrated the story, taking the audience of over 50 people back in time. Just a few of the highlights are offered here.
Langley founder, Jacob Anthes, built the first wharf in 1890 at such incredible length to reach across shallow tidelands to deep water. This location proved problematic because strong winds damaged the dock which was in constant need of repairs. By 1902 a decision was made to move the marina to the present location. Moving the marina created a challenge of moving people and goods between “lower and upper” Langley, with solutions still being proposed to this day.
A bulkhead was built using rip rap and fill to hold the land and a road scraped out of the bluff. Later a boardwalk was added. The first marina was U-shaped with two warehouses build at the end of the dock. A house was built near the wharf, which became the home of Phillip and Anna Simon in 1910. That home, although remodeled, still stands today, and is known as Drake’s Landing.
Early steamers like the Calista and Camano, part of the Mosquito Fleet, made daily runs from Seattle, Everett and other communities along Saratoga Passage. The steamers burned 35 cords of wood a day, providing abundant work for the early loggers. Only the experience of the early captains was available to navigate through the often foggy conditions on Puget Sound and calamities occurred. The Whidby burned in 1911 causing the death of two. Its boiler was salvaged and built into the Calista, which was later rammed and sank in 1922.
In 1914 a dance pavilion was built as the marina area and became a social center of the town with picnics, swimming and clam bakes. From 1917 to 1920 the pavilion housed the Island County Fair exhibits. The area grew to include a creamery and later the Whidbey Island Canning Co, which processed and shipped much of the fruit grown on South Whidbey. The building later housed the Bush Plant as barges transported loads of bush to the Seattle area for use as fill during the city’s early development.
In 1919, with arrival of car ferries to the marina, the economic growth of the town was impacted along with the competition of entrepreneurs and boat captains vying for business opportunities. Many companies came and went over the years, including The Island Transfer Company, Puget Sound Ferry and the Black Ball Line. It all ended for Langley in 1929 when the ferry service was moved to Clinton.
Barney Hein bought the old Bush Plant in 1959 which was named the Langley Marina.
The original U-slips were replaced in 1963, enlarged again in 1979 then replaced in 1983 with a floating breakwater built on floating tires, which eventually sank. The sunken tires become home to abundant sea life and a destination for many divers in the area. Today’s marina, built in 1986, and now operated by the Port of South Whidbey, awaits a $2.4 million dollar improvement slated to begin this summer.
Waterman’s research brings the legacy that was left by early settlers and developers to the next generation and the next century for Langley.
The long and rich history of the marina and Langley is covered in the new photo book, “Langley,” written by Bob Waterman and Frances Wood and available at local bookstores.