Arts and Entertainment

Book’s fresh look at Langley history released in time for Centennial

Authors Bob Waterman and Frances Wood select photos earlier this year for their book. “Langley,” a photo collection with never before published historic photographs, was released this month.  - Photo courtesy of Bob Waterman
Authors Bob Waterman and Frances Wood select photos earlier this year for their book. “Langley,” a photo collection with never before published historic photographs, was released this month.
— image credit: Photo courtesy of Bob Waterman

A new book is hitting the shelves providing a unique look at Langley’s history just in time for the city’s Centennial celebration in 2013.

“Langley,” by local authors Robert Waterman and Frances Wood, is a photo history boasting more than 200 vintage images — many of them never published before. It is the latest addition to Arcadia Publishing’s popular Images of America series.

The idea for the book was born a little over a year ago, Wood said, who is the author of two other books focused on South Whidbey history. She had been interested in doing an updated book on Langley.

“I knew no book would happen without Mr. Bob Waterman — Mr. Langley history,” she said.

Wood is a fourth generation summer visitor to South Whidbey who settled here permanently in 2000. Waterman is a former city council member and past president of the South Whidbey Historical Society. He arrived in Langley in 1999.

The pair joined forces with the target to have the project finished in time for Langley’s 100th birthday in 2013.

Waterman developed a special interest in Langley history during the 2004 Imagine Langley campaign and has since turned into an expert and collector of historic facts about the city.

Packing the amount of information accumulated over the years onto 126 pages was not an easy task.

“I’ve been interviewing people since 2004,” Waterman said. “I am hoping this is just the first in a series. Hopefully we will be able to tell more of the people stories.”

Waterman said he is grateful to all the people who allowed him to scan their old photographs and shared their stories with him. The detective work, as he calls it, was great fun connecting with the families of people who lived in Langley years ago, but now are spread out across the country.

Wood said the book showcases over 200 photos, many never before published, and the stories tell of the town’s first 100 years.

And there are a lot of stories to tell.

The colorful characters of today pale in comparison to Langleyites of the olden days.

Waterman said he feels drawn to the early years.

“The era from 1910 to 1920 when the city was growing rapidly and attracting so many colorful immigrants,” he said.

Langley founder Jacob Anthes, a German immigrant, first purchased land here at age 15, helped plat the town in 1891, and built a wharf. As new families arrived, First Street filled with businesses and homes, and the town was incorporated in 1913.

The community was thriving. Fishing resorts sprang up, but when the passenger ferry service shifted from Langley to Clinton, the town languished.

In 1920, Langley elected an all-women town administration, only the second municipality in the nation to do so.

Langley also boasted the thriving art colony named Brackenwood established by Margaret Camfferman, a member of Seattle’s “Group of Twelve.” That’s a chapter of Langley history in which Wood found a personal connection.

“I was particularly fascinated with the Brackenwood artist colony,” Wood said. “Along the way I discovered that my great aunt was in one of the pictures.”

But also the more recent history depicted in the book provides many interesting images. During the 1970s, an influx of young artists and hippies arrived with an appreciation of the area’s unspoiled natural setting.

“Many of them are now considered our more established citizens,” Waterman said. And indeed people will be able to find familiar faces on the pages.

The book is available at many local bookstores and at various online outlets. However, Wood said the authors hope that readers support local booksellers and get it in places such as Moonraker or the Commons.

“We think it’s the perfect gift for the holiday season,” Waterman added.

Book blastoff

“Langley: the story behind the book” will be held at 4 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 15 at the Black Box Theater in the historic pole building at the Island County Fairgrounds. The authors will present a program with photos from the book and tell the story of their writing experience.

“Langley: book launch part 2” is set for 1 to 3 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 22. The authors will be at the South Whidbey Commons in Langley to sell and sign books.

The book launch is the earliest event commemorating Langley’s yearlong Centennial celebration. Other upcoming events include an outdoor new year’s eve party in downtown Langley, the Sea Float Scramble on Jan. 5 at Seawall Park and a living history presentation at Whidbey Island Center of the Arts entitled “Langley Life 1890-1980” on Jan. 26.

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