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Brisk turnout upbeat about Langley historical preservation

Langley Middle School is a prime candidate for historic preservation, proponents say. - Roy Jacobson / Record file
Langley Middle School is a prime candidate for historic preservation, proponents say.
— image credit: Roy Jacobson / Record file

When people in Langley look ahead, they’re also looking behind, if recent events are any indication.

More than 70 people attended two public meetings this month on historic preservation in the Village by the Sea.

The meetings were held Tuesday evening, Aug. 17 and Thursday, Aug. 12 at Langley United Methodist Church and were presented by the Langley Historic Preservation Commission.

Not surprising, Langley Middle School came up.

“We were pleased with the turnout, considering the time of year and competing events,” said Bob Waterman, Langley city councilman and chairman of the historical commission.

“I thought the discussion was very productive,” Waterman said.

Theme of the first meeting was “What Makes Langley Special?” and it focused on Langley’s history, its natural setting and its building clusters. Theme of the second meeting was “How Do We Keep It That Way?” and covered the basics of historic preservation and design guidelines.

The meetings were conducted by Seattle historical consultant Mimi Sheridan, who is about to complete a survey of 60 of downtown Langley’s older buildings. The survey is expected to be done by the end of this year.

Her survey is being funded by a state grant and Island County match totaling $15,000. The public meetings were a stipulation of her contract.

“I thought they went very well,” Sheridan said. “People think it’s really important to preserve the history and character of the town. People took a very positive approach.”

She said participants focused on the small scale of the city’s buildings and their ages, and the variety of landscaping.

“It’s not just cookie-cutter,” she said of the city’s character.

Sheridan and Waterman said several buildings were recommended for preservation, including the Dog House Tavern, the Clyde Theatre, the old Langley State Bank on First Street and the original Methodist church.

But the biggest concern was for the fate of Langley Middle School, Waterman said.

“People felt very, very strongly that it should be preserved,” he said. The South Whidbey School District plans to transfer middle school students to the high school in 2012. The school district hasn’t decided what to do with the buildings once the transfer is complete.

Waterman and Sheridan said the second meeting focused on how to encourage more preservation of historic sites through the use of federal, state and local registers, and the establishment of historic and conservation districts within the city.

People also recommended the protection of view areas and public art, Waterman said.

Five properties have been added to the seven-member volunteer commission’s Register of Historic Places.

They include the original section of the Langley Library, Langley City Hall, the South Whidbey Historical Museum, the old section of Langley Woodmen Cemetery and the Wylie hospital-birthing house on Edgecliff Drive.

Meanwhile, the museum, a former brush-cutters’ bunkhouse, has been added to the Washington State Heritage Register.

The honorary title, placing the museum building on Second Street near Anthes Avenue in the company of several other historic sites throughout the state, was the result of an eight-year effort by members of the local historical society.

Waterman said that at least five other properties in the city are being considered for inclusion on the local register. They include three private homes and two businesses, he said. He declined to identify them until the process moves farther along.

Listings on the register are voluntary, Waterman said. Owners of pre-1958 properties are encouraged to apply for inclusion, which may result in tax credits for rehabilitation, he said. Nomination forms are available at city hall on Second Street.

Meanwhile, the commission is finalizing the design of a plaque to be placed on properties on the local register. The plaque will include the date of construction, historic name and any additional information the property owner wants to include, Waterman said.

Waterman said no further community meetings are planned, but that the commission would continue push for historic preservation in the city.

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