Three properties placed on Langley’s historic register

Langley City Hall has been placed on a new historic preservation register. - Roy Jacobson / The Record
Langley City Hall has been placed on a new historic preservation register.
— image credit: Roy Jacobson / The Record

Three links to Langley’s past are first on the list of the Langley Historic Preservation Commission’s new Register of Historic Places.

They are Langley City Hall, the South Whidbey Historical Museum and the old section of Woodmen Cemetery.

“We’re on our way,” said Linda Beeman, vice chairwoman of the commission.

“We started with the low-hanging fruit,” she added, noting that two properties belong to the city, and the other to the South Whidbey Historical Society.

Bob Waterman, a Langley city councilman and chairman of the Historic Preservation Commission, said the two-fold mission of the group is to work for the preservation of historic buildings and sites, and to educate the community about Langley’s past.

“We’re trying to preserve the look and feel of Langley, those strong features that draw people to visit and live here,” Waterman said.

He said the commission, formed about a year ago, has surveyed about 100 buildings in the city, and is in the process of prioritizing.

“We hope to put some more on the list in the near future,” Waterman said.

“We’re looking at historic homes, commercial buildings and other sites,” he said. “There are obvious places like the Clyde Theatre and The Dog House that could be on the list.”

Listings in the register are voluntary, Waterman said. Owners of pre-1958 properties are encouraged to apply for register listing, which may include tax credits for rehabilitation, he said.

Nomination forms are available at city hall.

“We welcome anyone who feels they have a historic building,” Waterman said. “We’d be happy to talk with them.”

According to the commission’s research, Langley City Hall, on Second Street across from the post office, was built in 1948 by the Langley Masons Lodge for its Masonic Temple.

The local fraternal organization was chartered in 1916, and in 1926, Langley founder Jacob Anthes gave the members the property to build a temple.

A building committee was formed, and for the next

20 years, funds were raised, and plans were drawn up and discarded. Finally, in 1948, the Lodge cashed in its war bonds and began construction.

Working with a $4,000 budget, building started in April, bricks were ordered, workers were hired, members pitched in and the temple was completed in June.

On Dec. 4, 1948, the Masons held a dedication banquet.

The Lodge occupied the building until 1991, when members relocated to new quarters in Bayview.

The city bought the property, the only example of Georgian-style architecture in town, and began renovating it for administrative offices and meeting rooms.

Local architect Michael Boyd was hired. His plans show additions to the neighboring library that, together with a boundary line elimination in 1994, connect the two buildings.

In their research, preservation members discovered that the building isn’t really constructed of bricks. Post-World War II economic constraints inspired a variety of low-cost building materials.

One was a hollow cement block faced with a brick-like veneer. A cross-section of this material still can be seen above the doorway from the stairs between city hall and the library.

The substitution saved money in 1948, but the blocks remain prone to cracking, and there has been extensive repointing on all the exterior walls.

Refurbishment of city hall has freshened its image. Interiors have been repainted and historic photographs of downtown Langley hung on the walls.

Grounds at the north and south sides of the building are being landscaped. Gardens at the south entry feature edible and flowering plants as well as a number of pieces by local artists.

The South Whidbey Historical Society Museum, a former bunkhouse, is at 314 Second St.

The building was constructed on its current site by city founder Anthes as shelter for his brush cutters.

Early Whidbey brush cutters harvested shrubs and scrap timber for landfill in Seattle’s developing waterfront. They also cut cordwood used to power the emerging “Mosquito” steamship fleet that serviced Puget Sound.

Later, Roderick McLeod and his family occupied the building while they constructed their hotel on First Street.

In 1908 Anton M. (“Blackie”) Anderson, the town blacksmith, purchased the building and lived there with his wife, Josephine, and their children, Otto and Alma. Anton retired from blacksmithing in 1925 and died in 1933.

Members of the Anderson family continued living in or renting the building until Alma willed it to the South Whidbey Historical Society in 1989.

The society refurbished the bunkhouse close to its original condition and opened it as a museum in 1992.

Commission researchers discovered that the original Woodmen Cemetery on Al Anderson Avenue was established by the Modern Woodmen Lodge, a support group formed in 1883 to “clear away financial problems for its members like pioneer woodsmen cleared the forest to provide for their families.”

It is the oldest cemetery on South Whidbey, containing the remains of many of Langley’s founding families — the Jensens, McLeods, Hunzikers, Monsons — as well as individual pioneers such as Langley’s first mayor, Frank Furman, and the city’s first woman mayor, Helen Coe.

In 1908, Langley founder Anthes sold the land for the original cemetery to Hugh McLeod, trustee for the Langley branch of the Modern Woodmen.

The Woodmen later transferred the first three acres encompassing the cemetery to the town for “$10 lawful money,” researchers discovered.

Local mortician Herman Visser maintained the cemetery for the town during the 1980s. In the mid-1990s, faced with declining resources, Langley put the cemetery up for sale.

A group of concerned citizens formed the nonprofit Friends of the Woodmen Cemetery to care for the grounds, and the city decided not to sell. In collaboration with the city and the Langley Cemetery Board, the group continues to help maintain the cemetery.

The Historic Preservation Commission meets the second Tuesday of each month at 5 p.m. at city hall. The public is invited.

The seven members are appointed by the mayor and confirmed by the city council. At least four must be professionals from the fields of architecture, history, planning, the building trades, landscape design or related areas.

Current commission members are Waterman, of Langley; Beeman, of Clinton, a Realtor and board member of the South Whidbey Historical Society; Fran Abel, a Langley landscape designer; Jerry Finrow, a Coupeville architect who also teaches at the University of Washington; Harrison Goodall, of Langley, who works in the historic preservation field; Herb Helsel, a downtown Langley business owner; and Marty Fernandez, a Langley graphics designer. Langley Planning Director Larry Cort assists the commission on behalf of the city.

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