Langley museum makes state registry of historic places

The former bunkhouse and future home of the South Whidbey Historical Society (arrow) is seen in a 1911 photo.   - Photo courtesy of the South Whidbey Historical Society
The former bunkhouse and future home of the South Whidbey Historical Society (arrow) is seen in a 1911 photo.
— image credit: Photo courtesy of the South Whidbey Historical Society

It goes to show that fading into history can result in a new sign of the times.

The South Whidbey Historical Society Museum, a former brushwhackers’ bunkhouse in Langley, 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.

Designation means that state road signs directing motorists to Langley and the museum will be placed along Highway 525, said Bob Waterman, president of the historical society.

Some Langley merchants have been clamoring for more highway signage pointing to the Village by the Sea.

“We’re very proud and pleased to be designated,” Waterman said Thursday. “We look forward to entertaining more visitors.”

The museum was added to the list on Feb. 25 by the Governor’s Advisory Council on Historic Preservation after the latest year-long local push for inclusion.

According to Linda Beeman of the historical society, Langley founder Jacob Anthes built the museum building on its current site between 1890 and 1902 to house the brush cutters working his 120 acres to provide fuel for Mosquito Fleet steamers using Saratoga Passage.

Anthes, a German immigrant fleeing military conscription, had arrived on South Whidbey in 1880.

At one point in the early 1890s, according to his diary, Anthes was selling 35 cords of wood per day, harvested by 25 woodchoppers who slept in the bunkhouse, which was designed like a railroad car for maximum occupancy, Beeman said.

In 1889, Anthes and Judge J.W. Langley of Seattle purchased the land that would become the town. They paid $3,500.

By the early 1900s the bunkhouse building was occupied by town newcomers. Sarah and Roderick McLeod, second-generation Scottish immigrants, lived there while they built the Howard Hotel on First Street.

In 1905, Norwegian immigrant Anton “Blackie” Anderson, the town blacksmith and carriage maker, purchased the bunkhouse and lived there with his family.

In 1989, Anderson’s daughter Alma donated the building to the South Whidbey Historical Society, and the museum displays were transferred from the building that now houses Langley Middle School.

Today, the museum has a rich collection of photographs and artifacts gathered from Greenbank to Clinton. Meanwhile, access to its copious archives is by appointment.

Will history repeat itself? Will the building go back to a bunkhouse?

“Not yet,” Waterman said. “But who knows?”

The museum is open to the public on Saturdays and Sundays from 1 to 4 p.m. Other visits can be arranged by appointment. For information, e-mail Cathy Blackburn, historical society director, at

The museum and the work of the society are only part of the ongoing effort to preserve Langley’s history.

Waterman, a Langley City Councilman, is also chairman of the volunteer Langley Historic Preservation Commission.

Five properties already have been added to the commission’s Register of Historic Places.

Those include the original section of the Langley Library, Langley City Hall, the historical museum, the old section of Langley Woodmen Cemetery and the Wylie hospital-birthing house on Edgecliff Drive.

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, a survey of about 60 old buildings in Langley is under way to determine their preservation value.

The survey is being conducted by Seattle consultant Mimi Sheridan, and funded by a state grant and Island County match totaling $15,000.

Sheridan has done similar surveys in Coupeville and other island locations.

Waterman expects the survey to be completed by the end of the year, and said that during the process at least two public workshops on historic preservation will be held.

Meanwhile, Waterman said the annual nationally designated Historic Preservation Month will be May this year.

The city is planning a number of educational events focused on Langley.

For more information about historic preservation in the city, call Waterman at 221-8644 or e-mail

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