The iconic Captain Whidbey Inn near Coupeville is closed to visitors, but the rustic structure has a dazzling new cedar shake roof thanks to a state historic preservation grant.
The 2019 state Legislature appropriated $1 million to preservation projects in Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve in Central Whidbey. The grants are administered by the Reserve’s Trust Board and the Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation.
The Captain Whidbey Inn, known for years as the Whid-Isle Inn, was built in 1905 for Judge Lester Still. It was included on the list of public and privately owned properties to receive state preservation funding. Captain Whidbey LLC, which purchased the property two years ago, was awarded nearly $100,000 to replace the aging cedar shake roof.
Jason Benson, preservation coordinator for the Trust Board, explained that the owners have rehabilitated much of the inn and replacing the “character-defining cedar shake roof” is a vital part of the work.
“This work not only continues to protect the inn from the elements,” he said in an email, “it is important for retaining the historic look and feel of a building that has stood on the shores of Penn Cove for 115 years.”
Red’s Construction of Whidbey Island, a Coupeville business owned by Ryan Georges and Steve Ellsworth, is just completing the three-week project.
“There’s nothing more beautiful than a new cedar shake roof,” Georges said.
He explained that the project had special guidelines to maintain the historic integrity of the project. The cedar shingles themselves were “the most premium of the premium” and fire treated, he said.
Installation was challenging. The large building was built from madrona logs, which have hardened with age.
“Nothing is flat,” Georges said. “The building is settling and the logs are round.”
Benson agreed that a building of this age can develop idiosyncrasies over the years that make working on it challenging.
“Small modifications to the structure, along with the effects of time,” he said, “have produced a roof line that can be difficult to make weather-tight, durable and attractive.”
The construction project wasn’t delayed by the coronavirus pandemic; it was considered essential since it was state funded. But Georges explained that workers had to follow strict social distancing rules, which included the use of masks, six-foot distancing between workers, car pooling restrictions and even the locking of porta-potties to prevent the public from using them.
Captain Whidbey Inn is currently closed to guests due to the pandemic.