Langley – Historic Notes

Langley sits on the southeast corner of Whidbey Island. To the north is the Saratoga Passage and the Cascade Mountains. Whidbey Island is the result of the Vashon Glacier that worked its way north into Canada about 12,000 years ago. It left behind a forested land of Douglas fir, western hemlock, red cedar, and red alder. Two thousand years later, humans came, some migrating from Alaska.

The roots of what we know as Langley today started in 1792 when Joseph Whidbey, master of the ship Discovery, was sent to explore the island. His captain, George Vancouver, named the island in Whidbey’s honor.

Jacob Anthes, at the age of 15, left Germany to avoid the military draft, and eventually ended up in Langley around 1880. When he came of age in 1886, he purchased 160 acres adjacent to what became the town of Langley. In 1890, he shared his vision for the town with Judge James Langley, and together they formed the Langley Land and Improvement Company. The town of Langley was platted and named for its major investor. Anthes played a major role in the establishment and growth of Langley, establishing a general store, the post office, and a 999-foot dock at the base of Anthes Avenue.

Langley is noted for attracting progressive visionaries and creative people. The Brackenwood Artists Compound was created in 1917, bringing to town early modernist painters and art students. Langley also boasted an all-woman council post World War I, with Helen Coe as the first female mayor.

Langley grew and matured during the 1900s, starting with 18 families and growing to 147 within 10 years. Businesses began to appear on First Street, churches were built, and the Dog House was built at Anthes and First Avenue, where it still stands today. By the mid-1900s, Langley boasted three hotels, a library, and the Island County Fair, among more businesses opening uphill. The Star Store, still in existence, was built in 1917, and the town’s first weekly newspaper, Langley Islander, began publication in 1910. Langley was incorporated in 1913. Its upscale lodging and artistic nature attracted tourists from Seattle, shifting the economy from local support to tourism.

Today, with a population of about 1,300 people, Langley continues to attract artists, musicians, actors, writers, and people who appreciate the natural beauty and serenity the island offers.

Source: Images of America Langley by Robert E. Waterman and Frances L. Wood

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