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It is with great fan fare that we can announced the Port of Coupeville has received their requested Island County grant monies to make structural repairs and improvements to the Coupeville Wharf undercarriage! 

Island County Commissioner’s unanimously approved the Port of Coupeville’s grant application for Rural County Economic Development Program funds to repair 37 pilings, piling caps, and other under carriage needs of the Wharf! To the tune of $870,804.00 this is a huge WIN for the 114 year old Wharf! The Port will put in an additional $96,756 of their budget to further bolster the costs of materials and construction. Win! Win! For Whidbey, Island County and Coupeville!

The Rural County Economic Development Program receives it’s grant funds through sales taxes. The sales taxes used to support this program comes from a rebate back to Island County of the state’s share 6.5% of sales and use taxes authorized by RCW 82.14.370 and therefore does not increase the tax to the consumer. For those who follow or receive our blog but do not know, Island County is made up of Whidbey and Camano Islands. The .09 funds through this program are spread out between our two islands in designated under and pursuant to Washington State RCW 43-330-270.

The permitting process, engineering and construction work will take a min of 2 years, AND THEN the work on the Wharf building itself can take place once the under carriage is secured. NOTE: The Wharf is safe as it is but repairs are needed.

In 1905 local merchants and farmers built the 500 foot high level causeway (“pier” if you will) and Wharf building to accommodate the growth and trade increases of Whidbey. The Wharf is (has been since that time) the center piece of Whidbey AND Coupeville (we’re lucky that way). At 114 years old the Wharf and it’s 500 feet causeway to the building include over 100 pilings and multiple systems (gas, water, elec, waste pumping, fire suppression). THIS approval by the Commissioner’s and additional funds from the Port’s budget begin the next step in maintaining and securing the Wharf for years to come.

Overall this is a fantastic result for one of Whidbey and Washington’s earliest and most iconic structures. Please let Island County Commissioner’s know you appreciate their support and actions for the Coupeville Wharf. YOU can find their emails here.

We have been happy to help the Port through our Pennies for Preservation Wharf funds, brought in by generous citizens and visitors alike. Our Wharf Fund is no where near 100’s of thousands but it is in the 1000’s and our donors are proud to be able to help. We look forward to helping as much as we can in the future! We love Coupeville, our community and our Wharf!

Many THANKS to the Island County Commissioners, the Port of Coupeville Commissioners and Port staff for helping to make Coupeville Wharf dreams come true!!


Images Island County Historical Society Archives and Washington State Archives

Before 1905, There were several early wharves at Penn Cove in the latter half of the 1800s that had been built for passenger travel and importing and exporting products between the island and the mainland. The problem with these early wharves was that most could only be used at extreme high tide. Historical records are sketchy, but the following wharfs are known to have existed, including: Robertson’s Wharf, Happy Jack’s, and Pearson Wharf (see #20 NW Front Street).

Activation of Fort Casey in 1901 brought a larger population quickly to Central Whidbey.

1905 – 1905, to accommodate the growth, local merchants and farmers built a 500 foot wharf at the foot of Alexander Street to accommodate the growth of population and commerce. This wharf is the current wharf in Coupeville.

1909-1914 – Elmer Calhoun purchased the Wharf sometime between 1909 and 1914 (sources differ on this point). After purchasing it he added a grain tower to the “L” shaped building. The north side of the building included a waiting room and a rest room “a two holer that flushed with the tide”, for steam boat passengers.

1933 – Elmer Calhoun made major repairs to the Wharf building.

1936 – The Deception Pass Bridge was completed. Consequently, Island Transportation discontinued steamboat service to Seattle in 1936 as the little steamers were no longer cost effective. The last steamer to run the Whidbey Island route was the ALANTA.

Freight boats continued to use the Wharf during harvest season. AND there were FERRIES TOO!

1949 – Dick Hansen purchased the Wharf from Elmer Calhoun for $10,000 and renamed it the “Coupeville Wharf & Seed Company”.

1969 – Larger bin capacity was needed, so an extension was put up through the roof called “the dog house”.

1973 – Coupeville (including the Wharf) designated a National Historic District giving protection to older properties within the historic district’s boundaries.

1978 – Coupeville (and the Wharf) became part of the National Park’s Services Ebey’s Landing National Historic Reserve, the first historic district of its kind recognized in the United States of America.

1983 – A new rock bulkhead was installed at the head of the pier.

1985 – The grain tower was removed and the causeway was renovated. The east end remodeled for use as a marine store and delicatessen.

1996 – The Wharf was rehabilitated consistent with historical code standards and historical considerations. A concrete fuel dock was added to the wharf and an underground fuel tank was installed at the landward end of the causeway. Three mooring floats were attached to the Wharf for the use of pleasure boats.

1997 – The Port rebuilds the interior of the west wing and includes a large foyer and two rental areas. Wharf foyer includes educational exhibits.

2000 – The WA State Beach Watchers – now called Sound Water Stewards, assembled “Rosie the Whale” from bones savaged from a 33 foot gray whale and it is displayed in the wharf’s foyer.

2001 – Two moorage floats were added and unused dolphins removed. Four mooring buoys were placed in a line west of the Wharf.

2009 – Fuel Dock breaks away after a battering storm. Dock is retrieved. Dock is replaced.

TODAY – The Wharf is afforded the vital dollars through the to make significant repairs to the under carriage thanks to the efforts of the Port Commissioners, the Port staff, and the Island County Commissioners.

Enjoy this wonderful interview with the late GREAT local historian Roger Sherman about the wharf. Length 23 minutes. WE MISS Roger, but always have his interviews, videos and books to learn and love with.

Find out more about historic Coupeville buildings at our history site.

More overall Coupeville History