The ICHS museum celebrates over 150 years of Island County history, and houses over 19,000 objects, photographs and materials in its Collections and Archives. One of their permanent exhibits details the shaping and development of Island County from the Ice Age to the mid twentieth century. At ICHS’s museum you’ll have the opportunity to learn about Geology, Native Americans of the Pacific Northwest, Northwest and Whidbey Maritime History, Sea Captains, the Pioneer Settlers of the 1850’s, and the extensive military history of the area.
The Island County Historical Society was established in 1949 as part of an effort to save the Lovejoy Victorian Courthouse, located on Whidbey Island in Coupeville. The intent was to use the Lovejoy Courthouse as a museum for the purpose of housing, preserving and sharing the history of Island County. In spite of those efforts, the courthouse, built by Howard B. Lovejoy in 1891, was declared unsafe and demolished.
Once the ICHS regrouped, after the Lovejoy disappointment, it took 14 years to establish the funds and support for an actual museum. Opening the doors of it’s first museum in 1963, in a building donated by the General Telephone Company, located on the corners of Coveland and Main Streets, the museum operated and maintained itself for approximately five years with volunteer money, time and labor.
In 1968 the ICHS museum moved into the Coupeville Fire Hall, through the generosity of the town of Coupeville. From ’68 to ’71, patrons and volunteers of the ICHS museum remodeled the building, benefiting from the much larger space, with an upstairs used for storage and work space. Opening its doors in 1971, the museum was open until 1991, offering the public the chance to explore, visit and inspect the archives, artifacts and history of Whidbey and Camano islands.
Through that 20 years, volunteers and patrons launched a campaign to build an even bigger museum. A dream that was realized when the museum purchased the site across the street, that originally housed Mother Fay’s Hotel back in the 1870’s. Also known as the State Hotel, The Pioneer, The Starwana and finally the Blockhouse Inn, the building had burned in 1968 and left an opening for ICHS to expand. Through contributions, donations, grants and many volunteer hours, the land was purchased in 1986 and construction began on the museum you see standing today.
Open to the public, with exhibitions, book store, archives (by appointment), veranda and native gardens, the ICHS has preserved the blockhouse, the permanent long boat exhibits for your enjoyment. ICHS’s director, staff and volunteers are committed to providing you with all much or as little direction as you may need on your visit.