Town History


This image graciously provided by Denis Hill.

How Coupeville Grew – an historical essay of the Town of Coupeville.

Early Coupeville Development

In 1881 Coupeville became the Island County seat and began to look like a real town, with an increasing number of homes, stores and churches.  Water routes were the main avenues of transportation until 1900 and their efficiency actually slowed the progress of road development.  “Mosquito Fleet” steamers operated out of Coupeville, running to Bellingham in the 1890s.  The town prospered from shipbuilding and from shipping fish, produce, lumber, and timber.

Thomas A. Cranney (1859-1919) and Lawrence Grennan operated a general store at Coveland as early as 1856. The building became the first Island County courthouse and Grennan and Cranney began to market lumber and timber, operating a mill in Utsalady on Camano Island.

In 1906, Coupeville resident Howard B. Lovejoy (1859-1919) purchased the sternwheeler Fairhaven and began runs between Penn’s Cove and Seattle, stopping at points on South Whidbey Island. By 1911 Lovejoy expanded his ferry service and with his family and partners James Esary and the Byers brothers, founded the Island Transportation Company, adding the steamers Atlanta, Clatawa, Calista, and Camano, and a new run to Port Townsend.  Lovejoy’s company merged with the Sound Ferry Line, becoming the Whidbey Island Transportation Company.

Coupeville Incorporation

By 1900 Coupeville’s population was around 300 but the opening of Fort Casey in 1901 quickly added a floating population of more than 300 men to Central Whidbey and residents began pushing for town incorporation.  Coupeville needed better roads, utilities, dock improvements and city fire and police services.

In February 1910 the Island County Board of Commissioners called for a vote on Coupeville incorporation and town boundaries were accepted according to a filed plat of Coupeville. Thomas and Maria Coupe’s property formed the eastern portion of the town, with John Alexander’s property making up the western portion.

Not all residents were supportive of city incorporation, many expecting the loss of good island farmland and a rise in taxes, but on April 2, 1910,  Coupeville residents voted 41 to 36 in favor of incorporation and approved a roster of candidates.  Charles H. Lyon (b. 1862) was elected as mayor with J. Straub,  A. D. Hallock, Albert R. Kineth, Edward O. Lovejoy, and H. W. Libbey elected to city council.  Articles of Incorporation were filed with Island County commissioners on April 4, 1910, and recorded with the state of Washington on April 13.

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Images on this page graciously provided by Denis Hill.