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723 Camano Avenue

South Whidbey Community Center (School)

2017: South Whidbey Community Center

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2018. South Whidbey Community Center sign (Courtesy Robert Waterman).

The South Whidbey Community Center occupies the buildings that formerly housed the Langley Middle School.

The first schools in Langley, however, were not located on the Camano Avenue campus.

1899 - 1915: Early Langley Schools

According to town founder, Jacob Anthes, "there were about fifteen children of school age by 1899." One of these pupils was Anthes' daughter Mabel.

According to Walter Hunziker, Jr, the first school was "about 18 by 20 feet, built of 1 x 12 inch rough boards, about half way between Langley and Sandy Point about 1 mile south on the Decker road on a skid road."

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"The schoolroom was small with but two tiny windows. The deep forest growth shut out the light so that on cloudy days school had to be dismissed." School sessions lasted three or four months at most during the spring and summer when travel was easiest.

When the number of children increased, the school was moved to a "log building with a single room referred to as the Charlie Luxton place, on the bluff with a path leading to the beach. (Mabel Anthes Gabel, "My First Days at Langley" In: Cherry, vol. III).

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Circa 1900. Log schoolhouse on the bluff (Courtesy Bill Hunziker).

It soon became clear that a new school was needed. On September 10, 1900, James W. Langley as president of the Langley Land and Improvement Company, donated Lots 1, 2, 23 and 24 of Block 9 for a school that opened December 7, 1900.


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Circa 1908. School at Park Avenue and Third Street (Courtesy Museum of History and Industry).

According to Mabel Anthes, "The district did not do all the work or furnish all the necessary equipment for building the first school building, so the community pitched in." Before the building was completed, "the community planned a basket social, the proceeds of which would go for the purchase of a bell. The basket bringing the highest bid belonged to Miss (Eleanor) Maud Hunziker who was a very popular clerk in the Anthes Store."

"The school consisted of one large room with a rostrum where the teacher sat behind a little table stacked with books. There were two anterooms in the back of each side of the door, one for the boys and the other for the girls. There was a stove at the end of a wide aile which we had to go around when we went to the long recitation bench in front of the room. Another long bench held the water bucket with its long-handled tin dipper and its companion, the ever grimy-looking wash basin."

"A large blackboard covered the front of the room. On either side were small blackboards; one recorded the names of those having to stay after school and the other showed the names of honor roll students."

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Circa 1901. Class picture on front porch of the new school (Courtesy South Whidbey Historical Society).

A few years later, on July 15, 1907, Jacob Anthes donated Lots 3 and 22 of Block 9 to School District No. 12 for a second building "to accommodate the lower grades."

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1908: Henrietta Kraber's eighth grade class (Courtesy South Whidbey Historical Society).

By 1910 the population and road system had developed enough that seven districts (#8, 11, 12, 13, 16, 19 and 20) were consolidated into a single district (#202) based in Langley.

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1914. Looking East from water tower at the corner of Saratoga (DeBruyn) Avenue and First Street (Courtesy Bonnie Peters).

Local education focused initially on grades one through eight. Students wanting a high school education initially had to go off Island. In 1911, a makeshift High School was held in two rooms of a two-story house owned by the Vroman family located on the corner of Second Street and Anthes Avenue, now the site of Langley Park.

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Circa 1906. Looking west from First Street. (Courtesy Island County Historical Society).

The first teacher was Olga Reynolds, who taught grades eight through in 1911. Grade twelve was added the following year.

In 1914, the district purchased five acres along Camano Avenue and constructed a substantial two-story wood frame school in 1915.

1915: New school built on Camano Avenue


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Circa 1916. New school on Camano Avenue (Courtesy South Whidbey Historical Society).

The new School was a combination high school and grade school building. Grades one to six, a laboratory and the lunchroom were on the lower level, the upper grades and offices on the second floor. The first classes in the new building were conducted in January, 1916.

In 1920 the Langley High School was accredited by the State Board of Education, and the first graduating class consisted of one student, William McGinnis. Graduation exercises were held in the old Friends Church on First Street.

A wooden gymnasium built behind the school in 1920 also served as a venue for exhibits at the Island County Fair for several years.


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1927. Gymnasium (left) housed Island County Fair exhibits (Courtesy South Whidbey Historical Society).

An annex was later added to the west side of the school to create more space.

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1930s. Annex (left) on the west side of the school (Courtesy South Whidbey Historical Society).

High school enrollment increased during the 1920s leading to larger class sizes. The state high school inspector placed it on the unaccredited list in 1933, and a new high school building was needed. Several communities vied for the new school, but Langley was chosen as the location.

Additional land a little north of the 1915 building was donated by Jeff W. Lyston in 1934, and construction of a new high school began in January, 1935.

1935: New High School

The building was not quite ready for the start of the 1935-'36 school year so classes were held in the Pole building on the adjacent Fairgrounds until the new high school was ready in January 1936.

There were four classrooms on the ground floor. The upper floor consisted of a 160-seat auditorium, a library, classroom and laboratory.

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1937. New High School (Courtesy South Whidbey Historical Society).

The 1915 building served grades one through eight.

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1937. New high school (right) and wooden school (left) (Courtesy South Whidbey Historical Society).

By 1940, with the continuing consolidation of South Whidbey Schools, a larger Grade School was needed. The old wooden 1915 building was demolished and replaced by a brick Elementary School building that opened October, 1941.

1941: New Elementary School building


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1950. West side of school campus with new Elementary School building (arrow) (Courtesy South Whidbey Historical Society)

During construction grades one through three met in the annex, grades 4 and 5 met in a cottage on the grounds and grades 6 through 8 met in the Pole Building at the adjacent fairgrounds. Once complete, all the small elementary schools scattered throughout the area were consolidated into the new Langley building.

Athletic facilities also increased. A new gymnasium with a cafeteria on the ground floor built in the fall of 1949 replaced the old gym that burned in October,1943. Soldiers from Fort Casey were studying radar in the pole building at the fairgrounds during the day and slept and showered in the gymnasium in the evening. An oil stove may have overheated and the building burned to the ground.

The campus evolved significantly during the 1950s. The 1941 classroom building was expanded twice. A wing was added to the original building in 1951 (left) and a second wing in 1958. A kitchen was added in 1952.

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Circa 1951. Rendering of proposed addition (left) (Courtesy South Whidbey School District).

The Spencer Building, with special purpose spaces such as a woodshop and home economics rooms, was added in 1954.

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1956/1957. Addition to elementary school under construction (Courtesy South Whidbey Historical Society)

A separate auditorium building was constructed in 1960. and a second gym (known as the Cooler Building) added in 1962.

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1961. School campus Courtesy South Whidbey Historical Society).

As the number of school-age children increased, new schools were constructed and grades moved. A new elementary (primary) school was constructed on Maxwelton Road in 1965 to accommodate the lower grades, and the Langley campus buildings became the Middle School (Junior High School) for grades 5-8. When an Intermediate School was built on Maxwelton Road in 1988, the Langley Middle School housed grades 6-8.

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1973. School campus (Courtesy Langley "Falcon").

When a new High School was built on Maxwelton Road in 1881, the entire Langley campus became the Middle School.

The upper level of the former High School building was converted to serve as the middle school library. A portion of the lower level was used for a time as the South Whidbey Historical Society museum and offices.

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1983. Entrance to the South Whidbey Historical Society Museum (Courtesy South Whidbey Record).

The entire building was reclaimed by the middle school for a library/computer center, classrooms, office and lounge spaces, and the Museum moved to new quarters on Second Street.

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2018. School campus buildings and dates of construction (Goggle Earth).

As the school census declined during the 1990s and into the Twenty First Century, the School District began leasing space to community organizations.

Island Dance occupied the former High School building in September, 2012.

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2018. Island Dance in the former High School Building (Courtesy Robert Waterman).

The Whidbey Children's Theater moved into the Langley Middle School auditorium and classrooms in June 2013.

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2018. Entrance to Whidbey Children's Theater (Courtesy Robert Waterman).

2017: South Whidbey Community Center

In 2017, the school board decided to move all the middle school students from Langley to the high school complex on Maxwelton Road, and the Langley Middle School closed.

The administration then began leasing space in the vacated buildings and classrooms creating the South Whidbey Community Center that brought new life to these historic buildings.

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2018. South Whidbey Community Center map (Courtesy South Whidbey Community Center).

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2018. South Whidbey Community Center sign (Courtesy Robert Waterman).