The Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve was established by Congress in 1978 …”to preserve and protect a rural community which provides an unbroken record from …19th century exploration and settlement in Puget Sound to the present time.”
The reserve was promoted by the residents of the island to protect the area’s unspoiled natural beauty and many historic sites. The vistas, woodlands, and prairies remain the same today as they were 100 years ago when New England sea captains settled Penn Cove and farmers cultivated Ebey’s Prairie.
The reserve is composed of 17,400 acres of the central portion of Whidbey Island including 4,300 acres on Penn Cove. The boundaries follow the original land claims filed by the settlers in the 1850s. The basic patterns of land use remain unchanged since the area was settled in the middle of the 19th century. Commercial and most residential developments are concentrated in Coupeville and the vicinity. The surrounding prairies are devoted to prime farm uses, the ridges to woodland stands, and the upland areas to a patchwork of woodlands and farms.
The reserve is a part of the National Park Service although most of the lands remain in private ownership. The reserve is administered by a Trust Board that includes representatives of federal, state, and local governments working cooperatively to preserve the scenic, natural, and cultural resources of the area. Working the private landowners, the Trust Board has established a series of scenic easements that preserve the character of the land.
Also working with local property owners and governments, the Trust Board has developed a network of local scenic driving, hiking, and biking trails that access important features and vistas. The reserve’s notable attributes include:
Island County Historical Museum – which the Trust Board is a member, is located in downtown Coupeville to exhibit early settlement wardrobes, tools, photos, and other artifacts. The Alexander Blockhouse has been relocated to the front yard of the museum site that also provides shelter for 2 Salish Indian racing canoes.
Ebey’s Prairie Wayside – a viewpoint located 1.3 miles south of Terry Road on Engle Road. The viewpoint provides a panoramic view on one of Whidbey Island’s prairies, naturally-occurring open areas formed on the sites of ancient lakebeds.
Ferry House – the original way-station for travelers arriving at Ebey’s Landing located at the top of the ravine overlooking Ebey’s Landing State Park. The beach and adjacent prairie support unique wildlife in the rain shadow of the Olympic Peninsula that are not found elsewhere in the region.
Sunnyside Cemetery – the original pioneer cemetery donated by Jacob Ebey and named after his farm. The cemetery grounds also include the relocated site of the Davis Blockhouse, a fortification built in 1915 as a defense against possible attacks from the Haida Indians.
New Chicago – a site located on Keystone Spit for a speculative development in the late 1880s. The promoters planned on building a bridge across Deception Pass and extending a railroad line from Skagit Valley to the townsite. The railroad was never built – the remains of a local access road and bridge are visible, however, from the double row of bridge pilings extending across Crockett Lake just north of the spit.
Fort Casey Quartermaster Dock – the remains of the fort’s dock are located just off Keystone Spit. The dock was used to unload supplies while the fort was being constructed.
Fort Casey – the original fortifications were built at the turn of the century to provide a “triangle of fire” across the entrance into Puget Sound in cooperation with Ford Worden on the Olympic Peninsula and Fort Flager on Marrowstone Island. The Coast Artillery Corps troops manning the fort were never engaged and the site became a state park in the 1950s.
Admiralty Head Lighthouse – is located inside Fort Casey State Park overlooking Admiralty Inlet and Bay. The lantern has been removed and the building has been made publicly accessible, The lower level houses an interpretive center that is open on a seasonal basis.
Crockett Blockhouse – is located on Fort Casey Road just north of Crockett Lake. The blockhouse was built by the Crockett family to provide protection from local Indian attacks. The family also build another blockhouse at the opposite end of the lake to protect the Crockett farm holdings.
Kennedy’s Lagoon – the site of popular summer resorts and cottages during the 1920s is located on Penn Cove. The picturesque character of the lagoon and surrounding beach cottages reflect the recreational developments that were established on the island during the Mosquito Fleet steamer era. The Fisher Place, a prominent example of early beach cottage architecture, is located on the lagoon peninsula.
Island County Courthouse/General Store – is located on Madrona Way overlooking Penn Cove. The building was used as the county’s first governmental office until 1880, then as a general store before the town of Coupeville was established.
Grasser’s Hill – is a sloping hillside rising along the western boundary of Penn Cove that is visible from Coupeville. The hill is marked with the hedgerows that were an important cultivation technique in the area’s early settlement period. The hillside is protected by scenic easements that prohibit any structure from imposing on the visual landscape.
San de Fuca Schoolhouse – is located on Libbey Road on a hilltop overlooking Penn Cove. The town of San de Fuca is located at the intersection of Madrona Way and SR-20 at the northwest end of Penn Cove at the site of the original San de Fuca general store.
Monroe’s Landing Salish Villages – were located on the north shore of Penn Cove. A large longhouse was erected on the sandy beach in 1904 to celebrate a potlatch. The site was also frequented by steamships and other craft that composted the early Mosquito Fleet that served early Puget Sound cities.
Power House – built in 1860 by Isaac Power, an early settler, is located at the intersection of Arnold Road and Zylstra Road within the original land claim boundaries. Early stump farmers cleared old growth from portions of these lands. Because the lands were not particularly fertile, the farmers only cleared the most productive areas creating a patchwork of forest and pasture lands.