German immigrant Jacob Anthes founded Langley in 1891 at the height of western railway expansion and the resulting development mania. Anthes purchased land on a likely spot above Saratoga Passage where steamers had easy access and land contours dictated that roads would intersect. He enlisted the financial backing of Seattle’s Judge J. W. Langley and set about building a town.
Langley boomed while supplying prospectors during the Alaska gold rush. It saw busts as well. One came after the Great Northern Railway changed its terminus to Bellingham, strangling Whidbey’s access to markets. Following World War II, traditional occupations like logging, farming and fishing didn’t compare favorably with tantalizing prospects offered by the G.I. Bill. Business lagged until well into the 1960s when Langley’s dramatic site on Puget Sound and low cost-of-living attracted flower children inspired by civil rights, anti-war, and Age of Aquarius visions. Here was a remote paradise to compose music, plant crops, and reinvent the world. They revived downtown, opening businesses like the Star Store, The Clyde Theatre and Linds Pharmacy.
Langley’s pace is slowed by long conversations at the grocery store check-out line, and no one would dream of honking their car horn except to say hello. Our village-by-the-sea is a place Agatha Christie would be glad to call home.