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Our Century

Our Century
A look back at Anacortes’ last 100 years from the pages of the Anacortes American

1920-1929: Boom before the bust

With jobs secured, attention turns to construction, parks, tourism, culture

American staff writer

The 1920s opened in Anacortes reading like the previous decade, with headlines touting the unbridled processing of seemingly unlimited resources.

A purse seiner in Rosario Strait took 1,000 sockeye in one day in 1922. In that same year, Anacortes, now importing and processing British Columbia logs, was called the "greatest log distributing point in America." Processed here were 103 million feet of lumber.

But as the decade wore on, the natural resources and their markets began to wear just a little thinner, and the news of housing and retail construction, park development, increasing tourism and social activities began to take up more space on the front pages of the Anacortes American.

In one conservation move, the City obtained timberland stretching south to Lake Erie. "So it appears the city will be able to preserve for all time to come a considerable tract of virgin timber," one American story reported. Causland Memorial Park, Cap Sante Summit and Washington Park, as well as the new Deception Pass State Park, gave area residents a green place on which to rest their eyes and stretch their legs.

Photographer Ferd Brady established his studio in 1926 in Anacortes
An auto ferry from Sidney, British Columbia, to Anacortes was inaugurated in the 1920s. The newspaper reported that the three-hour run from Anacortes would carry cars on a daily 60-mile round trip leaving from the foot of Q Avenue. The cost was to be $42 for car, driver and four passengers.

San Juan Islanders wanted in on the action, with a stop in Friday Harbor. The first run of the Anacortes to Sidney ferry was in April 1922 and 175 made the round trip, which included lunch at the Empress Hotel in Victoria. The ferry run was so successful, bigger boats were needed and the spring-to-fall season grew increasingly busy and popular.

Early in the decade, area lakes were still the source of the city water supply, but '20s closed with a new city water system being developed at Avon on the Skagit River. The change was needed because of the lack of rainfall, continued city growth and the increased use of the lake system for recreation.

In other health-related news, an infestation of European earwigs was discovered in Anacortes on Sixth Street and the city set out with a plan of eradication of the non-native insects. After earwigs were found in six city blocks, Boy Scouts were enlisted to survey the entire city. Having arrived in Seattle in 1917 with a shipment of flower bulbs from Holland, the pesky bug evidently spread rapidly.

The major tragedy of the decade occurred when the Gilkey Bros. tug Bahada sank while towing a raft of logs through Huckleberry Pass alongside Guemes Island on Nov. 21, 1926. Possibly the result of a boiler explosion or the boat's rumored instability, the tragedy meant the loss of a crew of nine. The only body recovered was that of 17-year-old Bill Hansen of Anacortes, discovered by two Anacortes boys beachcombing along the Guemes Channel.

Going down with the tugboat to their 250-foot watery graves were Capt. George Hansen, James Hird, William Hansen, Charles Craig and John Knake, all of Anacortes, George Northrup of Ketchikan and Sam Brannion of Bellingham.

The Port of Anacortes was formed in 1927 to oversee the land and terminal docks at the foot of Commercial Avenue, the Cap Sante Waterway inner harbor, and the uplands and waterfront at Ship Harbor. The purpose of the port district was future economic development.

Perhaps hoping it would simply go away, the Oct. 31, 1929, edition of the Anacortes American made no mention of the infamous Black Thursday Stock market crash and offered no hints at the coming problems of the 1930s.



  • Wagner Bros. Dairy offers 10 quarts of milk delivered for $1. Men's ties are 98 cents each.


  • rough laundry washed for 8 cents a pound
  • How to make dinner for six for $2:
  • salmon au gratin, cream of asparagus soup, grapefruit salad, spinach, potatoes, rolls, peach delight topped off with demi tasse.



Prohibition is in full force.

An earthquake early on Jan. 29 sends Anacortes residents to the streets in scant attire.

At the New Wilson Hotel, tenants said the building swayed six inches.

"Finis" written in the construction of woodships in Anacortes. School district population is 1,595.

Wages go up six cents an hour at mills. Census count reveals that Anacortes has a population of 5,284, still ahead of Mount Vernon at 3,341.

Patience Priscilla Collins of Anacortes moves to California to work as an actress for Goldwyn Moving Picture Co. Train service to Seattle improves.


Crab industry is growing as is the canning of local fruit.

Civic league charges City Council does its work in committee instead of in public.

Wooden sidewalks need to be replaced.

Cranberry Lake dam breaks and huge body of water crashes down the hills to the beach.

Wage disputes continue at lumber mills.

Arcata federal revenue boat (and later the Coast Guard) regularly stops booze boats to confiscate Canadian alcohol. One summer day, Boy Scouts witness the Arcata capture a fleeing booze boat and cheer from the beach.

Floods on the Skagit flats leave Anacortes without rail service.


Doctors in the city join together to take over Anacortes Hospital. Business community urges city to go ahead with the dredging and construction of what is called the Cap Sante Waterway, which will be 33,400 feet long, 12 feet deep, 25 feet wide from T Avenue to the deep water.

Deception Pass State Park is established and dedicated on July 20. Paving in the city continues.

An auto ferry from Sidney, British Columbia, to Anacortes is planned.

Clean Up Week is annual big event run by the Women's Improvement Club, which later in the year helps purchase for $2,500 Green Point for the city's Washington Park.

A man unhappy with his divorce settlement tries to gun down Judge George Joiner.

Anacortes High School graduates 34 in 1922. Tourism is big.

On one Sunday in June 400 autos cross Deception Pass on the ferry. Anacortes prepares to entertain convention of 10,000 Elks.

The remodeled Elks lodge is finished in August at Sixth and Q (later to become City Hall.) Rotary Club forms. Dr. S.G. Brooks elected mayor.


There's not a vacant house in town and 30 new residences were recently built at a cost of $52,000.

The E. K. Wood Mill cuts 200,000 feet of lumber in one eight-hour shift.

 Consolidated Paper Co. pulp mill opens.

A gravel road from Oakes to Burrows Bay and Sunset Beach opens.

Old Columbian School holds both junior and senior high schools.

Five canneries packed 225,000 cases worth $1.5 million.

City proud of its parks -- Washington and Cap Sante summit.

Ferry to Sidney is very successful and attracts thousands of visitors. Puget Sound Navigation plans further development of ferry runs into the San Juan Islands.


Anacortes is 35 years old and beginning to suffer a slight downturn in lumber industry market. But E.K. Wood Mill still employs 150 men. Pacific Highway is extended with a spur into the city.

Forty new homes are built with an average cost of $3,000 each.

The new pulp mill turns out 20 tons of pulp daily and uses scrap from box factories.

Puget Sound Power and Light runs a transmission line from Burlington providing "an unlimited supply of electric power."

Mill companies contribute to the purchase of a new pumper for city fire department Salmon cannery production is down.


Reclamation of Padilla Bay is proposed with 10,00 acres of submerged tideland to be diked, drained and filled.

Modern street lights are installed. Tourism promoted.

Auto ferry traffic gains 15 percent. Capacity crowds travel to Sidney on July 9.

177 million board feet of lumber cut. Shipments go to California, the Atlantic coast, South American and Japan.

Codfish schooners Alice and Wawona bring in 367,000 codfish to town form Bering Sea.

Library has circulation of 27,000 books.

W.T. Morrison house at 34th and Commercial (now the Nantucket Inn) is completed in October.


Building is booming. The new Bank of Commerce at Fifth and Commercial, an annex to New Wilson Hotel and new stage depot, Congregational Church at 28th and Commercial, new Whitney School, Van Buren Building at Ninth and Commercial are just some of the projects.

A 12-foot wide, 75-pound devil fish (skate) is found in a fishing net.

 Three ferries operate during season on Anacortes to Sidney run.

School census is 1,954, with 48 graduating.

Goldenseal and ginseng crop, primarily from a farm on 33rd, nets a crop worth $12,000.

E.K. Wood mill ships 2.5 million feet of lumber in one week.

The Gilkey Bros. Tug Bahada sinks Nov. 21 near Guemes, taking seven lives


The Port of Anacortes is formed.

Tuberculosis cases number 146 in the county.

Seahawks debate team wins district title and basketball team wins county basketball championship.

Gilkey Bros. sell $200,000 worth of boats. Codfish schooner Alice, a fixture in Anacortes for many years, is sold to a movie studio in California.

Capt. F.V. Hogan, Anacortes' first mayor, dies at age 90.


The Rose Theater burns, resulting in a loss of $6,000.

J.C. Penney building opens at Sixth and Commercial.

Northern Canneries process Skagit valley fruit, berries and vegetables, including cabbage, and sauerkraut juice is lauded as a "healthful morning-after beverage."

Betty Lowman, 14, swims the Guemes Channel.

Airport opens and an Anacortes couple celebrate by being married in the air.

First edition of the high school newspaper, the SeaHawk, goes to press.

Fund-raising effort begins for new hospital.


Business still booming. Codfish processed in three plants that handle 1,106 tons of fish from three vessels sent to Alaska. Salmon canneries pack 300,000 cases worth $2 million.

Nine timber-related mills employ more than 1,000 and produce 170 million feet of lumber, boxes, shingles and slabs for pulp.

Poultry farms number 150 on Fidalgo and Guemes producing 6 million eggs in 1929.

More than 500 400-pound barrels of sugar-packed fresh strawberries are marketed out of Anacortes.

The Deception Pass bridge is in the planning stages as is the new city water system being developed at Avon on the Skagit River.

Anacopper Copper Co. builds 40-foot mine shaft.

"Modern" hospital to open at a cost of $25,000 between Ninth and 10th and M and N streets.

Cargo from Anacortes is shipped to South America, Mexico, Alaska, Italy, Hawaii.

© 2000 Skagit Valley Publishing Co.
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