What To Do at the Coupeville Wharf
Coupeville Wharf History
The most iconic structure in town, the Coupeville Wharf on Penn Cove is a symbol of the seafaring days of old and the rural character that still surrounds it today. Today, the Wharf hosts a boat dock with kayak rentals, small gift shops, and a restaurant.
Before 1905, There were several early wharves at Penn Cove in the latter half of the 1800s that had been built for passenger travel and importing and exporting products between the island and the mainland. The problem with these early wharves was that most could only be used at extreme high tide. Historical records are sketchy, but the following wharfs are known to have existed, including: Robertson’s Wharf, Happy Jack’s, and Pearson Wharf. Activation of Fort Casey in 1901 brought a larger population quickly to Central Whidbey. In 1905, to accommodate the growth, local merchants and farmers built a 500 foot wharf at the foot of Alexander Street to accommodate the growth of population and commerce. This wharf is the current wharf in Coupeville.
Elmer Calhoun purchased the Wharf sometime between 1909 and 1914 (sources differ on this point). After purchasing it he added a grain tower to the “L” shaped building.
The north side of the building included a waiting room and a rest room “a two-holer that flushed with the tide”, for steamboat passengers.
Elmer Calhoun made major repairs to the Wharf building. Pictured right, you can notice the two grain towers on the left of the wharf.
1936 - 1949
The Deception Pass Bridge was completed. Consequently, Island Transportation discontinued steamboat service to Seattle in 1936 as the little steamers were no longer cost effective. The last steamer to run the Whidbey Island route was the ALANTA. Freight boats continued to use the Wharf during harvest season.
In 1949 Dick Hansen purchased the Wharf from Elmer Calhoun for $10,000 and renamed it the “Coupeville Wharf & Seed Company.”
1969 – Larger bin capacity was needed, so an extension was put up through the roof called “the dog house.”
1978 – Ebey’s Landing National Historic Reserve, the first historic district of its kind, is recognized in the U.S. and established through legislation.
1983 – A new rock bulkhead was installed at the head of the pier.
1985 – The grain tower was removed and the causeway was renovated. The east end remodeled for use as a marine store and delicatessen.
1988 – The Wharf became part of the Ebey’s Landing National Historic Reserve.
1996 – The Wharf was rehabilitated consistent with historical code standards and historical considerations. A concrete fuel dock was added to the wharf and an underground fuel tank was installed at the landward end of the causeway. Three mooring floats were attached to the Wharf for the use of pleasure boats.
1997 – The Port rebuilds the interior of the west wing and includes ample space for multiple retailers and a foyer featuring educational displays about the marine and aquatic ecosystem of Penn Cove and its surroundings.
2000 – The WA State Beach Watchers assembled “Rosie the Whale” from bones salvaged from a 33-foot gray whale and it is displayed in the wharf’s foyer.
2001 – Two moorage floats were added, allowing for 400 linear feet of dock moorage.
2012 – QR diagrams added to the Wharf by a 4-H team to enable visitors to find online information about the wharf.
Above: History of the Coupeville Wharf by Island County 4-HD Club
Above: An Interview with Roger Sherman about
the history of Coupeville Wharf, by Island County 4-HD Club