Endangered Property: Libbey House

On May 26, the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation announced its annual list of Washington State's Most Endangered Historic Places....

EDITOR’S NOTE: On May 26, the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation announced its annual list of Washington State’s Most Endangered Historic Places. The list dates back to 1992, and aims to raise awareness of historic properties that face demolition by redevelopment or neglect. Over the past 17 years, according to the Trust, more than 100 have been nominated by concerned citizens and organizations across the state. The organization also assists historic preservation advocates in developing strategies aimed at removing these threats.

This year’s list includes Curran House (University Place); Alki Homestead Restaurant (Seattle); BF Tabbott House (Bainbridge Island); Bush House (Index); George Carmack House (Seattle); Day Block (Dayton); Old Ellensburg Hospital (Ellensburg); Libbey House (Coupeville); Post-Intelligencer Globe (Seattle); Sand Point Naval Station (Seattle); St. Edward’s Catholic Church (Shelton); Surrey Downs (Bellevue); Vashon Elementary Gymnasium (Vashon Island).

Last month, the Index began publishing a profile of each endangered property, as compiled by the Trust. Here is what the Trust has to say about the Libbey House in Coupeville.

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In many ways the Town of Coupeville and Ebey’s Landing Historic Reserve are a historic preservationist’s paradise. As a participant in the state’s Certified Local Government program, Coupeville promotes preservation through its local register of historic places and encourages property owners to utilize existing preservation incentives. Ebey’s Landing provides a unique model whereby private and municipal entities partner with the National Park Service with the mutual goal of preserving and providing stewardship for a truly spectacular collection of cultural resources encompassing both the natural and the built environment. It seems odd, then, that one of the area’s most significant historic resources is threatened with demolition.

Constructed in 1870, the Libbey House is associated with early Euro-American settlement in the Pacific Northwest. The builder, John Alexander, was a member of the family that co-founded Coupeville. In 1871, just a year after construction, the house was sold to Joseph Libbey, a member of a prominent pioneer family in Central Whidbey Island.

Architecturally, the house as constructed can be classified as Carpenter Gothic as it features gothic inspired bargeboards, finials and bracketing. It is listed as a Class I Historic Structure on the Town of Coupeville’s Historic Register and is also a contributing structure of the Central Whidbey National Register Historic District, located within Ebey’s Landing National Historic Reserve.

Desiring to construct a new, larger house on the site, the current owner filed an application to demolish the historic Libbey House in March 2009. Given the significance of the resource, the Town of Coupeville is requiring that an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) be prepared and has invoked a mandatory two-year waiting period required whenever demolition is proposed for a Class I historic structure. Despite this, the concern is that the owners will continue on the path towards demolition.

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For more information on the Trust, visit http://www.wa-trust.org .

For earlier Index coverage of the Trust, click on the following links:

1. In an old hilltop mansion, a strong voice for preservation (04/14/09) — http://www.tacomadailyindex.com/portals-code/list.cgi?paper=88&cat=23&id=1528102&more=0 or http://www.wahmee.com/tdi_wa_trust.pdf .

2. Long list of concerns for Washington State preservationists (05/29/08) — http://www.tacomadailyindex.com/portals-code/list.cgi?paper=88&cat=23&id=1228444&more=0 or http://www.wahmee.com/tdi_jennifer_meisner_qa.pdf .

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The Index has a blog. Visit us at http://i.feedtacoma.com/TDI-Reporters-Notebook/

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