Ed Howard Home

619 First Street

Edward (Edwin) Howard arrived in Langley from Nebraska with his family in 1903 and built a store and residence at the N.W. corner of First Street and Anthes Avenue. According to William McGinnis, “Ed Howard was short, bowlegged and tough.” He also was missing a finger on one hand. The Howards made many important contributions to the development of early Langley.

1903. Ed and Clara Howard with their children and others in front of Howard’s Store (Courtesy South Whidbey Historical Society)

In 1908, Ed Howard had two hip-roofed houses barged from Seattle. They were set side by side on First Street with 5 feet between them. The houses were initially raised above the ground using burnt-cedar poles, as was the custom in those days, then put on cement blocks with fir poles at a later date.

Circa 1911. Enlargement from photograph taken from Cascade Avenue (Courtesy Island County Historical Society).

The two buildings were joined together and a gambrel style roof was added above both to create a second story with four bedrooms to accommodate the Howard’s large family.

Circa 1914/15. Looking west from near Cascade Avenue. Ed Howard house with Gambrel roof (Courtesy Island County Historical Society).

1914/1915. Enlargement from photograph taken by William (“Bob”) Hunziker from the water tower at First Street and Saratoga (DeBruyn) Avenue. (Courtesy Douglas McLeod).

Ed took over as postmaster from town founder Jacob Anthes in 1904. Along with his son-in-law Roderick McLeod, he built the hotel, the Howard Hotel on the north side of First Street in 1905/1906. After his store burned, he moved his store and the post office into the Olympic Club in 1912, transforming it into a mercantile, then Howard’s Confectionary managed by his son William (“Bill”) and his wife Vella. Ed was also instrumental in obtaining contracts for brush to be barged from Langley to Seattle and Everett to serve as rip-rap during development of their waterfronts.

Ed was active in Langley affairs throughout his life, couching the High School baseball team, and swerving on the first Town Council in 1913. Clara raised her children and also served as midwife to local women.

Circa 1920. Clara and Ed Howard on front porch of the house (Courtesy Kelley Crouch).

Ed died in 1927. Clara remained in Langley until her death in 1955, taking in occasional borders. Several other key members of the Langley community lived in the house over the years. U.S. Congressman Jack Metcalf’s grandmother, Hattie Reed, lived there in the 1930s. Dick and Mildred Johnson grew up in the house.

The bathroom on the first floor was added onto the house during the early 1930s by enclosing the back porch entrance and making it into a room. It was turned into a “birthing home” in the 1930s before the hospital at Coupeville when new mothers remained in bed after childbirth for seven to 10 days. At that time a very small bathroom was added onto the second floor.

The property was owned by several others until it was purchased by Fred and Marjorie (“Marj”) Dente in 1972. “It was in very bad condition. The roof leaked badly; there were 17 buckets scattered all over.”

1972. North side of Howard house (Courtesy Marj Dente).

1972. Howard house (Courtesy Marj Dente).

Starting in November, 1972, the Dentes began removing the shingles. However, the building inspector, Bart Bartholomew, said the spacing of the shingles was incorrect and wrote a stop work order. Marj Dente signed a waiver accepting responsibility, and finished the roof.

1972. Roof work underway (Courtesy Marj Dente).

The house was repainted in 1973/74, and the front steps were replaced by Fred Dente in 1974.

1975. House repainted (Courtesy Marj Dente).

According to Marj Dente, the building inspector, Bart Bartholomew, told her “the house was known as the ‘Fisherman’s Alibi’. It was not a professional brothel or ‘house of ill repute’, but an Inn. Men too drunk to catch the steamer back to Everett after a night of partying at the Dog House, found their way up the hill to stay at the house in Langley’s early days. They would hold boxing matches at the Dog House and instead of going home, they stayed here.”

In the early 1990s, more bathrooms and a master suite were added. A six-foot claw-footed bathtub that had been in the house since its early days was moved upstairs with great difficulty.

In 1991, a metal roof was added, and the roof on the east side was opened and a balcony constructed over the kitchen.

1991. Windows and balcony under construction (Courtesy Marj Dente).

In 1994, the house was opened as a B&B called “Island Palms”. During the next two decades, new wiring and plumbing were installed and the floors were repaired.

1993. East side of house (Courtesy Marj Dente).

The house was purchased by C.H. and Susanne Paulson in 1999. They, changed the name of the B & B to the “Maine Stay.” The deck above the kitchen was replaced , and the original cedar siding was replaced with wood, in 2007.

The house was placed on the Langley Register of Historic Places in 2015.

2020. 619 First Street (Courtesy Robert Waterman).