Splitting up the twin red structures rattled some local rabbits that decided to protest by munching away in the direct path of the flatbed moving truck. (Photo by Patricia Guthrie/Whidbey News Group)

Splitting up the twin red structures rattled some local rabbits that decided to protest by munching away in the direct path of the flatbed moving truck. (Photo by Patricia Guthrie/Whidbey News Group)

Historic Whidbey telephone building rolls back into downtown

Whidbey Telecom plans to renovate it into a history museum about communications and connections.

Langley’s “Little Red Building” took another road trip Tuesday, maybe for the last time.

The building’s former — and current — owner, Whidbey Telecom Co., orchestrated a slow roll down Second Street with the house moving specialists, Nickel Bros. of Marysville.

The narrow, 16-foot-by-30-foot structure had been the original office for the Whidby Telephone Company that bought it for $600 in 1923. For years, it served as switchboard “CENTRAL” downtown and connected South Whidbey residents to the rest of the world.

It’s believed to have been built in 1913. A second half was added on in the late 1960s or early 1970s for additional space. Numerous businesses came and went, including a barber shop, real estate office, bank and photography studio, according to the company.

Whidbey Telecom plans to renovate it and refurbish it into a history museum about communications and connections.

“The goal is to bring it close to what it looked like in the 1950s,” said George Henny, co-CEO of Whidbey Telecom. “We’ll have a switchboard and booth for people to make phone calls.”

Henny said it’s been a longtime dream of his mother, Marion, to establish a museum to honor the pioneering spirit of her late husband, David Henny, who transformed a small independent telephone company into a leading-edge telecommunications business.

McClure Custom Homes will be tackling the repairs and renovation.

Only the original Little Red Building was moved. Its younger twin remains at the corner of Third Street and DeBruyn Avenue, where they both sat on blocks for 12 years.

That half could be towed away to become a tiny house, artist’s studio or garden shed, Henny said, depending on who follows through on plans to buy it and move it.

As a work crew carefully separated the buildings Tuesday morning, a few of Langley’s notorious not-so-wild rabbits bounded up from burrows below.

Amid bursting tree blossoms and under a glaring but welcome sun, the 30,000-pound structure was forklifted up and slid onto a flatbed truck. As it moved ever so slowly down Second Street, workers with long poles pushed up electrical wires so they wouldn’t hit the precious cargo.

Resembling a high-riding caboose, the quirky red rolling wooden relic quickly attracted a parade of onlookers.

“They are going to find so many layers of wallpaper in there from all the different businesses,” said Bob Waterman, Langley’s longtime historian.

Blue and white banners proclaiming “History Is On The Move! Future home of Whidbey Telecom History Museum” were placed around its peeling paint.

The real challenge began when the crew had to ever so carefully back the long building into a silver of a space between the South Whidbey History Museum and Whidbey Telecom’s Big Gig Center.

Many observed from the park across the street, including Marion Henny who watched in awe as her dream unfolded before her eyes.

“I started to believe it might really happen about a year-and-a-half ago,” said Henny, seated in a park chair taking photos with her phone.

The 1913 building was once painted white and located next to what is now the Rob Schouten Gallery on Anthes Avenue.

The original building, along with its look-a-like, were then painted bright barn red when they were hauled to a new location across from Island County Fairgrounds.

Then when a new fire station and Island Transit Park and Ride were set to be built on that site, the buildings rolled out again, this time uphill across from a playground.

“I can’t believe it’s finally here,” Marion Henny, 88, said as she watched the old building settle into its new space. “It’s back where it belongs.”

This story originally appeared in the South Whidbey Record, a sibling paper to the Herald.

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