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.

Talk to us

More in Local News

The Everett Police Department was investigating a woman's death Sunday morning after a driver hit and killed her on Broadway in north Everett. (Everett Police Department)
Woman killed by suspected impaired driver in Everett

A driver reportedly hit the person, which prompted the closure of Broadway between 17th and 19th streets Sunday morning.

Charges: North Everett murder suspect caught on camera

Jeremiah Stringfellow, 27, is being held on first-degree murder charges for the fatal shooting of Naej Belledent, 22.

Police: Snohomish man fled to Oregon after Arlington shooting

The wounded man, 30, was left in critical condition. The suspect, 39, was arrested for investigation of first-degree assault.

A snow plow clears snow off of 92nd Avenue West on Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2022, in Edmonds, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Another dusting, with more snow on the way in Snohomish County?

Light snow showers hit the area Friday morning. Another system was coming in the evening. And yet another next week.

Pedestrian killed in hit-and-run collision on Highway 99

Glenn Starks was walking on the shoulder south of Everett when a car struck him, police say. The car’s driver ran away from the scene.

Monroe High School (Monroe School District)
‘Set for the next four years’: Monroe schools levy officially passes

The levy funds 14% of the district’s budget including athletics, extracurricular activities and some transportation services.

The Washington State Patrol was investigating a fatal crash involving multiple vehicles Thursday on Highway 530 near Oso. (Washington State Patrol)
Darrington man identified in fatal 4-vehicle crash on Highway 530

Ryan Gray was driving east of Arlington when he rear-ended a Jeep, according to the Washington State Patrol.

Lisa Lefeber, CEO of the Port of Everett, speaks to a crowd while in front of a sign celebrating the opening of the new Norton Terminal on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2022, at the Port of Everett in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Port of Everett christens new Norton cargo terminal

The $40 million terminal took two years to complete and doubles the port’s storage capacity.

Snow lingered outside the office building of Receivables Performance Management on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2022, in Lynnwood, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Lynnwood data breach exposed sensitive info for 3.7 million across US

Lawsuits allege lax security at a debt collection agency led to the attack. It wasn’t announced for over a year.

Most Read