local history resources

Local Newspapers:

The Islander [1891-1898] and The San Juan Islander [1898 - 1914]

Early editions of The Islander and The San Juan Islander are provided by Chronicling America. Chronicling America is a Website providing access to information about historic newspapers and select digitized newspaper pages, and is produced by the National Digital Newspaper Program, a partnership between the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the Library of Congress (LC). It is a long-term effort to develop an Internet-based, searchable database of U.S. newspapers with descriptive information and select digitization of historic pages.

Washington Rural Heritage

Washington Rural Heritage is a collection of historic materials documenting the early culture, industry, and community life of Washington State. The collection is an ongoing project of small, rural libraries and partnering cultural institutions, guided by an initiative of the Washington State Library.

Visit the Orcas Island Heritage page here.

Historic Barns of the San Juan Islands

The Historic Barns of the San Juan Islands are a visual testimony to the rich history of island farming. Some of the largest structures in the islands, they literally stand out in the landscape. They are treasured by local residents and visitors alike as monuments to the distinctive cultural landscape of the islands. San Juan County barns are a varied lot. In age, the earliest examples date from the mid-1860s, some of the oldest surviving barns in Washington State; on the other end of the spectrum, barns are still being built. The historic barns of the San Juan Islands also vary considerably in regard to size, shape, plan, and function. While most were built as to store hay and house livestock, usually cattle, horses or sheep, barns were also used for poultry, fruit storage, and grain. This site will provide you with information about these barns and their island context.

Orcas Island Historical Museum

The Orcas Island Historical Museum is unique in being the only object-based, interpretive heritage facility for the island, with a permanent collection comprised of approximately 6000 objects, paper documents and photographs.

The Orcas Island Historical Society’s first museum consisted of artifacts displayed on the front porch of a pioneer family’s home. Property for a permanent museum site was eventually obtained in the village of Eastsound, a location the facility continues to occupy today.

In the 1950s and 1960s, various island families donated six original homestead cabins built during the 1870s and the 1890s to the Society. Volunteers disassembled the structures at their original sites, then moved, reconstructed and linked the structures together to create the main museum facility. These cabins are now over a hundred years old, and not only house the collections, but are considered important historical artifacts in themselves. Each cabin serves as a space for interpreting specific aspects of island history as told through the life stories and material culture of the Native American and early European-American settlers of this area.