Anacortes incorporates on May 19, 1891.

  • By Phil Carter
  • Posted 9/29/2011
  • Essay 9872
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On May 19, 1891, Anacortes, located on the northern end of Fidalgo Island in Skagit County, incorporates. The new town occupies a deep draft harbor adjacent to extensive forest lands.  Growing from a small settlement at the beginning of 1890, Anacortes experienced a dramatic eight-month-long boom before a crippling bust hit that August. After many of the newcomers leave town the remaining residents decide to apply for incorporation, which is granted on May 19, 1891. The town will be built on fishing, fish canning and curing, and logging until extractive industries began to decline by the mid-twentieth century. Thereafter, Anacortes will become an oil refining center and a growing hub for tourism and residential housing.

Managing the Bust

As town residents awaited the results of their bid for incorporation, they held a municipal election in the spring to determine their new leaders. Captain Frank P. Hogan was chosen as mayor. When the telegram announcing the success of the incorporation petition reached Anacortes, the editor of the Anacortes American wildly rejoiced that despite his dignity "we can hardly resist the temptation of standing out beneath the stars and yelling out like a mad enthusiast over the joy tugging at out heart strings."

The coming of incorporation revived the editor's high ambitions for the community and revealed a city stalled and half-finished:

"Every resident has recognized for months that incorporation was synonymous with a multitude of improvements and the loosening of the local money market. Streets have needed grading, building enterprises have been in a measure checked by the uncertainty of our position, and a host of other objections existed which could only be remedied by the formation of a municipal government. This is at last our possession, and the fair King City no longer fears a rival on the Sound" (American).

High hopes indeed for a town with no capital, a multitude of empty dwellings, and a defunct urban railway. But at least it now had municipal leaders, led by mayor-elect Hogan. The election held while waiting for confirmation of incorporation was invalidated due to an unknown number of votes cast by non-residents but a second, valid election later in the year produced the same results.

The town council went to work organizing maintenance of the water works that had been rapidly constructed during the rush of the previous year's activity. The council also attended to the numerous details of street maintenance, sewage, and public buildings. Over the next 10 years, Anacortes successfully built a community around lumber mills, fishing, and fish canning.

Sources: Chechacos All: The Pioneering of Skagit, ed. by Margaret Willis (Mount Vernon: Skagit County Historical Society, 1973) 138-141; Anacortes American, May 19, 1891, p. 1.

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