Anacortes (population 14,577) is located on Fidalgo Island on Washington’s northeast coast. Originally home to the Samish and Swinomish Indian tribes, the island was discovered by European explorers in the 1790s. American settlers came to the island in the 1860s, and Anacortes was established in 1877.
In 1890, a rumor that Anacortes would become a railroad terminus fueled a boom in development, which was followed by an economic depression when such speculation proved groundless. The city recovered during the coming decades, with fish processing and lumber milling the principal industries. In the late 20th century, the economy shifted again, with increasing focus on technology-based industries, tourism, and the arts.
The city-owned Anacortes Museum, housed in the historic Carnegie Library (1909), interprets the history of Fidalgo Island and nearby Guemes Island. A notable feature of the museum’s collection is the W.T. Preston(1939), a National Historic Landmark snagboat.
The recent rehabilitation of the Wilson Hotel (1890/1930) was a major adaptive use project in the historic downtown. The $5.5 million project included conversion of upper stories to low-income apartments, with retail space on the first floor. This has resulted not only in much needed low-income housing, but has also has helped spark economic growth and other preservation activities.
Destination Downtown Anacortes, a division of the Anacortes Chamber of Commerce, is working to promote the historic downtown and encourage heritage tourism. A walking tour developed by the Anacortes Historic Preservation Commission and the Anacortes Museum Foundation helps visitors explore the community’s heritage assets.
Designated a Preserve America Community in July 2006.