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Winter weather claims Whidbey landmark

Engle Road resident Rod Barnes surveys the damage to the small blockhouse that has decorated his driveway for nearly 30 years. The curious structure, which tourists often mistake for a historic building, was destroyed in a recent windstorm.   - Justin Burnett/Whidbey News-Times
Engle Road resident Rod Barnes surveys the damage to the small blockhouse that has decorated his driveway for nearly 30 years. The curious structure, which tourists often mistake for a historic building, was destroyed in a recent windstorm.
— image credit: Justin Burnett/Whidbey News-Times

An old and not-so-historic wooden structure on Engle Road that some consider a Central Whidbey landmark has become one of this winter’s first victims.

The five-foot wide by six-foot tall wooden blockhouse, which has decorated the driveway to Rod Barnes’ home overlooking the Keystone Harbor for nearly 30 years, succumbed to a windstorm in late November.

“It didn’t just fall over, it exploded,” Barnes said.

While the structure’s exact age isn’t known, Barnes got the old blockhouse from a Coupeville man in the early 1980s. The man has since moved away and Barnes couldn’t remember his name, but the man told him that he’d made it about 10 years prior as part of parade float.

Barnes got a hold of it mainly by chance. The man was trying to get rid of the curious structure but was having trouble finding any takers. He eventually called the Coupeville Lions Club, and as the member who answered the phone, Barnes volunteered to take it off his hands.

The little building has adorned his driveway ever since and become something of a landmark, he said. It’s way too small to be an actual blockhouse – Central Whidbey has four real historic blockhouses – but tourists none-the-less mistake it for the real thing.

“People stop and take pictures of it,” Barnes laughed.

Rick Castellano, director of the Island County Historical Society’s museum in Coupeville, said there is thought to have been between 12 and 14 blockhouses in Central Whidbey during the 1850s. They were constructed as a defensive measure for an “Indian war” that never came. He confirmed that Barnes’ blockhouse is not one of them.

“It’s pretty cool though,” Castellano said. “I’ve always wondered about it.”

According to Barnes, the building’s roof has been damaged several times over the years after rough winters. The damage has never been this severe, however, and may be a foretelling of a particularly rough season ahead.

“I think we’re in for it this winter,” he said.

Barnes said he’s grown attached to the building over the decades and, weather permitting, he plans to rebuild it with his son this weekend.

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