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Historic gothic Libbey house could be history

Local builder Ted Clifton applied for a demolition permit for the historic Joseph Libbey house. - Nathan Whale/Whidbey News-Times
Local builder Ted Clifton applied for a demolition permit for the historic Joseph Libbey house.
— image credit: Nathan Whale/Whidbey News-Times

A crucial piece of Coupeville’s history could be lost if a builder’s plans become a reality.

The town of Coupeville received an application this week for the demolition of the Joseph Libbey House, which is located at 308 North Main St.

The Libbey House was built in 1870 and was home to one of the area’s pioneer families.

“I don’t think it’s right that it should be demolished,” said Lyla Snover, whose dad was born in that house. She grew up in a home next door. “I was really shocked to hear he applied for a demolition permit.”

Whidbey builder Ted Clifton of Clifton View Homes applied for the permit to demolish the historic home. He said the demolition permit was required to start a process he hopes will result in an alternative use or location for the historic building.

“My ultimate goal is to find a place where it really fits and a use that really fits,” Clifton said Friday morning, adding that demolishing the building would be a last resort.

He said the permit will help spark interest in the old building.

“In a way, it’s the easiest and cheapest way to draw attention to it,” Clifton said.

The house was built by John Alexander, Jr. and sold to Joseph Barstow Libbey in 1871. It originally had gothic-style barge boards and finial on the gable end along with decorative brackets on the porch, according to information provided by Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve.

“The Libbey House is an important historic resource to the town of Coupeville and it is irreplaceable,” Reserve Manager Mark Preiss said in an email.

He added the home is one of the only examples of a gothic residence in Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve.

Clifton said the house doesn’t really fit in its current location wedged between two commercial buildings.

He originally wanted to use the building for a commercial use, but found it probably isn’t suited for that. For example, he said the staircase couldn’t be brought up to code, meaning about one-third of the space couldn’t be used.

The town of Coupeville determined that the demolition permit would have a significant adverse impact on the environment. The town is requiring the preparation of an environmental impact statement, which is usually a costly and time-consuming requirement.

Preiss said the Trust Board of Ebey’s Landing supports the town’s “determination of significance” and the necessity of an EIS. He hopes the scoping process will help the town identify issues to be addressed in the impact statement and discover possible alternatives to demolition.

All information related to the demolition permit is available at Town Hall. Written comments can be submitted until 4:30 p.m., Friday, April 17. Comments should be addressed to Town Planner Larry Kwarsick, P.O. Box 725, 4 NE Seventh St., Coupeville, WA, 98239.

A public scoping meeting is scheduled Tuesday, April, 7, 6:30 p.m., in the Commissioners’ Hearing Room at the Island County Annex Building, 1 NE Front St., Coupeville.

Community Events, April 2014

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