Musical retreat

Crawford House reopens after restoration

Originally built to emulate a European country inn, the South Whidbey guest lodging known as Crawford House is entering a new phase under the guiding ownership of music teacher Lara Allan.

Allan, her husband John and family and friends have spent the last year getting the house and gardens back into condition for full re-opening. Crawford House is on the east side of Langley Road, at the intersection of Maxwelton Road. Describing the project as “very ambitious,” Allan said she’s still piecing together the full history of the property.

The house is informally named for Robert Ellis Crawford of St. Louis. He became recognized for his support of arts and music through his personal foundation.

Getting ready to re-open involved restoration and cleaning, but no major reconstruction. Because of Allan’s family musical background, there was a poignant moment when her father found a violin stashed in the crawl space. She lost her violin when it was sold in her childhood, and her sister, a Seattle Celtic fiddler, died 10 years ago. Allan cleaned and tuned the violin, keeping it as a memento of her experiences. Her father also found and kept a set of golf clubs.

Unlike a typical short stay bed-and-breakfast, Allan intends to make the property available for event activities, such as musical performances, yoga retreats, family and business gatherings and educational functions.

“I’ve encountered many people who visited or performed at the property who say it has a good feeling,” Allan said. “Since moving to Whidbey from Seattle, I’ve found many talented people in the Langley area and we see an opportunity to expand the many educational and cultural activities in the area.”

Allan returned to Seattle about 10 years ago, after working in London for a government-sponsored program to support arts and cultural activities. She also rejoined the family folk music group, The Cutters, and continued teaching early childhood introduction to music. During COVID isolation, the family looked for a more rewarding endeavor.

“I felt really guided by the synergistic opportunities of Whidbey,” she said. “Operating the property as an activities venue continues Mr. Crawford’s love and support of music and arts.”

Allan said she hopes the lodging and events are an asset to the community, not just a business providing an occasional overnight stop.

“We want to support intimate and creative arts experiences,” she said. “We’re interested in partnering with the community and its artists to see special things happen.”

She intends to rename the property Langley Retreat, to symbolize the opportunity for guests to “recharge and connect.”

Real estate records describe the 6,000-square-foot house as an “Idyllic English Manor” built in 1972, apparently replacing a small farm house. There are six guest rooms, each with an attached bathroom, and an owners’ quarters. There is a large open gathering room and space for banquet-style dining.

The property was originally known as Twickenham Inn. The original owners sold the house in 1996 and Charles Johnson renamed it Ashingdon Manor. After starting the REC Music Foundation in St. Louis, Missouri in 1992, Crawford purchased the Whidbey property in 2005. Crawford expanded his support of the arts in 2010, partnering with Josette Hendrix to move the Northwest Language Academy from Bayview to Ashingdon. The Language Academy later moved to Freeland.

In 2018, Crawford went to Germany and left the property in the care of noted Whidbey musician Sheila Weidendorf. He died in Munich in 2021, at age 88. Weidendorf called the inn a “house of music,” and often treated guests to impromptu performances by herself and other Whidbey musicians.

Now, under Allan’s stewardship, there may be a Celtic-style music-and-dance house party or hootenanny in Whidbey’s future.