#9 NW Front Street
Coupeville, Washington

Central Hotel / Parking Lot / Carr Building / Penn Cove Gallery /Back to the Island / Marcon International

1860 - The Hall was built by William Alexander.

1866 - The International Order of Good Templars organized group No. 7 with meetings in the hall. [According to Flora Augusta Pearson Engle in her book "Recollections of Early Days on Whidbey Island"]

1870s sketch map
Sketch map from the early 1870s (probably 1871 to 1873 based on the structures present) showing the Hall on the south side of Front Street.
Courtesy: Island County Historical Museum, Coupeville

1881 - The Lodge failed and the hall was then used by the county. It was also a center for dances and other social functions.

1884 - The Central Hotel was built

Quote from "A Particular Friend, PENN'S COVE" by Jimmie Jean Cook, 1973.

The Central Hotel was purchased by Jacob Jenne in 1886. It had a bar, billiard room, and livery stable. There was a barbershop in the northwest corner of the hotel. Jake was a member of the Masonic Lodge, which met in the Good Templer’s hall next door. He ran into troubles by running the saloon at the Central, and was repeatedly nagged by his Masonic brothers for selling booze. "Jake rented the upper hall of the Good Templars building and eventually annexed the hall to the hotel, this part being used as a bar, an ironic fate for the Templars had been organized to fight the dramshop."

Central Hotel and environment
Central Hotel with the Hall to the right. ∼1884. Note that the hotel does not seem to have a porch at this time.

Courtesy: Island County Historical Museum, Coupeville
Central Hotel
Central Hotel with the Hall to the right.
Note that in this early picture the windows are plane. Bow windows were put in later.
How the people got onto the porch is a mystery!
Courtesy: Island County Historical Museum, Coupeville

Quote from a contemporary newspaper:

Mr. Jacob Jenne is the proprietor of the Central Hotel of Coupeville, situated at the head of the Steamboat wharf and on the main street. The Central has a good table and is well conducted. It has a bar and billiard room, and has a good livery stable in connection with the house, where some fine rigs are kept for the accommodation of the public.

Central Hotel
Central Hotel with the Hall to the right.
Notice the plane windows - later bow windows were added.
Courtesy: Island County Historical Museum, Coupeville
Central Hotel
The unidentified town band members were warming up in this c. 1890s scene. The Meat Market, on the right, was moved from Grace and Front Street to its current location at #21 in the early 1900s to make room for the post office. The two-story building on the east side of Grace was at one time the Good Temperance Hall. Next is the Central Hotel with a bay window and porch roof. The Central Hotel burned in about 1945. Robertson’s home sports the gingerbread porch. The Glenwood Hotel is next on the corner of Front and Main.
This picture taken before the Hall and Central Hotel were combined into one establishment.
Courtesy: Island County Historical Museum, Coupeville
Central Hotel
Cribbage on the porch of the Central Hotel
Courtesy: Leone Argent private collection.

Quote from "A Particular Friend, PENN'S COVE" by Jimmie Jean Cook, 1973.


In 1886 he purchased the Central Hotel and continued farming until the following year. He then gave his entire attention to the management of the hotel.

He was a member of the Masonic Lodge which held its first meetings in the Good Templars hall on Front Street. He and A. D. Blowers petitioned for the degrees on May 19, 1883. They were admitted to the lodge but Jake ran into troubles later when he was running the saloon at the Central. He was repeatedly nagged by his Masonic brothers for selling booze but somehow managed to talk his way out of it. C. C. Cushen who later owned the hotel was not admitted until he had given up the business and become the Ford dealer for Coupeville.

Jake rented the upper hall of the Good Templars building and eventually annexed the hall to the hotel, this part being used as a bar, an ironic fate for the Templars had been organized to fight the dramshop.

Central Hotel
Central Hotel on the left after it had incorporated the Temperance Hall.
Courtesy: Island County Historical Museum, Coupeville

1904 - The building was sold to C.C. Cushen. He was not admitted to the Masonic Lodge until he had given up the business and became the Ford dealer for Coupeville in what is now Mariners Court.

*Interview by Judy Lynn with Leone Argent, 2009:

Judy: What else do you remember about Front Street?

Leone A: The Central Hotel was built before I came. I have a picture of my grandfather, Joseph B Libbey, in front of it. The picture is hanging in Toby's. The Jenne's had the hotel for a number of years. There was a barbershop in the northwest corner of the hotel and I remember having my hair cut there. The Jenne's had 4 sons, Roland, Howard, Calvin, and Walter (named for his father). Walter senior had a heart attack and died in his 50s. He ran the hotel with his wife. The saloon was on the main floor. I remember being in the kitchen. We high school kids went through the kitchen one evening and had a few snacks. After her husband died she ran the hotel quite awhile and then she married Bill Gookins, who had been sheriff at one time. I don't know how it caught on fire. It was an old building, with wiring and a kitchen. Gordon Gookins was their youngest child.

Central Hotel
Central Hotel after it had incorporated the Temperance Hall.
The parade was the last year of the Coupeville Water Festival, due to the war that started in 1941. The "sailor" in front, Bill Engle, stretcher carriers Jeanne and Bill Truex, Babe Alexander, and Joanne Engle (in coat and hat) are representing the military and the Red Cross.
Courtesy: Joanne Engle Brown - private collection. Joanne and her brother are both in the picture as children.

*Interview by Judy Lynn with Leone Argent, 2010:

Judy: What do you remember about the Central Hotel?

Leone A: it was owned by one of the Jenne families. There was a dining room and a large kitchen. I was in there once and no one was taking the food order for the table in the dining room. So I went in and took their order. I delivered the order to the kitchen, and then served the food to the people. I was in high school.

Sheriff Gookinss was separated from his wife and he moved into the hotel. Then he married Maude Jenne, the owner of the hotel. They later sold it and moved to the Olympic Peninsula

I was in the 7th or 8th grade when I walked to the Central Hotel to have a hair cut. The barber shop was in the hotel. It was on the inside of the west wall of the hotel ground floor.

There were four Jenne brothers. Ed Jenne who built the home that is known as the Jenne place, one of them built the big house across from the school and behind the school gym [currently Compass Rose Bed and Breakfast], the house across from the court house by another Jenne brother. Walter 'Wally' had the Central Hotel.

The hotel was owned by Walter 'Wally' Jenne and his wife. He was the youngest brother of the family of four. They had four sons, Roland was the oldest, then Howard, Calvin and Walter called "Babe."

*Interview by Judy Lynn with Josephine DeVries, 2009:
(Note: Jo was 100 years old when she died February 26, 2010.) Her daughter, Dellann was present during the interview.

Jo D.: I worked at the Central Hotel too and hauled dishes. Maude Jenne was the owner of the Central Hotel. It was a pretty big and good hotel.

*Interview by Judy Lynn with Millie Fonda, 2008:

Millie: Gordon Gookinss used to come in and tell stories about Coupeville. His father was the sheriff but was jailed after being caught bootlegging. He was the bartender at the Central Hotel. Gordon told me he would look up the stairs on the mezzanine and covet a toy truck that was on display. He said in all the years since when he would walk into this building he would remember looking up to see the toy truck. His family could not afford to buy the truck. He said that if he had gotten it he probably wouldn't remember it.

People would throw garbage out the back of these buildings on Front Street and there were privies at the end of each building that dumped into Penn Cove. There is still one in Karl King's building [Benson's Confectionery] next door. You can look up from the beach and see the hole. Gordon Gookinss said he and his friend found what they thought was Chicklets gum on the beach and they chewed several packages. It was X-Lax and they were so sick.

*Interview by Judy Lynn with Don Lee, 2010:
(Note: Don Lee died in 2012.)

Judy: What do you remember about Front Street?

Don: The Central Hotel. We used to go in there and drink horrible Muscatel red wine and then we would stagger back to the base. We walked until one of our friends bought a car. Seldom did they let us leave the base.

Central Hotel Card Game
Central Hotel - card playing. Owner C.C. Cushen sits on the left with his buddies in the Central Hotel billiard room in 1924.
Courtesy: Bob Cushen - private collection.
Central Hotel Barber
Central Hotel - Barber shop. Owner C.C. Cushen is in the chair.
Courtesy: Bob Cushen - private collection.

*Interview by Judy Lynn with Jean Sherman, 2009:

Judy: What else do you remember about Front Street?

Jean: Mrs. Jenne had the Central Hotel. She served some meals. After we were married we had lunch there. Then there was "Bluenose Webster." She found out Bluenose stole the crab she was going to serve. I believe she reported him to the sheriff. He was a drinker and the veins in his nose were blue.

1944 - Fire strikes at Central Hotel. Oak Harbor and the Naval Air Station send help. The Fire struck at the Central Hotel Coupeville for the 2nd time within 2 months and drew a large crowd of alarmed spectators. The source of the fire was never determined.

1945 - The Hotel burned in summer of 1945. The carved wooden bar and the Tavern sign were moved across the street to #8, Sealey’s Tavern, now Toby's Tavern. The lot was cleared and used as a parking lot for several decades.

*Interview by Judy Lynn with Pat Sullivan, 2009:

Judy: When did the Central Hotel burn?

Pat: It was the summer of 1946 [other witnesses say 1945]. I remember what the hotel looked like. I remember the back where the delivery entrance was. It was a dirty mess. On the northwest front corner was a wide stairway that came out at 45 degrees. It was partly on Grace and partly on Front. The night the hotel burned my mother got me out of bed. I was the oldest of three kids. She said, "This is a historic building and it's burning." I wasn't interested at 3:00 in the morning. A couple of days later it burned again. I barely remember going down there.

The bar was in the northwest corner, and kitchen was in the southeast corner. That's where the fire started.


After the fire they moved the bar to where it is now, Toby's Tavern [Whidbey Mercantile].

*Interview by Judy Lynn with Carol Thrailkill, 2008:

The Central Hotel was where the Carr building is now. I remember the tavern was on the west end and stairs going up to it. The shape of the Carr building is similar to the Central Hotel. We would gather beer bottles and pile them in our wagon. We'd knock on the back door and resell them for a penny.

I remember the hotel catching on fire. My dad was a volunteer fireman. He got all his clothes on and his jacket and was out in the street before he realized he'd forgotten to put his pants on. Jimmy Clark was a mischief maker. When the hotel was on fire he was told it was his turn to break the windows out…which he did by throwing rocks. It didn't burn to the ground and they got the bar out. The fire was at night and there was just one fire engine. My dad was the first fire chief in Coupeville. I have his badge and other memorabilia.

*Interview by Judy Lynn with Ed Youderian, 2010:

Judy: What do you know of the Central Hotel fire?

Ed: It had two fires in it. I wasn't there. I was probably still in high school. They had a big bar downstairs and a large wooden deck in front of the building. The sidewalk angled and had more steps at one end. Kids roared around there.

The first fire was put out the building was still there. The second fire caused considerable damage and they took the building down. I don't know how far apart the fires were. [Note: Pat Sullivan said in his interview that the fire were two days apart.] They had rooms for rent upstairs.

*Interview by Judy Lynn with Larry Zylstra, 2010.
(Note: Larry Lysle Zylstra passed away November 22, 2010, one month after this interview. The interview was edited and approved by his son, Gregg Zylstra.)

Judy: What do you remember about the Central Hotel?

Larry: I remember it being a huge building, but then I was small. It took up all the area to Grace.

Judy: The Good Temperance Hall was a two story building on the corner of Grace and Front, next to the Central Hotel. I've read it was moved a bit so that it sat right next to the hotel, and at one time had a porch that went across both of the buildings. It could have appeared as one large building.

Larry: That sounds logical.

Judy: What else do you remember about it?

Larry: I'm sure I wasn't in the building. I wasn't even in the barbershop. Mother cut our hair. What I remember was the size of the fire. My dad, Lysle, was on the fire department. It was one huge fire. We had to stay a long ways back and couldn't get close. It started during the night. Dad had to get up during the night when he heard the fire siren. We went about a half hour later. My oldest brother and I walked down to see what was going on. It's always scary when you have that kind of fire. It was the biggest building in Coupeville. Nobody knows how it started. It was two or two thirty in the morning.

*Interview by Diane and Roger Eelkema, 2009:

Diane: A story about the Central Hotel was Aunt Peggy's story. They used to march the soldiers from Fort Casey into town. Peggy and Edna May (a boarder at Shirley's house) were proper girls but they were upstairs talking to some soldiers when the hotel caught on fire. It was a dilemma for them because Peggy's father, Shirley, was the mayor. The soldiers were in the hotel and the girls were upstairs "just talking".

*Interview by Judy Lynn with Lyle and Mary Davis, 2010:

Judy: What can you tell me about Helen Williams?

Lyle: She was selling her chowder across the street at the Arts and Crafts Festival. Most of the food was in the empty lot [where the Central Hotel had been.] Her booth was on the sidewalk.

*Interview by Judy Lynn with William B. (Bill) Engle, 2009:

Judy: I understand you worked for the hardware store that was in the bottom of the Calhoun/McPherson building.

Bill: Yes, it was the Fred Moore building supply. He had the hardware merchandise in bottom level of the building and down the street on the empty lot where the Central Hotel had been we kept the dimensional lumber. It was our lumberyard. We supplied most of the lumber for the prominent builders in the Coupeville area, Ralph Ward, Ernie Harris, Fred "Doc" Pieschell, Farlin Sahli Construction, and others.

*Interview by Judy Lynn with Louise Holloway Stanley, 2009:

Louise: I remember a field on Grace Street where they used to have flea markets. Vendors and artists set up their tables in the empty lot. (Note: the lot described is at the corner of Grace and Front and was the location of the Central Hotel and Good Templer's Hall.)

1971 - 75 - Rose and Mahlon Brosseau purchased the empty lot where Central Hotel had been. It was used as a private parking lot.

1976 - 80 - Ken Kroll bought the lot from the Brosseau's

Parking Lot
Parking Lot with orange van where the Central Hotel had been. It was used as a Farmers Market in the movie "Practical Magic"
From a photo taken by Air Photo, Inc in 1989

*Interview by Judy Lynn with Shirley Bennett and Rose Brosseau, 2008:
[Note: Rose Brosseau died on November 23, 2008 just 7 days after this interview. Shirley Bennett edited their interview.]

Judy: What was the first property you bought in Coupeville?

Rose: The Robertson House. It was a residence I'm pretty sure. It was empty. The gal that sold it said it was her family home and that if she ever won the lottery she wanted to buy it back. She never did. Later the Saia's bought it from us.

Then we bought the building on Grace and Coveland. Another KOMO guy bought it and we bought it from him. [Mahlon Brosseau was the Director of News Photography at KOMO in Seattle.] Then we bought the empty lot, on Front Street where the Central Hotel had been. We bought it as an investment. Mahlon used to preach at work, "Buy property." It was basically a parking lot. Mahlon put up chains and people took them down. Ken Kroll bought it from us.

1999 - John and Irene Carr built a new building. Due to design guidelines in the historic district, the new building was designed to look like several smaller structures to avoid overwhelming the street with its size. The new building uses historical features found on surrounding buildings, such as horizontal siding, double-hung windows, false fronts and traditional storefront designs.

2000 - Shops put in included Jewelry by Lee (run by Frank Nold), Brenda's Gifts, Penn Cove Gallery, Coupeville Art Supply, and Marcon Inc. had an office upstairs.

Carr building
Carr building
Current occupants are Back to the Island (left and center) and Penn Cove Gallery (right).
Courtesy: Robert Y Elphick. 2013

2014 - Pati and Paul Schmakeit buy the Back to the Islands shop from Deb Crocker.

Carr building
Carr building
Courtesy: Robert Y Elphick. 2015

Carr building
Carr building
Courtesy: Robert Y Elphick. 2020

* All the interviews are extracted from the Judy Lynn's Oral History Project. Judy Lynn interviewed everyone she could find who had any memories of the history of Front Street. For more information on the project contact the Whidbey Island Historical Musem, Coupeville.

The e-book Front Street, Coupeville - An Oral History by Judy Lynn contains all the interviews. It can be purchased for $9.99 at Amazon.com for Kindle application or device or from the Apple Store for iBooks applications. Proceeds go to the Island County Historical Society.

Oral History Cover