Camano City

A Brief History of Camano City

In 1898 the Esary brothers, with the assistance from Porter Garrison and Sons, established one of Camano's major logging companies in the area surrounding the Schoolhouse  They also collaborated as landowners and developers.

From 1908 to 1910 the Camano Commercial Company operated a narrow-gauge logging railway that climbed the hill along the north side of nearby Chapman Creek.

Between 1990 and 1910 local entrepreneurs touted "Camano" as a growing, vibrant "metropolis" with unlimited potential.  Land sold for $20 an acre, and waterfront acres sold for $75.

When the schoolhouse was built around 1905, Camano City was a thriving community with two hotels, a general store, post office, a blacksmith, several shingle mills, a boatyard, and Saratoga Passage wharf.  A variety of "steamers" provided frequent ferry services...west to Whidbey, south to Seattle, to points north on Camano Island and along the Skagit River.

But by 1927, the Camano Commercial Company dissolved and dreams of "Camano City" as a major town were long past.

At the Camano City Schoolhouse & Community Hall, the Camano Schoolhouse Foundation/CSF will recreate the distinctive yesteryear ambience of a 1905 classroom.  The rejuvenated Community Halll will be a rental venue for a diverse mix of family education and entertainment events that illuminate and preserve for posterity the intriguing history of all eras of early Camano Island life.

This place matters and still has a future!

Camano City Community Hall

The Camano City Hall in this 2003 photograph was the 1906 schoolhouse built when there was a sawmill on the shoreline below and a dock to accomodate a small logging community on the west side of Camano Island.  "Camano City" was never an incorporated or public place, but it had a post office, school and wharf operated by the logging company.

Perched on the hillside above the mill, the schoolhouse served the small but growing number of loggers and millworkers who had wives and children in the area.  There was no road from Stanwood at the time, and the community was oriented towards Whidbey Island.  Transportation was provided by the steamers and launches until the bridge was built in 1909 and roads slowly improved, following the early trails and logging roads.

The schoolhouse served the community as a shool until about 1936 when the district consolidated with Stanwood and all students were bussed into town.  In 1945 the schoolhouse ownership was transferred to the Camano City Fire District No. 1 for $200.  It became the Community Hall, managed by the Fireflies, the Fire Department Women's Auxiliary.  It was rented into the 1990's by the Fire Department for small community and private gatherings and served as a meeting space for church groups, political groups and fire commissioner meetings.

Much more information has yet to be collected and interpreted about the history of this building.  But meanwhile, the Camano Schoolhouse Foundation is actively seeking funds and workers to preserve this building.  Camano Island has a few historic barns, residences, cabins, the South Camano Grange, the Utsalady Ladies Aid...all still intact and active.  "Camano City" itself has several old cabins and the moderized old inn that also has a colorful history.  But most old structures are being remodeled and replaced, as developments redefine the landscape and price out anyone with the inclination to preserve our historic places.  There are precious few public or commercial places on Camano Island, and the opportunity to preserve this place as simply a community space should not be overlooked.

The Camano Schoolhouse Foundation wants to keep this building as a symbold of its past and once again provide space for community meetings, cultural events and educational programs.  Much progress was made in 2015 with the painting, brush clearing, tree removal, and basement remodel.  The Foundation members are anxious to rent it, but more is needed to be done.  A critical need right now is to upgrade the heating system.

Thanks to dozens of volunteers who have committed countless hours already towards this projects.  Much has been done!  But everything is a bit slower when we are volunteers.  If you have a way to contribute, work parties can be arranged for some of the jobs.



If you can help or would like more information please contact us at:

The Heart of the Community - Camano City Schoolhouse and Fire Hall

The Heart of the Community - Camano City Schoolhouse and Fire Hall

In the early 1900’s, the Camano Land & Lumber Co. donated property in Camano City at the corner of Orchard Road and Chapman Road to independent School Dist. #18.  In 1905-1906, the one room Camano City Schoolhouse was constructed on the southern portion of this property.  Up through 1936, the Schoolhouse served to educate the community’s children.  In 1936, Camano students started attending school in Stanwood.  The Camano City Schoolhouse continued as an important part of community life and was used for many years as a community gathering place.

Fire and Rescue services on Camano formally began in 1945 and the Schoolhouse property ownership was transferred to the Camano City Fire District No. 1 for $200.  In 1946, a two-bay Fire Hall was built to provide a base for volunteer fire fighting coverage. See photo.   (The Fire Hall building was enlarged to the present four-bay building in 1980.)

The Schoolhouse became the Community Hall, managed by the “Fireflies”, the Fire Department Women’s Auxiliary.  The “Fireflies” provided community support, and even for a time provided actual volunteer fire fighter coverage.  Minutes from their meetings, held mostly at the Camano City Schoolhouse, reveal a detailed record of the meetings, card parties, fund raisers, etc. held to raise funds for the volunteer fire fighters, and the equipment they needed. After 1977(?) the “Fireflies” gradually became inactive and use of the Schoolhouse for community events declined.

In 2012, the Camano Schoolhouse Foundation was formed and purchased the Camano City Schoolhouse building from the Camano Island Fire District. The original property was split into two lots. Lot 1 contained the Fire Hall, and Lot 2 contained the Schoolhouse.  As the Schoolhouse was gradually restored, use by the community grew. Major events filled the combined Schoolhouse and Fire Hall parking areas.

In late 2018, the Camano City Fire Hall was listed for sale.  With community support, the Camano City Schoolhouse Foundation was able to purchase the Camano City Fire Hall and reunite the two properties.  The Schoolhouse Board is currently working on plans to integrate the Fire Hall and Schoolhouse resources to expand opportunities for future community events and exhibits.  Volunteers and community members have spent many hours repainting both the interior and exterior of the Fire Hall.  See photos.  Planning is also underway for a unified parking plan and enhancement of the existing landscaping.  Barbara Brock

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