San de Fuca history goes up in smoke

— Created June 22, 2022 by Kathy Reed

By Kathy Reed

A second vehicle collision in three months has caused significant damage to a central Whidbey Island landmark.

Washington State Patrol said the driver of a semi-truck traveling northbound on State Route 20 Sunday lost control of the vehicle in the San de Fuca area, crashing into the Penn Cove Pottery building.

“He failed to negotiate a curve and he subsequently rolled onto one side, colliding with the building,” said WSP Trooper Jacob Kennett. “The vehicle caught fire, then the building caught fire. The driver of the truck was transported with minor injuries.”

According to Trooper Kennett, it appeared the Penn Cove Pottery building was empty at the time of the collision and subsequent fire, but photographs clearly show a vast amount of damage from the accident, prompting the following press release from Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve:

“We are heartbroken by the accident that…caused devastating damage to the Penn Cove Pottery building, a contributing structure inside the Reserve. We extend our deepest gratitude to the firefighters and emergency services personnel who worked to contain the structure fire and close the highway.

“This commercial building is part of the National Register of historic places as part of the Central

Whidbey Island Historic District for its association with commercial enterprises which

established a stable economic foundation for the community from the period of early

European-American settlement in the 1850s through 1945. Until last Sunday (6/19/22), this

building had retained its integrity of location, setting, materials, design, workmanship, feeling

and association.

“The historic Hingston/Trumbull Store was constructed in 1941 to expand the adjacent Hingston

general store. The Trumbulls purchased the buildings in 1945 and ran the store until the

mid-1950s. Since that time, the building has changed hands and uses many times. The current

owners bought the property in 2001 and have seen to its maintenance and kept the building

faithful to its commercial use. Penn Cove Pottery hosted local artists and attracted visitors. The

building was awarded an Ebey’s Forever Grant in 2013 for a new roof and in 2019 to repoint

brick of exterior masonry walls and repair brick chimney.

“The east side of the building, the historic Fisher General Store, was struck by a truck this past

April. The adjacent false-front, wood-frame 1905 building served as a general store and a post

office before the brick addition to the west came in the 1940s. Although in disrepair after the

April accident, it was still in use by Penn Cove Pottery and reserve staff was working with the

property owners on a path to rehabilitation.

“That two similar accidents happened to the same property just a couple of months apart shows

the impact that a high-traffic highway can cause to historic buildings. Close to a dozen historic

buildings fill this half mile stretch of San de Fuca. We encourage the public to always adhere to

posted speed limits.

“Reserve staff will advocate towards the rebuilding of this landmark of the reserve, however, we

have to come to terms with the sad truth that the historic fabric that has been destroyed by this

accident is irreplaceable and forever lost.”

According to the press release, reserve staff will work the building’s owners, Island County Planning and any other related entities to determine what the future may hold.

The owners of Penn Cove Potter, Steve and Mary Beth Eelkema, have posted the following statement on their website,

“As many of you know, a semi-truck collided with our building early Sunday morning. Luckily, nobody was badly hurt, but the damage to our building is significant. We’re currently coordinating with local art organizations, insurance, and structural experts to determine how to move forward. Thank you for all your concern and well-wishes. We’ll keep you updated as decisions are made.”