At North Beach Inn we have the privilege of preserving a beautiful and natural corner of the world. To support this, throughout our family’s history on Orcas Island each subsequent generation has added new beach cabins. This approach has kept the property whole and largely undeveloped for over 100 years. It has also allowed us to continue sharing it with many new and returning guests.
In the Beginning
In 1911 our great uncle James Gibson left Seattle with his young daughter Virginia and followed his mentor and former employer, Robert Moran of Rosario Resort fame, to Orcas Island. He purchased this property, once part of a large apple orchard from the original homesteader. Uncle Jim’s dream was to retire from the “big city” and take up farming. Within a few years my great-grandparents, William and Mary Gibson, and their seven other adult children had followed Jim to the farm.
By the mid teens the family was operating the property as North Beach Farm. We offered home cooked meals and tent cabins under the apple trees and along the shoreline. When Jim passed away in the 20’s he left a business that was feeling the pressure from a depressed farming environment and a declining apple market. However my grandmother Edna and grandfather Ed committed to the keep the property intact. To avoid the typical route of selling off portions of the property until nothing was left, in the early 1930’s they decided to expand the business into a full-fledged resort by adding six new beach cabins and a dining lodge; in the process changing the name of the business to North Beach Inn.
Times were tough and my grandparents worked multiple jobs to keep the property in the family. Ed spent time as a ranger and CCC supervisor at Moran State Park. Both Ed, and then Edna, served for many years as the Eastsound Postmaster.
Saving the Farm
When Edna passed away in 1968, my father Gordon and my aunts, Mary and Sally, took the reins. They steered the business through several economic ups and downs, managing to keep the business afloat and the property largely pristine and undeveloped. They accomplished this by building several new beach cabins over the years. These additional cottages, which included Fraser and Columbia, helped greatly to offset rising costs.
Continuing Our Heritage
Happily, my generation is committed to continuing the tradition. Additionally, at just the right time, along came my cousins RuthAnne and Andrew from my mother’s side of the family, ready and willing to help us along. As with the previous generations, we realize that limited growth is part of the formula for staying in business. So along with the upgrades we have been making to the cabins over the past few years, we recently embarked upon a multi-year effort to obtain permission to permit and build a finite number of additional beach cabins. Our long time guests will no doubt be pleased to hear that our desire is to maintain our relaxing and historic character.
New Beach Cabins
These additional cottages represent our sentimental attachment to preserving our rural heritage for future generations of family and guests. Going forward our family remains dedicated to maintaining what we all love about this place. We are not intent on pursuing any major re-development or division and sale of this property. Instead our plan is to add a limited number of new beach cabins with a similar size, spacing, setback, screening, and character as our existing cabins.
Stay tuned and wish us luck!
For more on the the history of the Gibson family on Orcas Island please see: http://washingtonourhome.com/history-lives-on-orcas-island/