In 1876, ambitious surveyor and mining engineer Amos Bowman reached Fidalgo Island with his wife and liked what he saw.
Bowman envisioned a town carved from the forest that would become the “New York of the west” and serve as the railroad terminus for an anticipated railroad expansion across the north Cascades to the Pacific. He established a post office there in 1877 and named it after his wife, Annie Curtis.
The name somehow morphed into Anacortes, though no one knows for certain how. Some say it resulted from a typo when the name was sent to the federal postal service; others contend it was an intentional modification to fit with the island’s Spanish name.
Bowman’s vision spurred a boom. The powerful Oregon Improvement Company invested heavily in the town, and its population grew quickly. Real estate prices shot up and by 1890, the burgeoning town was filled with thousands of workers and new residents. But when the Oregon Improvement Company suffered a sudden financial collapse and was unable to pay workers, the town emptied out and fell into a financial depression.
Anacortes was incorporated as a city in 1891 and began to develop the fishing and lumber industries that led to economic recovery.
This excerpt is from the documentary “Anacortes, The Perfect Port.” View the full program here.