SAN JUAN COUNTY, WA. October 20, 2023 – On October 31, 2023, San Juan County turns 150 years old – giving us all a reason to celebrate our community, our islands, and our County. After all, celebrating 150 years only happens once in a lifetime!
Established as its own local government on October 31, 1873 on the heels of the Pig War, San Juan County has a rich and storied past. From its humble beginning as part of the Washington territory, the County has since built a legacy of service. Join the County in celebrate the sesquicentennial – 150 years as an official County.
Find celebrations, collectable stickers, and other ways to get involved all around the islands, all year long. This month, join the County at these upcoming events:
- All Islands: Contribute to the Community Photo Album! The County is collecting and archiving photos that celebrate the people, places, and events that make San Juan County a special place to live. You're invited to submit your favorite images, which will be featured in the public photo gallery. By sharing memories, we have the opportunity to connect with others, reflect on the past, and help to build a brighter future for the County. Share your memories here: engage.sanjuancountywa.gov/150th/brainstormers/photo-album
- San Juan Island: Haunted Courthouse Tours – On Tuesday, October 31, take a tour of the haunted County courthouse. Learn the history of the courthouse building and the two ghosts who haunt its halls! Open to all-ages, 3pm-5pm.
- Orcas Island: Visit the Luci B Wellness Van – The Health and Community Services Department is pleased to attend Eastsound’s Halloween festivities, including the mini-concert and costume contest on the Village Green. Stop by for sweet treats, stickers, and more! Find the Luci B Wellness van near the Village Green from 3pm-6pm.
- Lopez Island: Trunk-or-Treat – Visit the County vehicle at Lopez Village’s Trunk-or-Treat event from 4pm-8pm to enjoy candy, pick up a collectable sticker, and more!
The October 31 festivities will kick off a year-long celebration of 150 years of San Juan County. Stay tuned for more opportunities to learn about the County's history, collect commemorative stickers, and attend more pop-up celebrations on the Engage Platform.
Discover the History
Though San Juan County government is turning 150, the San Juan Islands have a vibrant history that pre-dates any formal government. The islands of San Juan County are home to diverse ecosystems of plants and animals that have long navigated the coastal waters, rocky shorelines, and inland forests. Indigenous Coast Salish people have and continue to steward the San Juan Islands as part of their ancestral territory since time immemorial. Their cultural practices, art, and stories share a common theme of stewardship – a value woven into the very fabric of the islands. Today, San Juan County is charged with the protection and betterment of these precious islands, their inhabitants, and resources.
Laying the foundation for San Juan County’s government began at the turn of the 20th century. In 1906, both the County’s historic courthouse and beloved annual fair were born. A celebration that “was thought to be the largest crowd ever to have assembled in Friday Harbor” gathered to lay the courthouse’s cornerstone. Under the stone, officials placed a small box containing a few tokens – coins, a list of local businesses, a program of the day's activities, drawings of the courthouse, and more. That same year, the County hosted the first San Juan County Fair in a cannery building on the Friday Harbor waterfront. Both the courthouse and County Fair remain important pillars of island life to this day.
Today, the County contributes to nearly every aspect of life in the islands – peace and justice, health and wellness, planning and development, parks and recreation, agriculture and conservation, environmental stewardship, and much more. San Juan County strives to promote and ensure the safety and vitality of its residents by providing public health and safety services, community and social programs, and enrichment opportunities. Each of our departments, partner organizations, advisory boards, and committees plays a vital role in making decisions that shape daily life in San Juan County.
This year, we invite you to celebrate the rich history and legacy of the San Juan Islands, including 150 years of San Juan County’s service to the community. San Juan County is at its best when the people that call this special place home invest in the future of their community. We invite you to join us as we look forward to a bright future– whether as a volunteer in the parks, courts, or senior centers, as an employee or elected official, or by casting your vote and attending public meetings. How ever you choose to engage, we hope you’ll lend your support to San Juan County’s next 150 years.
Media Contact: Erin Wygant, Communications Coordinator, firstname.lastname@example.org