La Conner: Charming, Picturesque & Quaint

Charming. Picturesque. Quaint.

These words get thrown around a lot when talking about La Conner.

Known as both an artist enclave and a boater’s paradise, La Conner has an almost magical quality that brings visitors back again and again. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Known as both an artist enclave and a boater’s paradise, La Conner has an almost magical quality that brings visitors back again and again. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

La Conner is a quaint waterfront village in northwestern Washington, nestled beside the Swinomish Channel near the mouth of the Skagit River. The channel gives La Conner much of its color and atmosphere, a distinct seaside ambiance that comes from watching the fishing boats and pleasure craft navigate the channel out to the San Juan Islands. Crowning the channel is the Rainbow Bridge—the Golden Gate of La Conner.

Located 70 miles north of Seattle and 90 miles south of Vancouver, British Columbia, La Conner is a 15-minute drive from nearby Mount Vernon and Anacortes.

Picturesque little La Conner is a unique combination of fishing village, artists’ colony, eclectic shops, historic buildings, and tourist destination. Relax by the water, enjoy fine restaurants, browse through unique shops and art galleries, visit the beautiful tulip fields of Skagit Valley, and experience the peace and quiet of a charming old fashioned town.

La Conner was settled in 1867 as a trading post. In 1869, John Conner purchased the trading post built by John Hayes, another early settler, on the west side of the Swinomish Slough and established a post office. In 1869, all the town plus 70 acres was deeded to John Conner for $500. To honor his wife, Louisa A.(LA) Conner, the town’s original name of Swinomish was changed to La Conner in 1870. La Conner was briefly the county seat before Mount Vernon.

La Conner is the kind of community that many of us yearn for; charming and picturesque, with a vibrancy all its own. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

La Conner is the kind of community that many of us yearn for; charming and picturesque, with a vibrancy all its own. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

La Conner was a bustling commercial center by the turn of the century. Much of the boom’s era architecture has survived, earning La Conner’s historic district a spot on the National Register of Historic Places. The design of new, in-fill buildings is carefully controlled. The village is authentic.

The rich floodplain of the Skagit Delta has been farmed since European settlement. The area’s bulb industry got a boost when blight attacked European bulbs in the 1920s and ’40s, and many of the farmers who plowed into this opportunity were Dutch.

La Conner is home to a diverse mix of cultures and backgrounds, including the Swinomish Tribal Community, Shelter Bay residents from across the Channel, fishermen, farmers, and artists.

La Conner dates from a time when Puget Sound towns were connected by water and not by road, and consequently the town clings to the shore of Swinomish Channel. La Conner reached a commercial peak around 1900 (when steamers made the run to Seattle) and continued as an important grain- and log-shipping port until the Great Depression. It never recovered from the hard times of the ’30s, and when the highways bypassed the town, it became a neglected backwater.

La Conner is as picturesque as it was in the early days with many original buildings that have been restored and now house retail shops, restaurants, and museums. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

La Conner is as picturesque as it was in the early days with many original buildings that have been restored and now house retail shops, restaurants, and museums. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The wooden false-fronted buildings built during the town’s heyday were spared the wrecking balls of the 1960s, and today these old buildings give the town its inimitable charm.

Beginning in the 1940s, La Conner’s picturesque setting attracted several artists and writers, and by the 1970s it had become known as an artists’ community. Tourism began to revive the economy, and the town’s artistic legacy led to the building of the Museum of Northwest Art, dedicated to the region’s many contemporary artists.

Adding still more color to this vibrant little town are the commercial flower farms of the surrounding Skagit Valley. In the spring, tulips carpet the surrounding farmlands with great swaths of red, yellow, and white. The acres of color are a must-see.

La Conner is one of those places in Washington State that people love to visit—time and time again. The reasons are many, but one that stands out is that there are so many things to do in—and around—La Conner. La Conner offers four seasons of activities with interesting and fun activities nearly every weekend, all year long, including Arts Alive! in November, Christmas boat parade, and the Classic Boat and Car Show in August.

Charming. Picturesque. Quaint. These words get thrown around a lot when talking about La Conner. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Charming. Picturesque. Quaint. These words get thrown around a lot when talking about La Conner. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For nearly 150 years, La Conner has had a special place in the hearts of its residents and visitors; we expect that it will continue to be one of Washington State’s most-loved historic communities for generations to come.

Worth Pondering…

I must go down to the seas again,

To the lonely sea and the sky,

And all I ask is a tall ship and a star

To steer her by.

—John Masefield

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