Whidbey Island's largest incorporated city is Oak Harbor. Situated in Washington's Island County, Oak Harbor is home to a population of around 22,000 as of the 2000 census. The city was officially incorporated on May 14, 1915.
The people of Oak Harbor come ashore via car, boat, shuttle, ferry, plane, charter service or free transit service. The city overlooks Puget Sound, a very large salt water estuary that is fed by highly seasonal freshwater from both the Olympic and Cascade Mountain watersheds. Puget Sound consists of four interconnected basins that are separated by shallow sills. The Puget Sound area is one of the most beautiful and highly desired places to live in the entire United States. Pristine waters, deep green forests, and picturesque communities help make Oak Harbor (and other cities and communities in the area) ideal for people of all ages and backgrounds. Families, retirees, and working professionals can all be found on Whidbey Island and throughout the Puget Sound area.
Oak Harbor is the closest city to the renowned Naval Air Station Whidbey Island. The air station's influence on the area has helped establish Oak Harbor as a stronghold for the Republican Party and American conservatism. The present mayor of the city is Patricia A. Cohen. The mayor and the staff of the City of Oak Harbor are committed to delivering the highest possible level of service to citizens by improving economic opportunity, local quality of life, and fostering all sorts of community partnerships.
The average income for a household in Oak Harbor is around $36,600 per year.
Brief History of Oak Harbor
The City of Oak Harbor was named for the Garry Oak trees that adorn its skyline. The city's growth originated from two major events, which include the building of the Deception Pass Bridge on July 31, 1935, and the completion of Naval Air Station Whidbey Island on September 21, 1942.
The history of Oak Harbor dates back to the early 1850s, when three settlers first staked claims to the land where the city is now located. The men were Martin Tafton, a shoemaker from Norway; C.W. Sumner from New England; and Ulrich Freund, a Swiss Army officer. The only one to retain part of his claim was Freund, and today, Oak Harbor is home to some of his descendants.
Oak Harbor, WA homes and businesses began to sprout up along the city's shores as the pioneers relied entirely on water transportation until the 1900s. Steamers and freighters carried both passengers and freight from Whidbey Island to the mainland and back for the following thirty years.
In the late 1850s, the Irish entered the Oak Harbor area. More Oak Harbor, WA homes were built, and the city began to grow and prosper as the new settlers fished and farmed the area. In the 1890s, the Dutch arrived into Oak Harbor, during a time in which the Hollanders were disillusioned with the northern Midwest United States, and ultimately decided to make their home on Whidbey Island.