Chickenhouse Chronicles: Whidbey Island, Washington

My great grandfather, Calvin Philips, owned several thousand acres on Whidbey Island, Washington in the early 1900s. Over the course of several decades it was sold. Today his original Greenbank Dairy Farm is a community center.

Ironically, I craweled across the the Naval Base land he once owned during my SERE (survival, evasion, resistance, escape) training before I went to Vietnam in 1968.)



On June 25, 1921, my grandmother, Elsie Philips, sent her mother, Idalia Fratt, a letter describing her arrival on Whidbey Island. My mother, Barbara, is ten months old—this is the first time she is mentioned. Two years later her sister, Polly, was born.



  1. Bonnie (Affield) Loots says:

    Mother often spoke about our great grandfather, Calvin Philips, owning Whidbey Island. Thank you, Wendell, for keeping our history alive.

  2. My brother was stationed on Whidbey Island when he was in the Navy. I lived in Seattle for about three years and visited Whidbey Island often. I loved both Seattle and Whidbey. Many memories. Interesting about your great-grandfather owning land there.

  3. Laurel Hofmann says:

    Fascinating to link so many generations in one letter. I wish I could visit and see the berry fields and the old homestead.

  4. After hiking the West Coast Trail on nearby Vancouver Island, I can appreciate the experiences and history on Whidbey Island.

  5. Thanks for the history lesson!

  6. Jerry Mercer says:

    I am the author of One Hundred Years at Greenbank. I did considerable research on the book and even visited Greenbank, Deleware, Cal Philip’s boyhood home. There are few Loganberry bushes left at the farm. It has undergone many changes over the years. Cal was in control of ten thousand acres and sold them between 1890 and 1910. He built a modern farm, a hotel, a wharf, and a store on the Greenbank beach. Only one house remains along with two of the original barns (much modified). Cal’s dairy herd got TB and died or had to be removed. He let one of his sons take over and moved to Seattle where he died. The farm was taken over by a German emigrant who started the berries. Later it was owned by Ste. Michelle Winery. The farm was the largest loganberry farm in the world for a while and is now a tourist spot owned by our community and has several shops. If you want more info about Greenbank, let me know or purchase the book from the farm (on the internet).

  7. Emory Lindgard says:

    I trying to find out information if the wharf had steamers or passenger boats that came to Greenbank. Is there any pictures of the wharf ?

    Emory Lindgard

  8. I have seen photos on the internet of small steam ships moored to the wharf. I have a collection of early 1900s era pictures of the Seattle/Everett/Tacoma/Portland area that I have not yet had a chance to study. I believe some of them may be from the early days at Greenbank on Whidbey. I hope study and archive them within the next year.

  9. Pete Pehl says:

    I am a local scuba diver and I have been recovering bottles from various spots around Whidbey Island. Recently I found a milk bottle that I have been able to determine it’s date as 1925. On the bottom is an imbossed dairy logo of a triangular shield with the initials C P inside. Do you know if that would be from the dairy farm owned by Calvin Phillips?

  10. Peter, I believe that Calvin Philips did bottle the milk produced at Greenbank Farm on Whidbey Island. With the initials “C P” embossed on the bottle you are probably correct. I’m sure that Greenbank Farm can answer your question more fully. I would love to see a picture of the bottle and with your permission, post it on this site. Thank you for the information.

  11. Pete Pehl says:

    Wendell, I would be happy to email you photos of the bottle. I am also going to check with Greenbank Farm if there is any information that this bottle is related to the farm owned by Calvin Philips.

  12. Peter Philips says:

    Greetings from Seattle, Wendell!

    I am also a great grandson of Calvin Philips. My grandfather was Richard Thomas Philips, (1896-1982) one of Calvin’s five sons, and my father was Richard Howe Philips (1934-1999). I was born in 1962 and I have one brother, Chris born in 1963. Our side of the family stayed local to the Tacoma-Seattle area. My grandfather and my father held some of the Greenbank property into the 1960’s and I remember playing on ‘Sandy Beach’ in my youth and visiting the ‘Big House’ Calvin built. Even found a mastodon tooth in the cliffs with my dad one year! Between Chris and I we have a horde of photos and documents related to the Greenbank Farm, and Calvin’s other ventures. I’d be happy to connect. Peter Philips

  13. Jim Montague says:

    I am a Greenbank resident on North Bluff Road, trying to determine the history of a small runoff waterway to the north of where the hotel stood. I would be interested in any pictures, writings, or memories, if any exist, that the owner would be willing to share! The waterway is about 1/2 mile from where the hotel sat and is currently in a pipe next to/under a road to the beach.

    Many Thanks!
    Jim Montague


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