Town History

Our Founding

Situated on the delta near the mouth of the Skagit River, La Conner was founded in the early 1860's and is Skagit County's oldest community. First settled by non-natives just after the Civil War, our early settlers included many with names recognizable today such as Alexander Underwood, Michael Sullivan, Sam Calhoun and A.G. Tillinghast. 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. 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.               


The early settlers diked hundreds of acres of land, creating farmland which would surpass per-acre yields around the globe. La Conner soon became a popular farm community and a hub for steamers carrying passengers and freight from Seattle. By the turn of the century, La Conner's population had reached 1,000. La Conner was a thriving community due in large measure to its proximity to the water. Logging and fishing prospered until the Great Depression. Artists settled in the area in the 1940's, enjoying the unique light and inspiration from nature. Renowned artists include Morris Graves, Guy Anderson, Richard Gilkey and Clayton James. Some artists were leaders of the Northwest School of Art. In the 1970's, tourists discovered the area along with folks seeking the peace and quiet of an old fashioned town.           


Today, La Conner is a balance of people who work and live here, including the Swinomish Tribal Community, Shelter Bay residents from across the channel, fishermen, farmers, artists, and carpenters - a diverse mix of cultures and educational backgrounds. If you need a place to relax and browse through interesting shops and art galleries, if you want to watch the waterfront or enjoy fine restaurants, inns and bed & breakfasts, then come to La Conner. You can also enjoy natural beauty and wildlife such as bird watching. La Conner is wintering grounds for swans and Canada geese. The fertile farmlands continue to produce food and seed crops and, of course, our annual Tulip festival is celebrated around the world.               

La Conner is on the National Registry of Historic places. The Civic Garden Club was the first courthouse north of Seattle. We value our history and heritage. We are an exciting place to live and to visit.