Wednesday, April 21, 2010
THE DOG HOUSE TAVERN ON WHIDBEY ISLAND
The Dog House Tavern is a weathered, red wooden structure built by the Olympic Game Club in 1908. Over the years it has hosted vaudeville shows, prize fights, silent movie screenings, proms, basketball games, temperance meetings, and all night gambling events. Boozy gamblers would sleep on cots in the upstairs room to avoid the "dog house" status awaiting them with their wives at home. During prohibition in 1933 it officially became The Dog House Tavern.
Being such an old, rickety looking building, many Whidbey Islanders wondered if The Dog House would collapse under the weight of history and rain, sliding into the Puget Sound one dark night. But The Dog was built tough. It could withstand generations of poker faced cheaters, rustlers, hustlers and midnight floozies.
Now this historic building might disappear in a different way. It's up for auction on April 23rd, and its fate remains uncertain. [UPDATE: The auction has been postponed for a week.] If someone buys The Dog House just to tear it down, I'll be heartbroken...even if the food there often gave me heartburn.
The Dog House Tavern played a central role in my teenage years. Nobody there gave a shit if we sat in the restaurant area; singing sitcom theme songs, annoying the paying customers while we drank water or nursed one cup of coffee. They never complained if someone sat by the totem pole at the backdoor, practicing three chords on a guitar. Occasionally, someone would put a quarter in the player piano and we'd ironically dance until tourists would want to take our picture. Then we'd sneer at them and leave.
They hired teenagers too. One of my friends worked in the kitchen, and rumor had it he would spit in the Principal's chili when he came in. (This may have actually improved the flavor of the chili.)
Underneath The Dog House was a cave called "The Pleasure Dome". Admittedly, whoever named it this either had a fanciful imagination or very low standards. Because all you'd find inside were a stained mattress, some empty beer cans and a couple of used condoms.
But The Dog House deserves to be saved. It's an iconic piece of Pacific Northwest history. Families ate there, actors performed there, tourists boozed up there, and once I saw my dentist dressed in a devil's costume darting in there.
Of course, when I lived on Whidbey Island, I was never old enough to sit in the saloon area. So I'd love to go back there, stride through those swinging doors and take my seat at the bar where so many other misbehaved ramblers came before me.