Deer Harbor Inn
On Beautiful Orcas Island

The Deer Harbor Inn's 100 years of History

The Deer Harbor Inn remains as one of Orcas Island’s first resorts. Initially called the Norton Inn, the resort was developed by Patrick and Mary Norton who moved to the Deer Harbor area in 1891.The Norton family managed a small orchard from which they made a modest living. They began housing the Seattle school teachers in timber-framed canvas-topped structures for summer retreats. With the irrigation of the Columbia River Valley, their orchard business became less profitable and the Norton's got creative. This evolved into establishing the first resort on Orcas Island in 1910 called Norton's Inn and continues in operation today as the Deer Harbor Inn.
The apple picker's cabins became the nucleus of the expanding resort, which grew to include a 150-seat restaurant, a hotel, tennis courts, and a beachside swimming pool. Mary Norton was famous for her chicken dinners and homemade desserts. A good crowd of islanders could be counted on to mingle with the guests in the dining room. The Norton’s son Felix and his wife, Esther, took over the resort in 1931 and operated it for many years. The historic Deer Harbor Inn contributed in putting this lovely village community on the map as a unique vacation destination and special community.
During the early 1900s the Deer Harbor Community developed from its homestead settlement roots. A new two room school house was built in 1905 and is still in use as the Deer Harbor Community Club. This school building housed 75 students, grades 1 through 8 from Crane, Double and McConnell Islands as well as Deer Harbor. That same year the Deer Harbor Literary Club was formed "sociability". Debates, plays, box socials, church services and community Christmas parties were held by this and other groups at the new schoolhouse. In 1907 the Pearmain brothers built Deer Harbor’s first dance hall on the east side of the slough. The new dance hall served as the home court for the first basketball team on Orcas. The Deer Harbor team played under kerosene lamp light which were protected by chicken wire.
With the arrival of prohibition in 1919 a new form of commerce flowed through the islands. Fast boats making runs between Canadian waters and Seattle traveled through the islands with revenue agents on their trail. The Pole Pass area was a particular favorite of the rum runners. It offered numerous small coves for eluding the revenue agents. A greenhouse was built just east of Pole Pass for Rhubarb production. It was later discovered that the shelves were hallow for bottle storage and it had a "basement" containing a working still. It was closed down when agents noted an unusually high interest in rhubarb very high interest in the rhubarb trade.
In 1982 the Carpenter family (Pam, Craig, Ryan, Jenny and Matt) purchased the old resort property. The entire resort had been torn down besides the restaurant. This one lone building served as the family's home and business. Since then, the Carpenters have slowly resurrected the old resort. After restoring the foundation and fixing up the restaurant, the first project was the construction of the 2 story log cabin lodge and more recently private cottages and guest houses have been added.
Craig and Pam Carpenter moved to Orcas Island after many years in the restaurant and hospitality industry stemming from Boise Idaho, Reno Nevada, and Friday Harbor.
In 1998, Matt “Chef” and Ryan took over the restaurant and catering operations bringing a renewed energy and enthusiasm to the Inn’s storied history. They purchased the restaurant from Pam and Craig in 2006. Our commitment remains to uphold the standard of using only the freshest seafood, choicest steaks and seasonal fruits and vegetables and offering our best service and hospitality. We have deep respect for the tradition of the Deer Harbor Inn as a multi-generational family business and consider it a great blessing to be able to be a part of it! We look forward to your visit!
The Deer Harbor Inn
Reservations: (360) 376-4110
Restaurant: (360) 376-1040