The History of Marty’s Place at Strawbridge Farm

From Langley, The Village By The Sea” by Lorna Cherry

On a certain bleak day in the Spring of 1900, 57 year-old Elizabeth Strawbridge sat in the office of her doctor in Jacksonville, Illinois, and heard him make the chilling diagnosis that she was dying of tuberculosis. Was there any hope she asked. His response was that there was dim possibility that a change of climate might prolong her life.

Although her body might be ailing, Elizabeth Strawbridge was vigorous in mind and spirit and she found the prospect of premature death most distasteful. She had heard from friends that the climate in the Pacific Northwest was mild and invigorating so she packed up bag and baggage and set out for Seattle accompanied by 35 year-old Fred Schoel. They settled briefly in Seattle near Lake Union but she was not satisfied with the location.

Jacob Anthes had advertised for sale the cabin and land west of Langley where he had lived when he first came to the area, prior to building his new house next to his store in downtown Langley. The idea of a cabin in the woods surrounded by pure air and aromatic evergreens appealed greatly to Elizabeth Strawbridge who believed that in such a setting she could commute the death sentence which had been pronounced upon her.

In 1900 she purchased the large tract of land from Anthes which extended along Saratoga Road for about a quarter of a mile then north to the Saratoga Passage waterfront. With the help of Fred Schoel she cleared her land and fur­nished the cabin with hand-made items. As time passed, she reaped a double reward for her deter­mination not to become a victim of ill health. She found that she not only had cured her tuber­culosis but also had become quite prosperous.

In 1909 she relegated the cabin to a summer place and built an impressive house on the bank just above the beach on Saratoga Passage with a view that was breathtaking. She sent back to Illinois for the beautiful furniture from her former home and had it shipped by steamship around the Horn. Her neighbors were Helen Coe and the town’s banker, James Langley.

As Langley began to expand and push its borders westward along Saratoga Passage, Elizabeth Strawbridge donated 40 feet of her land for a county road. Unfortunately when the engineer for the county built the road, he did not follow precisely the survey of the land she had donated and as a result there has been confusion over the years about the property boundaries in the area where the present Tompkins Road intersects Saratoga Road. Claude and Carolyn Johnson owned the property on Saratoga Road across from the end of Tompkins Road.

Elizabeth participated in community affairs and, far from dying young as the Illinois doc­tor had predicted, this energetic woman lived to the ripe old age of 85. She is buried in Langley cemetery. She had no direct descendants and in her will she left her Whidbey property to a niece and nephew, Miss Frances Mellon and Jim Mellon of Jacksonville, Illinois.

Miss Mellon was a concert pianist of con­siderable stature, performing in concerts around the world including Paris, Vienna and Japan. She also taught piano lessons at a Salem, Oregon college. As a result, she spent little time at her Langley home but her brother, Jim Mellon, lived there and maintained the premises. The house was large for one person so he rented rooms and board. One of the roomers was a real estate salesman.

In 1945 Jim Mellon died at the age of 65 and his sister turned the property over to a cousin in Illinois, Elysabeth Dunbar Tompkins who, with her husband, Rexford Tompkins, came west immediately and took charge of funeral ar­rangements for Jim Mellon. However when they started to settle down in the house they discovered that it and several acres of the ad­joining land had been sold to Vic and Ann Primavera by the real estate salesman who had roomed there. Mr. and Mrs. Tompkins moved into the original log house on the bluff overlook­ing Saratoga Passage which had been retained as a summer home along with property on both sides of the Tompkins Road.

The Primaveras made their home in the historic house for about 30 years before retir­ing to Ann’s present Third Street home in Langley. They sold the property to Max and Joye Bitts who have maintained the house in its original design and since 1985 have made it their permanent home. They have subdivided the acreage into an exclusive residential development.

In 1984 the Tompkins family still used the cabin as a summer home although over the years they built a new house on Tompkins Road. The Tompkins also platted the property on both sides of the road from Saratoga Passage bluff to Saratoga Road, selling 11 lots on one side of the Tompkins Road and retaining nine lots on the opposite side for their children and grandchildren.

Rexford and Elysabeth Tompkins remained in their Langley home on Tompkins Road until 1963 when they moved to California. Mr. Tompkins died in 1974 and the property was turned over to their sons, Fredrick Dunbar Tompkins and Rex Tompkins Jr. Elysabeth Tompkins who resides in Seal Beach, California, often vacations at her former home at the end of the road named for her family.

(Editor’s note: The above data was obtained from an interview with Elysabeth Tompkins June 21, 1981. The excerpt ends here.)

In 2004, the Tomberg family bought Strawbridge Farm from Todd Bitts, son of Max and Joye Bitts, and renamed it “Marty’s Place at Strawbridge Farm” in honor of their father, Martin William Tomberg. They undertook a complete remodeling and upgrading of the house, but even after the modifications, Marty’s Place retains much of its original rustic sensabilities. In 2005, Strawbridge Farm once again opened to guests as it was in Jim Mellon’s time. The walls of this house have been blessed with over 100 years of laughter. Please help us build another 100 years with yours.

We were a group of 11 adults on a retreat weekend and had an amazing stay at Marty’s Place. The home is in great shape, very spacious with lots of fun rooms and nooks to relax in. The kitchen is such a fun place to cook, we cooked large meals for the group and clean-up was easy with 2 dishwashers and 2 large sinks. There is a large gas range! Outside the home, it was a cold weekend when we visited, but there is a beautiful wrap around porch with chairs and a fire pit. The view is unbeatable! Langley is a short walk away, which we did many times throughout out weekend. Fun for local coffee, art and shopping. Highly recommend this home! Charlie was great to communicate and plan with!
– February, 2017 Guest
This is a five star review on HomeAway!

Wonderful Spacious Home

We had our second stay at Marty’s place with our extended family, children, grandchildren and grandparents. The house works so well with a group. Large kitchen with two dishwashers, dining room table to seat 14, several seating areas separate from the TV room , sweet little play area upstairs for children plus the beautiful porch to enjoy the view. The house is clean and well looked after, and one small problem we had on our stay was correctly very quickly. The owners have been very quick to respond via email both when booking and during the stay. There is so much to do at the house, from outside play in the huge grounds, to loads of boardgames to play inside. About a 15 minute walk from Langley which has lots of great restaurants, coffee shops, stores and wine shops. A very pretty little town. We love Whidbey Island and Marty’s Place is a perfect place to stay for a visit.
Five-Star Review on HomeAway!
– August, 2018 Guest

Just a fabulous house for a group!

I wanted to tell you how much my family and I enjoyed staying at Marty’s Place for our son’s wedding the weekend of Sept. 23-25. The house was amazing and so comfortable for all of us; we had plenty of room for everyone (the kids in the family were totally enchanted by all the toys!) And having the firepit to enjoy after a long day was so relaxing.
Again, thanks for all your help and for sharing such a beautiful place with us.
– September, 2016 Guest

Having the firepit to enjoy after a long day was so relaxing

This September my group of 50 something year old women will be embarking on the 25th anniversary of travelling together. And where are we celebrating? At Marty’s Place, of course! Actually, this will be our 4th year staying in this beautifully restored old home on Whidbey Island. A gourmet’s dream kitchen, plenty of room for the six of us to put together a fantastic meal or two. Views everywhere you turn, wonderfully kept grounds, fantastic covered wrap around deck, comfortable beds and lots of bathrooms! And if that weren’t enough, a very helpful and responsive owner/caretaker should any problems arise. I can’t recommend this home enough. But don’t make your reservations for early September…that’s when we go!!

Couldn’t Ask for More

We had an Awesome time at your beautiful Whidbey home. Loved the kitchen, loved the beds, the view… Everything about it! Wonderful time and can’t wait to visit again. Weather was perfect and Whidbey is beautiful! We thank you so much again for your compassion and generosity.
– April, 2016 Guest

We had an Awesome time at your beautiful Whidbey home

We arrived at MARTY’S PLACE and discovered the wonderful photos online told only half the story. This is a terrific house, warm and inviting, with great views and grounds. The flow of the main floor welcomes a large family together as a big group or gathered in smaller conversation areas. The kitchen is well appointed and the layout works for more than one cook! As we were there in early Spring we were thankful for the large covered porch and fire pit. The location is perfect; walking distance to Langley and only a short drive to many of Whidbeys other attractions.
– April, 2016 Guest

This is a terrific house, warm and inviting, with great views and grounds

We just returned from our favorite get-away spot. Once again, we are so appreciative of the care lavished on this beautiful old home. It is clean, comfy and beautifully situated. As you may know, the weather was an added bonus. As were the doe and her two fawns who visited.

Our Favorite Get-away Spot

Marty’s place was absolutely perfect! It was a great place to connect with family and friends while spending time together. My husband and I got married on whidbey and rented Marty’s place for the bridal party since everyone was coming from out of town. I couldn’t think of a more perfect place to spend time with loved ones. The fire pit was our favorite part of the property!
Five-Star Review on HomeAway!
– June, 2018 Guest

Beautiful house!

We have had the pleasure of staying at Marty’s Place three times, each time in May. Their garden and all the gardens on Whidbey Island are in beautiful Spring bloom in May. We LOVE the house and it really does sleep 12. We have also enjoyed the house just as a couple, very romantic. It is a lovely, old house and it has always been sparkling clean. The Owners have always been very responsive to questions. The Master bath and suite is to die for, as are the many water view windowseats around the house. Perfect for families or three families. The Island is fun and it really is just an easy mile walk to the charming village of Langley. Two choices for golf on the island and several wonderful restaurants. We fell in love and can’t wait to return.
– May, 2016 Guest

We LOVE the house!

I want to tell you how much we appreciated being at Marty’s Place. It accommodated our family reunion of four couples perfectly. We enjoyed ourselves and took advantage of the many homelike amenities you have invested in the place. Thanks for provided us with a most suitable place for our families being together.
– September 2016 Guest

I want to tell you how much we appreciated being at Marty’s Place

Chill like an otter: Two-thirds of a mile from the town of Langley, the sprawling waterfront Marty’s Place property is the ultimate family spot (4667 Strawbridge Lane; 877.814.0503; With five bedrooms, a few cozy lounging areas, a modern (and fully equipped!) kitchen and an outdoor fire pit at the top of the bluff overlooking Saratoga Passage, the big yellow manse is the perfect launching pad for exploring the island. Outside, there are ample tromping grounds for little people—if you’re lucky, you’ll book during blackberry season, when the bushes along the vast lawn ripen—and a long, covered porch from which grown-ups can holler without spilling their rosé.
– Seattle Magazine, August, 2015,1

Chill like an otter

This was our 3rd January retreat at the delightful Marty’s Place in Langley, WA on beautiful Whidbey Island. This vacation rental is hard to beat! Plenty of room for the 10 of us to sleep, eat, play games, and visit by the fire. Since several in our group are great cooks, we really enjoy the well equipped gourmet kitchen. Langley is close enough to walk to and offers good restaurants, coffee and shopping. We are looking forward to January 2018!
Five-Star Review on HomeAway!
– January, 2017 Guest

This vacation rental is hard to beat!

This was the perfect place for our family reunion. Walking distance to town if you’ve got teenagers with no car who need to get away from the adults, and also plenty of separate nooks for different groups to have their own socializing space. Fire pit for those clear summer nights. Bunnyopolis in the blackberry bushes, and deer on the lawn. Sunsets on Saratoga Passage. The kitchen was a dream; I didn’t even want to leave that kitchen to go kayaking and still fantasize about renting the house for Thanksgiving one day. Absolutely amazing.
– July, 2016 Guest

So much happy – 5 star review

Words cannot express the gratitude our family extends to you, for welcoming guests at Marty’s Place. The house and farm exceeded our expectations. When we reserved the week , after finding Marty’s Place on the internet, we were excited to see what we had chosen. From the moment we set foot in the yard and walked into the house, we were delighted. It was even better than we imagined. The house is beautifully furnished and so well maintained. The inspiring view is imprinted in memory. We had a magical week, honoring special birthdays, exploring Whidbey, and being together. We celebrate everyone at Marty’s Place whom helps to keep the doors open, allowing guests to spend time at a truly special property. We do hope to return again one day. May that be sooner rather than later. –With appreciation

The House and Farm Exceeded Our Expectations

This is the third time we have stayed with friends at Marty’s Place. The building is a beautifully restored farmhouse with acres of yard and a view of Saratoga Passage and Camano Island. The accommodations are comfortable, spacious, and very well maintained. The kitchen is well equipped (although the knives are incredibly dull!) and we had no problems cooking and baking during our stay.
The walk to town (Langley) is not too long and there are good restaurants and shops there to keep you amused when you;re not relaxing at Marty’s Place. As in the past, we left looking forward to our next visit.
– Bob M.
Seattle, Washington
Trip Advisor Top Contributor

My Country Home with a Water View

The place was expansive, had great views and very comfortable. The kids had a blast running around in the front and back lawns, playing with the toys in the house and enjoyed learning the piano. The master bedroom had a patio that opened up to the ocean view. The house is older and we noticed a couple of things – the property manager was very responsive to our calls.
Overall, we enjoyed the place and would definitely come back here next year.
Five-Star Review on HomeAway!
– July, 2018 Guest

Incredible location and view

We just stayed at this gorgeous home for a week, and can’t wait to return. We had family coming in from Pennsylvania and Colorado, and felt this would be a lovely place for our group to gather, and we were not disappointed. With 6 adults and two small children, this was the perfect base for us to explore Whidbey Island and the surrounding area. This home is spacious, perfectly equipped, beautiful and extremely well maintained. With the gourmet kitchen and large dining area, we planned evening meals each night in the house. The wrap around covered porch is the perfect location for afternoon happy hour, bird and whale watching, and just relaxing. We also took advantage of the wonderful fire pit, roasting hot dogs and eating S’mores! Langely is within walking distance and has quaint shops and restaurants to enjoy. I can’t say enough about this fabulous home. It oozes pride of ownership! Our family made special memories here that will never be forgotten!
Redmond, Washington
Trip Advisor Senior Reviewer

Fantastic Family Gathering Spot!

I just wanted to tell you how much we enjoyed our stay at Marty’s place. My jaw dropped when we walked into the house! So beautiful. Thanks for sharing your home.
– October, 2015 Guest

My jaw dropped when we walked into the house!

Lovely place with lots of usable common space. Excellent for large family reunions. Super bonus: the many fruit trees with tasty fruit! We had a great time.
– August, 2016 Guest

Lovely place with lots of usable common space

We loved every moment of our stay.
– Fall, 2016 Guest

We loved every moment of our stay.

Our group of old friends has traveled widely together through the years, and were fortunate to spend a few nights at Marty’s place. It is a comfortable, welcoming home which is very well appointed. Lots of space for the 8 of us, great kitchen, comfy beds, very relaxing and quiet. Charlie was quite helpful and answered questions promptly. Langley is a charming village, with a few good restaurants if you decide not to cook at the house. We will return!

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