Sam Buck “the First” discovered the northwest after graduating from the University of Nebraska in 1906, coming out to attend the University Of Washington Law School and be the Frosh Football Coach. He had been Captain of the U.of N. football team and a member of the Phi Gamma Delta Fraternity House. (FIJI). He stayed at the local chapter while at the U.W.
Sam returned to Nebraska and then served our country in the Balloon Core during World War I. Afterwards, he moved back to Seattle with his new wife Faye. One of the jobs he had in Seattle was working for the Marsh McLennan Insurance Agency as an adjuster. A house on Orcas Island had burnt down and he was assigned to go to Orcas to inspect and process the claim. He immediately fell in love with the islands and in 1918 moved to Orcas taking up an old homestead at Doe Bay with his wife and first son Robert. He worked at various jobs there including as a purser on the Standard, a passenger freight ship that came through the islands. He also grew strawberries and reaped the harvest of the Italian prune trees on his property.
Eventually a group of War Veterans from Friday Harbor learned that Sam had a law degree and said “If we run you for Prosecuting Attorney and you get elected would you take the job?” It paid $25 per month and came with an office and a secretary, and he could practice law on the side. There was very little money around back then, so a steady cash paying job was a rare opportunity. Faye, who was raised formally and had professionally sung for the Philadelphia Opera Company, looked at Sam and then Sam said yes. Sam was elected and in 1920 they moved to Friday Harbor along with Robert and their first daughter, Barbara, who was delivered by an Indian mid-wife in 1919. Can you imagine coming from a formal upbringing in Philadelphia, to living in a small village on a remote island and having your baby delivered by an Indian mid-wife? Sam Buck Jr. was born in 1927 in Friday Harbor, as was daughter Carolyn, born in 1931.
Sam the First was Prosecuting Attorney until he died in 1946. He also practiced law on the side and served two years in the Legislature. He was famous for the way he practiced law as more of an arbitrator. He was also famous for two other things: He believed the people who brought children into the world should take care of them until they were adults and not make them wards of the court under divorce as was the law then. The other was for his “3:30 service”. When certain types of lesser crimes were committed he would bring the criminal before the Sheriff and say, “The Sheriff is going to serve you at 3:30 this afternoon. You understand the ferry leaves at 3:15, and if you aren’t here, the Sheriff can’t serve you.” There were many who caught that 3:15 boat.
In subsequent years Robert graduated from the University Of Washington Law School, (Fiji), was San Juan County Prosecuting Attorney, practiced in Seattle, became head of the Small Business Administration under Dwight Eisenhower and held many important positions in the northwest. He was part of the team that opened China under President Nixon and he was one of the first of a delegation sent to China to help China establish modern business relations with the United States. He also helped to improve the Import Export Bank under President Carter.
Sam Buck Jr., after attending the University of Washington (also a Fiji), lived in Seattle with his young wife Barbara. They moved back to Friday Harbor to try and make a living there doing various jobs from 1953-57. Then they moved to California following a job opportunity.
After spending 9 hot days in a motel in Tucson, Arizona for the company he worked for, he decided he didn’t want the traveling lifestyle, didn’t want to raise his children in California and he was working 50 weeks a year so that he could spend two weeks a year in Friday Harbor.
So Sam thought of other ways he might be able to make a living in Friday Harbor and in that hot hotel room dreamed up an idea of starting a real estate company. As part of that process he thought about how Brown Island, at the entrance to Friday Harbor and owned by some close friends, Dick Franck and Jack Powell, could be divided up and sold. He then told his wife Barbara he wanted to try one more thing to see if he could make a go of it in Friday Harbor and she agreed to go along. So Sam put the Brown Island development idea together with his fraternity brothers, and named the development Friday Island Estates. At the same time he and Barbara started San Juan Properties to be the real estate company selling lots in Friday Island Estates. Friday Island was the first development in San Juan County that had self imposed environmental restrictions, including restrictions on the cutting of trees and no cars for personal use. At the time they put the deal together, Brown Island was only hours away from a contract to have it logged. Friday Island Estates was a success, selling many of the lots to other fraternity brothers. (Waterfront lots originally sold for about $5,000-$8,500). Following Friday Island came Cape San Juan, San Juan Ranchos, Hillside, Mitchell Point, Carefree and what would have been Limekiln Village. Sam and Barbara also did many other projects on San Juan and other islands. No one has provided as many parcels of land for people to build their homes on in San Juan County than Sam Buck Jr. and no one likely ever will due to the lack of available land to develop and new regulations.
Over the years San Juan Properties saw much growth. It was located where Griffin Bay Books is now in downtown Friday Harbor, and it had branches in Roche Harbor, on Orcas, in Anacortes and two in Seattle. Eventually the branches on Orcas and in Anacortes shut down and one of the Seattle branches was sold. Sam and Barbara had much personal growth too, raising four children, Sam III, Lori, Steve and Lynn.
In the late 1970’s, bustling San Juan County Bank decided it needed new, larger and more secure facilities. Sam and Barbara offered to purchase the two story beautiful brick building on the corner of 1st and Spring the bank had been in since 1907. Sam and Barbara took over possession of the building in 1980. Then they remodeled most of the 1st floor, endeavoring to keep historic architectural appearance.
In 1981, Steve Buck came home to help out his parents in the business “for a while”, as his father was deathly ill with kidney problems. He had been in Europe trying to embark on a career in international business. Steve graduated from Washington State University, BA in Business, and also took courses at the University of Washington in International Business, but his allegiance is to the Cougs. 3 of his 4 children are Cougs and the 4th is in spirit.
Steve started off working at both the Seattle and Friday Harbor locations, then the Friday Harbor and Roche Harbor locations. In Seattle, he had the pleasure of working with Bryce Lilly, one of only a few survivors of his troop during the Bataan Death March during WWII. Eventually, the Seattle location, a very small but street side office on 5th and Pine, was lost when the building it was in was torn down and a new building was constructed.
In 1984, Henry Broderick, who owned the best real estate company in Seattle, told Sam he was selling out to Coldwell Banker, as he was ready to retire and thought they were the best real estate company in the United States to run his business. Henry told Sam Coldwell Banker was soon going to be offering residential franchises.
Sam thought that San Juan Properties, which was already well known in the Northwest, would benefit greatly by becoming a Coldwell Banker Independent Affiliate and that it made sense for the best real estate company in the San Juan Islands to join forces with the best real estate company in the nation.
Sam thought that San Juan Properties, which was already well known in the Northwest, would benefit greatly by becoming a Coldwell Banker Independent Affiliate and that it made sense for the best real estate company in the San Juan Islands to join forces with the best real estate company in the nation. He foresaw how our market would expand dramatically with the Coldwell Banker name being recognized nationwide, that there would be quality real estate brokerages to receive customer referrals from and to refer customers to, and Coldwell Banker had a proven marketing system. So San Juan Properties, Inc. became Coldwell Banker San Juan Properties, Inc., which turned out to be a wise decision.
In 1988 Steve’s brother Sam (III), called him and said the non-profit alternative health organization at Murietta Hot Springs Resort in California he had been a member of, and worked at, and passionate about for many years, was shutting down operations. Sam asked Steve if he thought he could do “O.K.” in real estate in the islands, which Steve said, “absolutely”, and so Sam came home with his wife Jane and son John. (Charlie was subsequently added to the family.) Within a short period of time, through his hard work, Sam became one of the top Real Estate Brokers at Coldwell Banker San Juan Islands, Inc. Sam’s office is right where his grandfather’s law office was at the back on the 1st floor of what was the San Juan County Bank building, now the Buck Building, and the location of Coldwell Banker San Juan Islands, Inc.
In 1993, Steve and Laurie took over ownership of the real estate sales business forming San Juan Islands, Inc. and changing the name of the real estate company to Coldwell Banker San Juan Islands, Inc. San Juan Properties, Inc. was split off as a development and consulting company. Over the years, Steve and Laurie have put much effort into continuing to build the company with the best Real Estate Brokers, staff, technology, marketing tools and support systems. Many of our Real Estate Brokers have been with the company since the 1980’s and the whole crew averages 20 years. (See their biographies at Coldwell Banker San Juan Islands Real Estate Experts.) Steve and Laurie have also worked hard at improving the building, completely remodeling the interior and restoring the exterior, enhancing its authentic architectural appearance while at the same time providing the most contemporary business capabilities, all helping keep Coldwell Banker San Juan Islands, Inc. “The Most Trusted, Most Productive Real Estate Brokerage in the San Juan Islands, Since 1960”.