The old blue building located at the Friday Harbor Airport is home to Ernie’s Cafe and the Roy Franklin Museum. (Town of Friday Harbor/contributed photo)

The old blue building located at the Friday Harbor Airport is home to Ernie’s Cafe and the Roy Franklin Museum. (Town of Friday Harbor/contributed photo)

Islander works to restore decaying cafe and museum

James Crossley is on a mission to preserve a Friday Harbor landmark. Crossley, a Friday Harbor resident, has organized a GoFundMe to remodel Ernie’s Cafe and the Roy Franklin Museum. Created May 9, as of May 28, the GoFundMe had reached $3,425 of its $20,000 goal.

“Want to join me in making a difference?” Crossley asked in his GoFundMe campaign description. “I’m raising money to benefit Lone Eagle Society, and any donation will help make an impact.”

The historic building was the island’s first passenger plane terminal, which, along with the rest of the airport, was built by Roy Franklin, according to Crossley. The cafe is named after Ernie Gann, another famous San Juan Island pilot and author, who died in 1991.

Franklin was a WWII veteran. He took the skills he honed from the war and made himself the first passenger pilot on the island, assisting many with their aeromedical needs.

“Mr. Roy Franklin flew so many island births out of here and he saved a lot of lives,” Crossley said.

The island community isn’t the only community to recognize Franklin’s work. He earned the Smithsonian title of one of the top 22 pioneers in commuter aviation in the United States, according to Crossley.

Franklin lived on the island until he died at 86 in 2011.

Crossley hopes for the cafe and museum to be a place for locals to relax, have some food, watch the planes, and talk about Franklin. He said the venue can also be used for events and will offer an aviation course.

The museum will also serve the purpose of harkening back to a past when the island only had one brave pilot, Franklin, and paying homage to him by informing visitors of his accomplishments.

“Franklin and his father had originally cleared trees out of a cow pasture to build the first landing,” Crossley said. “He was willing to brave the bad weather storms. He was all courage.”

Being a pilot and veteran himself, he had his hangar located about a block and a half from the historical building.

“I thought to myself, why isn’t this place being used?” Crossley said.

So, he decided to act on that thought. Crossley pitched his idea to the Port of Friday Harbor and they leased him the building.

In between being used as a passenger terminal and being vacant, it was used as a firefighting simulation building. Despite the different usages coming and going through the building, Crossley said he discovered the original airport GPS system and offices were still there as if nothing had changed.

At the time, Crossley was spending a lot of time flying overseas and couldn’t oversee most of the project himself. Now that he is retired, he is able to put more of his energy into it. He has been working on restoring the building every day for the past three months, he said.

“I remodeled it for the first time 17 years ago, now it’s time to remodel it again,” he said with a chuckle.

Crossley explained that the building’s most desperate needs are a new floor and roof.

“Over time I have been able to take care of most of those expenses myself,” Crossley said. “But those are heavy-weight expenses so I’ve asked for help from the community.”

The aviation community has given him a good response, Crossley said, but he has yet to raise

more awareness throughout the rest of the San Juan community.

For now, Crossley said he estimates a grand opening soon. Even after the opening, Crossley said he still has things to update throughout the building.

To donate to the GoFundMe, visit

“He did tremendous service for the island, therefore we need to remember. This is his legacy,” Crossley said.