Fort Cascades in Skamania County

Nestled just a stone’s throw beneath the Bonneville Dam on the Columbia River between Oregon and Washington lies an unassuming National Historic Site filled with stories worth telling. On a recent work trip to the south end of Skamania County, I stumbled upon this great heritage destination. If you’re looking to escape a bustling city without traveling too far into the void of central Washington, Skamania County is an excellent choice. I happened to be attending the annual Washington

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Vacation destination… Moses Lake?

Not only is Moses Lake a great vacation destination, but it’s loaded with history as well. Let’s begin with the most obvious question…who is Moses Lake named for? The answer is not who you might think.

Of Pork and Politics: Washington in the Pig War

We’re all familiar with the historic events that led to the American Revolution, when the American Colonies seceded from rule by Great Britain. Somewhat less well known are the reasons behind the second war between England and the U.S…the War of 1812. But it’s unlikely you can find very many people who can tell you about the third war between these two superpowers, which took place – or, more accurately, almost took place – in the San Juan Islands in

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In search of Medicine Creek Treaty Tree, Part 1

Back in June of 2016, a colleague of mine at the Washington State Archives – Benjamin Helle, Olympia branch archivist – published an article in that agency’s newsletter about a little-known and seldom-visited monument in the South Sound area dedicated to the Medicine Creek Treaty. What followed was an adventure in state history that nearly anyone can undertake.

Lacey’s future as bright as its past

We need volunteers with a passion for local history to fill two open positions on the Historical Commission, which provides leadership in raising awareness of Lacey’s history and preservation of local historic resources.

Old Alder: Visit before it vanishes

The term “ghost town” in today’s time has evolved from its more literal interpretation to describe any small town that has been abandoned or vacated. Most of the time, however, towns devoid of inhabitants have nowhere to grow but older. Not so for old Alder.

Alas, the UW reactor building is no more

Several months back, I blogged about the effort to save the historic nuclear reactor building on the UW Seattle campus. Sadly – despite its listing on the National Register of Historic Places – UW went ahead with the demolition of this beautifully brutalist building.

Beauty and futility at Fort Spokane

With a name like “Fort Spokane” you would expect this 136-year-old former U.S Army installation to be somewhere in the vicinity of its namesake. Then again, a lot of things about Washington aren’t always as they seem.

USS Plainview: The ship that flew

There are dozens of things to see and do on the Lewis and Clark Trail Highway in southwest Washington (see here and here for just a few examples), but surely one of the most unique lies just outside a tiny berg called Knappton on the bank of the Columbia River. If you head west from Knappton Cove you might spot a rusty barge parked in a shallow bay called Hungry Harbor. There is something else very interesting about this harbor that caused

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The Ellis Island of the Columbia

We’ve all seen those grainy, black and white films of immigrants packed shoulder to shoulder on steamships pouring into America in the early 1900s. You can see them pass the Statue of Liberty and watch as they file out of the ships and into the long lines awaiting them before they are permitted entry into the United States. But we often overlook the fact that scenes like this were taking place all over the country…not just in New York.

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Historic UW Nuclear Reactor Building in danger

The Nuclear Reactor Building is an exceptional example of Brutalist design from the Mid-century Modern era and the ideals that drove the Modern movement. Designed by renowned architects of the time, the building’s design promotes technology and rejects the conventional academic architecture surrounding it. It is a completely unique structure, and represents a specific time and way of thinking in the history of the University, and the overarching history of nuclear power. Even after standing empty for many years,

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Marketing in the Methow Valley

Thanks to my work with Scenic Washington, I was invited to be a presenter at their annual retreat in Winthrop. Since I haven’t been to Winthrop since I was about seven, I jumped at the chance to not only see the Methow Valley again but to help some of Washington’s tourism partners recognize the value in history, heritage and culture. The drive from Lacey to Winthrop is a long one, but since I knew the route well I wanted to

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Go ride the rails at Mount Rainier

One of the most enthralling aspects of Washington state – besides its snow-capped mountain vistas, panoramic ocean views, arid desert plains, and ancient lakes, rivers and forests – is the fact that there is a unique and wonderful history attached to each one. Nowhere is that arguably more evident than in the southwestern foothills of Mount Rainier. On the surface, an affordable train ride through the woods (with or without children) sounds like a very pleasant afternoon…and it is,

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End of summer soirée at the mansion

The Washington Trust for Historic Preservation is inviting you to their annual fundraiser, Vintage Washington! As you may already know, I’m on the board of directors for this great organization and can personally attest to its passion for Washington State history. Vintage Washington is a festive evening of spirits tasting at Seattle’s historic Stimson-Green Mansion. Back by popular demand this year is Copperworks Distilling Company, offering tastings of premium vodka and gin. Bid summer adieu with their refreshing signature cocktail created for

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The Columbia Gorge has a north side, too

Believe it or not, there are actually people who don’t know the Columbia River has another side. Some of those folks have admitted as much to Earlene Sullivan, Executive Director at the Greater Goldendale Area Chamber of Commerce, who unfortunately understands the sentiment. Interstate 84, the fastest way to get inland from the sprawling, urban metropolis of Portland, zips along the northern border of Oregon…the south side of the Columbia River. Many a Pacific Northwesterner are familiar with attractions like Multnomah Falls, Vista House, and Rooster Rock State

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Yesterday’s history is today’s tourist attraction

The ability to entice visitors to your corner of Washington may lie in your area’s unique local history. Statistics show that more and more people are citing historical—whether it be natural, cultural or heritage tourism as the reason for their travel. You need to stay on the forefront of this emerging trend…but how? What is heritage tourism? The National Trust for Historic Preservation defines heritage tourism as “traveling to experience the places, artifacts and activities that authentically represent the

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Take a ride on the steamship Virginia V

In honor of the Seattle flagship’s 93rd birthday, the Steamship Virginia V Foundation is offering the public a limited number of tickets to join them for the birthday cruise on Sunday, June 7th. They’re celebrating 93 years of “Keeping The Steam Up!” around the Puget Sound with the annual celebratory cruise. Proud to continue the tradition of steaming in the northwest, the foundation says it’s looking forward to welcoming you aboard. The cruise is presented by Vulcan Real Estate and tickets can be purchased

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History lives on Orcas Island

There are very few places in Washington where you can hike through the woods, trip over a 200-year-old cannonball and land amongst an assortment of arrowheads and prehistoric bison fossils. In fact, there’s likely only one place where that amazing scenario could potentially play out, and that is on Orcas Island in the San Juans. As the largest island in San Juan County, Orcas is surprisingly not named after the famous killer whales that patrol the waters north of

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35 years since the mountain woke up

It was at this exact moment, 35 years ago, that the deadliest and most economically-destructive volcanic event in the history of the United States occurred just 60 miles from where I now live. Fifty-seven people were killed. 250 homes were wiped out. 47 bridges, 15 miles of railways and 185 miles of highway…gone. An earthquake measuring 5.1 on the Richter scale triggered an eruption and caused a massive debris avalanche that reduced the elevation of the mountain’s summit from 9,677 feet

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It’s never too late to remember

Almost everyone has a connection to World War II, and chances are good that you’re holding on to photos of someone from our Greatest Generation. Washington’s Secretary of State wants to help you share that story this year through their Legacy Washington campaign called “Washington Remembers.” From the beaches of Normandy to Buchenwald concentration camp, Washington veterans recall their experiences during World War II. Learn more and pay tribute to Washington’s heroes who changed the course of our history and made us who we

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Campbell’s Resort has something for everyone

Does the idea of sunning yourself on a white sand beach listening to gentles waves lap against the shoreline sound appealing to you? Or are you more of a traveling foodie (a trudie?) who loves discovering gourmet quizine in the most unlikely of places? Maybe you’re a history buff looking to learn more about the past while enjoying the present. Whoever you are, Campbell’s Resort on Lake Chelan is for you. Nestled at the southern tip of Lake Chelan,

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Everybody loves Raymond (Washington, that is)

And why wouldn’t they? It’s a wonderful place to visit on the way from Aberdeen to Long Beach, especially if you’re looking for historical tourism opportunities. The City of Raymond is a community sometimes overlooked in the story of Washington. Like so many other towns scattered across the state, Raymond saw its beginnings as a central point of the lumber industry in the mid- to late-1800s. Raymond’s name comes from one of the town’s early homestead families, one of

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Sailors, Scavengers and Souvenirs

On the morning of Friday, March 13, 2015, the bones of Washington’s most well-known ferry were picked clean. Kalakala supporters who desperately searched for years for a way to save the prodigious icon could finally relegate their desire to restore the grand ship to the what-could-have-been. And history buffs longing to claim a piece of her for their own could finally do so, for as little as ten bucks. I couldn’t help wondering if we were saviors or scavengers.

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Pressing On: Two Family-Owned Newspapers in the 21st Century

“Pressing On” is the story of two family-owned newspapers, The Seattle Times and The Wenatchee World. They’re steeped in Washington history and dedicated to public-service journalism. Presenters include Frank and Ryan Blethen (The Seattle Times) Rowland Thompson (Allied Daily Newspapers), and Rufus and Wilfred Woods (The Wenatchee World).

The last voyage of the Kalakala

This time-lapse video documents the final voyage of the Kalakala. The former Washington state ferry was moved Thursday from the Hylebos Waterway, where it’s languished for more than a decade, to the Blair Waterway, where it will be dismantled for scrap.

Wintering the Pacific with Lewis and Clark

In southwestern Washington where the mighty Columbia River meets the Pacific Ocean are a string of sites that no historical tourist or lifelong resident of our state should leave unvisited. Between Hungry Harbor and the Long Beach Peninsula are three places that hold not only state but national significance. They are the three places that Captain Meriwether Lewis, Lieutenant William Clark and the entire Corps of Discovery expedition met with some of the fiercest weather conditions of their 3,700-mile

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Uncertain future for “American icon”

In December of 1966, the City of Lacey was celebrating its incorporation. The small settlements of Woodland and Chambers Prairie had united to form what was then a bedroom community to nearby Olympia. But just a few months earlier that year, Lacey residents got a chance to attend another celebration, as one of the Northwest’s first modern indoor shopping malls opened for business at South Sound Center. When it opened, anchor tenants included Nordstrom Place Two, Peoples, Sears, and

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Time to finish what I start

Happy new year, and welcome to 2015! In the spirit of new beginnings, making resolutions and so forth, I thought I would share some of the blog posts from the last two years that didn’t quite make it to the publish stage. So let it be known that, from this day forward, I will finish every blog post I start – no matter the time or research involved, and no matter how much I procrastinate. That’s my 2015 resolution….so here

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Long on coastline, longer on history

Washington State’s Long Beach Peninsula is well known for many reasons. The prolific oyster and razor clam harvests, Jake the Alligator Man at Marsh’s Free Museum and one of the longest beaches in the world (28 continuous miles of sand-filled fun) are just a few. But there’s more to the iconic arm of Pacific County than just having a good time which, incidentally, is far too easy to do. Many of the communities along the Long Beach Peninsula were

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LeRoy Tipton’s take on local lodge history

I introduced myself and my wife to our Lake Quinault coach tour guide, LeRoy Tipton. He said our names twice and quipped, “I have a really good memory. But my recall does not work very well. In fact, I have a very good memory except for names…faces, places, events, dates…stuff like that.” During the twenty-minute introduction where LeRoy (pronounced “luh-ROY” not “LEE-roy”) eloquently set the stage for our three-hour tour of the Olympic National Park, we would find that

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A memorable meal at the Lake Quinault Lodge

“Yes, Mr. President. It is, indeed, breathtaking.” Those are the words I imagine Washington State Governor Clarence D. Martin spoke in 1937 after President Franklin Delano Roosevelt first commented on the beauty of what was then known as the Mount Olympus National Monument. Of course, Governor Martin would likely have been hiding a smirk at having to reinforce such an obvious statement by FDR. After all, it was a natural beauty that nearly every Washingtonian had been appreciating since

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Robert Peloli and Wilkeson’s coal mining history

My thanks to 91-year-old Robert Peloli – the last living coal miner in Wilkeson, his family, Wilkeson Mayor Bob Walker, Pierce County, and Dave Kellman, my intrepid videographer for this story. I think this is the best video we’ve done, and it’s a story near and dear to my heart. I hope you all enjoy watching it as much as I enjoyed making it!

Port Ludlow: From industry to opportunity

When most folks want to unplug for a weekend, they are often disappointed to find that their secret hideaway has suddenly become everyone else’s destination hot-spot. Many of Washington’s smaller beach communities can end up crawling with tourists during the busy season…good for their local economy, sure, but the bane of travelers looking for peace and quiet. However, a few places still remain where individuals, couples and families can find a safe harbor away from both day-to-day responsibilities and

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Who could ask for more than zombies in the old west?

Zombies? Like. Pioneer town? Like. Put the two together? It’s a match made in only the greatest nightmares. “Haunting Ellensburg” is Ellensburg’s premier haunted house event, taking place at Frontier Village at the Kittitas Valley Event Center on Fridays and Saturdays from Oct. 10 through Oct. 25. Guests will be pulled into a horrific version of the Old West as they encounter a fearful village overrun by marauding zombies and flee for their lives from hostile villagers! This professional

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Why James Glover deserves Spokane’s gratitude

A recent article by the Pacific Northwest Inlander calls into question whether or not Spokane pioneer and founding father, James Glover, is deserving of having a new plaza next to city hall named in his honor. Lisa Waananen Jones, who wrote the Inlander piece, “Facing History: The story that James Glover didn’t want you to know, and why it’s threatening his legacy,” did a competent job assembling the different parts of the story and deserves added props for doing

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Washington’ only living ghost town

Returning from an overnight trip to Leavenworth (always a must-see if you happen to be in the Wenatchee National Forest), I spotted a sign along US-97 pointing the way toward Liberty, Washington, which billed itself as the only living ghost town in the state. Only two miles off the main road, I decided to take the extra few minutes to check out what Liberty had to offer. What I found was more than I expected. To begin with, the route

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New status for Old Main

The City of Lacey Historical Commission will consider the nomination of Old Main Building on the campus of Saint Martin’s University in Lacey to the National Register of Historic Places at its September 17, 2014 meeting. The meeting will be held in Lacey City Hall, 420 College Street SE in Lacey beginning at 6:00 p.m. The public is invited to attend and comment on the nomination. Old Main was constructed in 1913 with a side wing added in 1923.

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Who’s the newest Lacey Historical Commissioner?

As of Thursday, August 14, yours truly is the newest member of the Lacey Historical Commission. My father had made me aware of the volunteer opportunity after he saw it advertised in the Olympian and I knew I couldn’t pass up a chance to be part of it! I filled out the application on the City of Lacey’s website and got a call three weeks later from Lori Flemm, the Lacey Parks and Recreation Director. She said the mayor

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Gravel to golf: The Chambers Bay story

In June, Chambers Bay Golf Course in Pierce County will join the ranks of such prestigious courses as Pebble Beach, Bethpage, Marian, and Pinehurst, among others. At these courses, some of the greatest players ever to walk the links made U.S. Open History. Chambers Bay is poised to become the next great field of champions. But unlike the other courses, whose golf history goes back generations, Chambers Bay is a newcomer to the sport…and there’s a lot more to

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Pateros will rebuild. They’ve done it before.

And so have Brewster, Twisp, Malott, and Methow, just to name a few of the resilient communities within north-central Washington. As the Carlton Complex of fires continues to ravage the dry, rolling hills along the Columbia and Okanogan Rivers between Wenatchee and Omak, it can be easy to succumb to the notion that all is lost forever in the wasteland that is still only 50-percent contained. However, these communities of stalwart, rural Washingtonians are accustomed to facing and overcoming

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Remembering Bud Holland. He flew B-52s.

Today is June 24, 2014. It was on this date twenty years ago that my next-door neighbor crashed one of the biggest, most powerful aircraft ever built into a nuclear storage facility, leaving his kids fatherless and his wife a widow. With more than 5,000 flight hours under his belt, U.S. Air Force Colonel Bud Holland took his last flight on this day in 1994.

Staying a night at the Sunset Beach Hotel

There have always been references to the famed Puget Sound Mosquito Fleet that I’ve run across while researching Washington State history. The entrepreneurial spirit that gave birth to the fleet in the 1850s is part of what makes Washington such a fascinating place. From the 1850s through the 1920s, it was said there were so many steam ships racing around the Sound that it looked like a swarm of mosquitos. And among the most popular stopovers in the 1890s was the

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Test your knowledge of WA cities!

From January 1 through February 16, 2014, I asked a simple question each day on Twitter and on the website. True Washingtonians should already know the answers, and those who want to learn more about the state they call home can try their best and see just how Washington they are! Good luck…you’ll learn something new. I guarantee it!

Mount Rainier will always pose a threat

Mount Rainier is an active volcano. We all live in its shadow and love having it serve as one of our state’s most iconic symbols. We drink in its abundant wildlife and panoramic views, and take our midwest friends on tours of its national park. Yet it’s imperative that we all remain prepared for the inevitable.

Hidden history in Ferry County

It probably won’t be your first choice for a Washington state park family vacation. It might not even be in your top 100. However the Ranald MacDonald Grave Heritage Area definitely warrants a visit if you find yourself traveling near the U.S.-Canadian border in Ferry County. Ranald MacDonald’s gravesite is located in a Native American cemetery just off County Highway 501/Customs Road overlooking the Kettle River. Dubbed “the smallest state park in Washington,” it’s technically a satellite of Osoyoos

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RevitalizeWA: Historic Preservation and Main Street Conference

The Washington Trust for Historic Preservation and the Washington Main Street Program invite you to join them for RevitalizeWA, the annual statewide Preservation and Main Street Conference, May 6-8, 2014 in Wenatchee. The conference will feature a variety of sessions & tours relating to the revitalization of our state’s historic communities on May 7 and 8. They will also be offering additional pre-conference workshops on May 6. The conference will be held at the Wenatchee Convention Center with a

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Around the state in 48 hours: Part 1

Everybody thought I was joking when I said I was taking a business trip from Olympia to Vancouver to Yakima to Spokane to Wenatchee to Everett to Bellevue to Tacoma and back to Olympia in two days. The itinerary I had laid out with Google Maps said it was a cinch and I’m the guy who enjoys driving around this beautiful state we call home. Well, I proved to everyone that it was possible…but I may now be paying

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Mud and muck around Millersylvania State Park

Almost every year I pack up the family and head ten miles south of our Lacey home to go camping at Millersylvania State Park, and every time we make plans to take advantage of the miles of woodland trails skirting its edges. Unfortunately, for a multitude of reasons, we’ve never been able to actually hike those trails. But this weekend I was determined to spend some long-overdue and much-needed quality time in the Washington outdoors, so – since we

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Ascending Saint Helens, Part 3 of 4: More than a mountain

I was almost five years old when I rode on my father’s back during a hike on Mt. Rainier one sunny Saturday afternoon. During that walk, he paused for a moment while viewing the distant, lofty, snow-capped peak to the southwest, speculating aloud on the possibility of one of the 18 volcanoes in the Cascade Mountain Range ever erupting. It was May 17th, 1980, and the next morning the world would forever be deprived of the last view my

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Lake Chelan, often mistaken for an Italian lago

I’m reading (actually, listening to) a book called The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire that Saved America by Timothy Egan. In it, Gifford Pinchot comments that Washington State’s Lake Chelan bears a striking resemblance to Italy’s Lago di Como (Lake Como). I thought that was interesting so I put together this little side-by-side comparison thanks to the technological marvel that is Google Maps. What do you think? Does Chelan look like Como?

Don’t mess with park rangers. Seriously.

They’ll kick you out. In the nicest, most passive-aggressive way, they’ll politely ask you to leave. Let me go back and explain what happened. As anyone from Washington State knows, the drive from Seattle to Spokane (or vice-versa) can be riddled with boredom unless you’re playing traffic games with other drivers or looking for something in particular (like totaling up the different crops with names posted on the fence lines to see if it turns out to be a

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Easy week in eastern Washington, Part 2: Be nice or leave

One of the nicest things about going on a fishing trip is that you don’t have to get up early to do it. In fact, you can sleep in as long as you like – which is exactly what we did the morning our adventure began. After all, we weren’t on a schedule, the fish weren’t going anywhere and Linda Hartman makes some of the best hearty breakfasts I’ve ever had. Dad and Lyn have been doing this for

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Flag Day parade in Ocean Shores

You don’t see a whole lot of Flag Day parades anymore these days. In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to find half a dozen people who even know what Flag Day is. For those still wondering, Flag Day is a United States commemorative day (not yet an official holiday) that falls every year on June 14, commemorating the adoption of the flag of the United States, which happened that day by resolution of the Second Continental Congress in 1777. The reason I remember that date

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What’s in a name? As it turns out, a lot

As I tweeted last week, the Washington State Department of Natural Resources’ Committee on Geographic Names is meeting to consider changing the names of a number of Washington State locations, the most prominent being Soap Lake in Grant County. Someone had the bright idea of renaming it “Lake Smokiam” despite the local community having spent th0usands of dollars marketing the lake’s alleged medicinal properties. Needless to say, Soap Lake residents – along with yours truly – are opposed to the renaming

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Young man in a hurry: The life of Isaac Stevens

Isaac Ingalls Stevens was the first governor of the newly-formed Washington Territory in 1853. I’ve been reading more about the significance of his life since I began diving into library books about Washington state history. In a previous post I wrote about how I visited the cemetery where our first territorial lieutenant governor, Charles Mason, is buried. He served as the acting governor of Washington Territory while Isaac Stevens was away negotiating landmark treaties with the region’s Indian tribes.

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So much history, so little time

So I went to the Lacey public library last weekend because it’s free and Parker loves to visit. Usually, I supervise him playing in the children’s area or – more recently – help him with the computer learning games. Incidentally, I never imagined that a three-year-old could successfully operate a graphic user interface…but who knew? He already has the library’s high score on Clifford’s Day Out. Anyway, after my wife finished returning his old books and collected a dozen

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Remembering St. Helens 30 years later

These were my comments printed in the Vancouver Columbian for their 30-year anniversary special on the eruption of Mt. St. Helens. You can read them on the website here: http://www.columbian.com/news/2010/apr/14/lifelong-interest-started-boom/ I’ll be the first to admit that my memory as described below is slightly inaccurate, as I found out from my father after discussing this article with him, however it is still worth posting due to the special occasion. Enjoy! Lifelong interest started with a boom By Erich Ebel

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