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The name is a modification of Tsill-anne, the Native American name for the lake, meaning deep water.

The town is a trading center and outlet for the Lake Chelan mining and fruit-growing region. Modern brick structures contrast with buildings on the wide main street. Water power, water transportation, fruit raising, lumbering, and mining are Chelan’s main industries, and the town also carries on a brisk tourist trade. Launches operate to Stehekin and Lucerne on Lake Chelan.

Chelan received wide attention from the press in 1936 when a pension plan was tested by locals. One thousand dollars in dollar bills were circulated, with the provision that a two-cent stamp should be attached each time a bill changed hands. The plan was abandoned after a period of trial.


1955 boat excursion at Lake Chelan, leaving from Chelan.

Source: Washington State Historical Society

1914 view of the commercial district of Chelan.

Photo by Curtis and Miller. Source: Washington State Historical Society

Points of Interest Points of Interest icon

Lord House

The Richard Hinton Lord House was built in 1902, the year that Chelan was incorporated. It is significant for its association with Richard Hinton Lord, who lived in the house from 1906 to 1918. Richard Hinton Lord was the first pioneer to settle on the north side of Lake Chelan in 1887. From 1906 to 1918, the period that R.H. Lord lived in this house, he made his greatest contributions to the Chelan community. During this time he was an orchardist, developer and real estate agent. He is best known as the first developer of the irrigation system for the north side of Lake Chelan. In 1906 he was hired as an agent for the Wapato Irrigation Project, now part of the Lake Chelan Reclamation District which provides irrigation to Manson and most of the orchard land on the north side of the lake. The Lord House is the best surviving reminder of his life.

Lake Chelan Hydroelectric Power Plant

Constructed in 1926-1927, the Lake Chelan Hydroelectric Power Plant is a significant example of state-of-the-art hydroelectric technology from the 1920s. Some of the system’s design elements including the Wahlman intake tubes, the long power tunnel, and the generators equipped with a closed air cooling system, extended the limits of hydroelectric technology in Washington.

St. Andrews Episcopal Church

Built in 1897, St. Andrews Episcopal Church is thought to be the oldest log structure in the State of Washington to be in continuous use for worship services by a single congregation. Its significance for the National Register lies primarily in its unique architectural quality and its design by Kirtland Cutter and Karl Malmgren, prominent Northwest architects of the period. However, the building is also a tribute to the pioneering efforts of those in the Episcopal church who had the vision for its development and the members of the community of Chelan who built it and have maintained it so well into the present day.

Ruby Theater

The Ruby Theater is a notable landmark among Chelan’s downtown properties, visually prominent because of its location and distinctive appearance and historically significant for its enduring association with entertainment. Completed in 1913, it represents the efforts of local builder Herbert R. Kingman to provide the isolated Washington community with a safe, comfortable, and stylish theater. The simplistic exterior and decorative interior reflect the changes and embellishments applied throughout the period of significance to attract and entertain patrons. The Ruby is the only remaining functioning historic theater within the region and with the exception of a two-year period has provided both film and live entertainment for nearly 80 years. The only other theater within the vicinity, located six miles away in Manson, has suffered extensive loss of integrity as a result of conversion to commercial offices.

Chelan Butte Lookout

Chelan Butte Lookout is significant for its historic association with the development of the USDA Forest Service and the stewardship and conservation on our National Forests, as part of a comprehensive forest fire surveillance and detection system. The Lookout is also significant as it embodies the distinctive characteristics of a uniquely functional property type designed for and typically constructed in challenging mountainous terrain. The Lookout also possesses significance as it reflects the accomplishments of the Civilian Conservation Corps and their important contribution to the development, improvement and conservation of National Forests in the Pacific Northwest.