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The seat of Stevens County, is enclosed by peaks of the Okanogan Highlands and the Calispell Mountain Range on the northeast and south. On the west the city slopes down to the floor of the Colville Valley. The business center of tidy brick and stone buildings rises from a 60-foot plateau in the shadow of Mount Colville. Towering grain elevators and church steeples give the city an aspect of compactness.

During the gold rush days, Colville saw much brawling and gun-fighting. In 1861 soldiers from Fort Colville, an early military post, raided the town’s laundry, ran off the Chinese proprietor, and took all the clothing. The next year a lieutenant killed a civilian in cold blood, but was acquitted because no one dared to testify against him. To check pilfering and murder, Major Curtis, commanding officer of the post, dismantled the town’s distillery, confiscating all of the whisky. To the depredations of the soldiers were added those of roving desperadoes who occasionally visited the town.


Ca. 1955 view of downtown Colville.

Source: Washington State Historical Society

Ca. 1910 view of three buildings, downtown Colville.

Source: Washington State Historical Society

1938 view of Ham’s Corner, south of Colville.

Source: Washington State Archives

Points of Interest Points of Interest icon

Opera House and IOOF Lodge

Numerous multi-use theaters were constructed in small towns throughout the West and in the late nineteenth century. These early theaters replaced saloons, mill mess halls and warehouses which had served as ad-hoc halls for variety entertainment. In Colville, the Opera House was constructed on the first floor of the I.O.O.P. Hall, which had been completed in 1911. An organ and piano were installed, both of which were used to accompany musical troupes, theatrical presentations and silent films. Use of the Colville Odd Fellows Hall was not limited to its owners; the trustees leased the Lodge room on the second floor to a variety of other fraternal organizations. The building’s architectural concept was a simple and traditional one with a “false front,” classically’ inspired, symmetrical and decorative facade, and a recessed entry. The formal exterior originally led to a simple multi-use interior auditorium. In 1935 a new movie house was constructed on Colville’s Main Street, and in 1937 the theater interior of the Opera House was converted to commercial use. As had its original construction this adaptation of the space represented a cultural change which occurred throughout the region and the nation.

Colville Flour Mill

In addition to its commanding profile along the rail lines, the Colville Flour Mill retains within its walls a complete and remarkable assemblage of milling equipment and apparatus which chronicles the working life of the region’s major roller mill. Central to the agricultural needs of the Colville Valley, the mill’s evolution recounts the major agricultural shifts within the county and the growing diversification of grain crops. The main and original portion of the mill measuring thirty-two feet by forty-two feet was constructed in 1905, with operation of the mill beginning in 1906. On the north side, a stacked plank, crib grain elevator was added in 1930. (Another grain elevator was built on the opposite side of the street in 1941.) The entire east end of the building is now covered by a feed mill which was constructed in 1950. The exterior of the feed mill exhibits the same horizontal siding as the original building. The added feed mill rises higher than the rest of the structure, and features a low gabled roof on the projecting center of the structure and small windows for ventilation. In spite of these historic additions and some more recent remodeling, the mill’s exterior presents a mostly uniform exterior with narrow clapboards, stacked plank walls, and doublehung sash. All the equipment on the second, third, and fourth floors of the mill are intact and open to the public.

Rickey Block

Its construction in 1892 exemplifies the rapid transformation of Northeastern Washington’s hastily built wooden boom towns into substantial cities with modern amenities. John Rickey was widely known as the first white settler on the Columbia River south of the Colville River and owner of the first orchard in Stevens County. Rickey arrived in 1866, and traveled up and down the Columbia as a merchant. Mr. Rickey homesteaded near Kettle Falls in 1872, giving his name to Rickey Rapids and Rickey Creek. He also operated a steamboat that ran between Kettle Falls and Fort Spokane and briefly held a contract to supply hay to the U. S. Army post there. Rickey relocated in Colville after his appointment as County Treasurer in 1887. Rickey had originally planned for a two-story building at the site, but local fraternal organizations asked him to build a third story so they could rent it as a lodge space. Over the years the building has housed a general store, a bowling alley. a bar and cafe, billiard room, candy store, lodge rooms, court rooms, library, classrooms, apartments, offices, and the area’s largest hardware business.

Collins Building

John (I.H.) Collins, the builder and original owner of the building that bears his name was a well-known building contractor who poured most of Colville’s sidewalks in the 1930s and the municipal airport in 1948. Built in 1937, the Collins’ Building is in the Art Modene style, simpler and more sparing in detail than the Art Deco style from which it was derived. Art Moderne was designed to be symbolic of the dynamic 20th century, speed, and machinery. It was the style of many of the New Deal public buildings built around the same time and was an appropriate expression of these programs intended to put the nation back to work.

US Post Office

Completed in 1938, the design of the Colville Post Office is typical of a number of other small post offices constructed in the state, the Northwest, and nation during the Depression era. The design exhibits Classical proportion and symmetry, but the façade is devoid of historical architectural detailing elements. The building symbolizes the effort of the Federal government to aid small communities during the Depression era through its public works programs. It represents the successful lobbying efforts of local civic groups through their elected officials in Washington to obtain funding for Colville’s public buildings. Over the Postmaster’s door on the north wall of the lobby is a mural entitled “The Pathfinders”. Oil on canvas, the mural was executed by James Edmond Fitzgerald in 1939. The mural symbolizes the part played by Hudson’s Bay company trappers and traders in the development of the Pacific Northwest.