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Leavenworth

Where Tumwater Canyon opens from Tumwater Mountain and Icicle Ridge into river flats, the broadening valley is flanked by sand hills, sparsely overgrown with pine. Leavenworth originated as a Great Northern Railway Company construction camp, platted and named in 1892 by the Leavenworth Townsite Company. When, in 1925, the Great Northern announced plans to relocate its headquarters to Wenatchee and move its tracks to Chumstick Canyon. A year later, the sawmill closed and the town went into an economic depression. Fruit-packing and storage plants served the orchardists of the vicinity. More than 170 carloads of apples were shipped in 1936. In the early 1960s, townspeople began project LIFE (Leavenworth Improvement for Everyone) to bring the town out of its 30-year slump. The committee gave the town a Bavarian theme to promote tourism—it worked. Today, the town offers numerous outdoor activities such as birding, biking, climbing, dining, fishing, float trips, golfing, hiking, horseback riding, hayrides, rafting, shopping, wine tasting and plenty of year-round festivals, including an Oktoberfest in the fall.

Irrigation was practiced even by early agriculturalists in this region. Wooden casks mounted on wagons were used to haul water from the river, truckers charging 25c for a tankfull. Now, extensive irrigation systems developed by the Bureau of Reclamation draw water from the Icicle, Chumstick, and Chiwawa Rivers to supply a wide area of valley orchards. Outside of town, the area is still a large fruit growing and packing district. In addition, there are a couple of areas where you can see Leavenworth’s architectural history.

Images

1910 elevation view of Leavenworth, showing railroad tracks extending diagonally.

Source: Washington State Historical Society

1937 program from the Leavenworth Ski Hill/Winter Sports Club.

Source: Washington State Historical Society

Ca. 1975 postcard view of Leavenworth.

Source: Washington State Digital Archives

Ca. 1910 postcard view of the Great Northern Railroad’s electric powerhouse near Leavenworth.

Source: Washington State Historical Society

Video

1936 movie clip of the recently completed bridge at the Wenatchee River.

Points of Interest Points of Interest icon

Leavenworth Ranger Station

At the eastern end of the town is the Leavenworth Ranger Station, built in 1936 and which now houses the Visitors Center. It was a Civilian Conservation Corps building project and on the National Register of Historic Places. Around 2002 more buildings were added to the property, which includes two additions to the original CCC building.

Leavenworth Ski Hill Historic District

The Leavenworth Ski Hill Historic District contains intact examples of Rustic style architecture as well as the Pacific Northwest’s most intact example of a historic ski jump. Of the five known ski jumping facilities developed on Forest Service land in the Pacific Northwest Region, the Leavenworth Ski Hill was the best known and the only one known to have hosted national and international events. The district is also unique in the Pacific Northwest as one of the last CCC-built winter recreation facilities with an intact lodge as well as original adjunct buildings, a ski jump, and a functioning ski hill. In the first half of the 20th century, many of the winter sports areas developed on public lands had an associated outdoor club. Development of the Leavenworth Ski Hill started with the first annual Leavenworth Ski Jumping Classic, held in 1929 at a nearby slope. Interest from this tournament propelled the club to request a Forest Service special use permit to build and maintain two ski jumps, two toboggan runs, a parking area, a clubhouse, and a few associated outbuildings. The first ski jump within the historic district, a 50-meter Class B hill, opened in 1930. A few years later, the 90-meter wooden Class A jump was constructed; it was subsequently rebuilt in 1957. The buildings at the Leavenworth Ski Hill are part of the landscape and exhibit building materials typical of the region—wood shakes, logs, and fieldstone. The lodge’s (primarily) vertical log siding mimics the surrounding forest. Ornamentation is restrained and executed with natural materials, namely wood pole sunbursts in the gable ends.