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Okanogan

The center of government in Okanogan County since 1915, it is also headquarters for the Chelan National Forest. Though less populous than Omak, it has a larger and more impressive business district. The six blocks of brick and frame buildings occupy a narrow valley on a delta bar, at the mouth of Salmon Creek. The Okanogan River winds slowly and quietly a few hundred feet left of Second Avenue, the main thoroughfare. Across a steel bridge spanning the stream are rows of warehouses, packing plants, and the railroad tracks.

Situated approximately 20 miles from the site of the first American settlement in Washington Territory, Old Fort Okanogan, the town embraces the two prior settlements of Pogue and Alma. Okanogan began with the old trading post of “Pard” Cummings, established in 1886. At that time, river transportation was limited: only during May and June, when the water was high, could steamboats reach Okanogan. Consisting of little but a river landing and a general store for more than a decade, the settlement finally attracted other enterprises. Orchards blossomed near streams on the near-by flats. When irrigation from a reservoir at Conconully was obtained in 1906, it became a thriving town. The name Okanogan was adopted in November 1906. The Great Northern ran a branch line from Wenatchee in 1915, and the county seat was acquired, stimulating future growth.

From the river bank at Tyee Street, a curiously elevated “high bridge” once arched across the Okanogan River to its east bank. Lack of a bridge had troubled Okanogan citizens: Oroville and Riverside had spanned the Okanogan prior to 1907, but Okanogan still depended on a ferry. The building of the “high bridge,” now replaced by a steel structure, encouraged trade from the mines and farms and from the Native American reservation across the river. The steeply inclined bridge, widely ridiculed, permitted even the tallest steamer stacks to pass beneath it, with more than 11 feet to spare.

Images

Ca. 1920 image of the historic Okanogan County Courthouse, Okanogan.

Source: Washington State Historical Society

1914 view of Riverside, Okanogan County. Photo by Curtis & Miller.

Source: Washington State Historical Society

Points of Interest Points of Interest icon

Okanogan County Courthouse

The Okanogan County Courthouse is significant under criterion A for associations with regional struggles to secure the county seat in 1914. Also, significant under criterion C, the. complex is distinguished within the state context for its unusual Mission Revival style and possesses remarkable design cohesion. From the initial construction of the original building in 1915, the Mission theme was repeated in subsequent additions of parking garages and annex, until a major deviation in 1980, which resulted in an incompatible addition to the original courthouse. This addition is set back and does not detract from the eligibility of the complex. The period of significance is extended to 1950 to acknowledge the important continuity of the Mission style expressed in the annex addition. The addition represents a rare sensitivity that enhanced, but did not diminish the stylistic theme established in the original building.

US Post Office

The Okanogan Post Office is significant on the local level as an unaltered example of a small town combined post office and federal office building. Although the Colonial style was used in several other Washington post offices, this interpretation is rare. Only Okanogan’s “sister city,” Omak, has a similar building, though on a reduced scale. Further, these are the only examples of this design-type in the Northwest. The design is simple, yet conveys a sense of dignity–one that benefits the federal building of a county seat. This building and the Spanish-Colonial County Courthouse are the city’s most imposing buildings. Finally, the building symbolizes the Federal presence, the process by which the citizens of Okanogan obtained their building, and the massive public buildings programs of the late Depression era.