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The seat of Franklin County, spreads its attractive public buildings, landscaped grounds, and business blocks over a level desert plain at the confluence of the Snake and Columbia rivers. The city is an important division point on the Northern Pacific Railway, and the majority of its skilled workers were employed in the roundhouse and machine shops. Pasco remains the hub of the social, political, and commercial activity of the large farming population in the vicinity.

Although the Pasco district was traversed by early explorers, adventurers, and fur traders following the near-by Snake and Columbia Rivers, the history of the present city dates from 1880, when the rails of the Northern Pacific reached the site. The name Pasco is said to have been bestowed by a railroad surveyor, when extreme heat, rust, and sand storms reminded him of the disagreeable conditions in the Peruvian mining city, Cerro de Pasco. Prior to the development of Pasco, the county seat was at Ainsworth, a lusty railroad center a few miles away, with a population of 5,000. Ainsworth deteriorated as Pasco flourished, until not a stick now remains of it.

Incorporated in 1891, Pasco grew steadily. Most of the city’s industrial activity was centered in plants which bordered the railroad tracks in the eastern part of the town. These included the Pasco Union stockyards, the Miller Addison Icing Plant, and freight terminals, grain elevators, and sheds. The city was served by the Washington Motor Coach and Union Pacific stages, and several good hotels and restaurants catered to visitors.


Ca. 1955 aerial view of Pasco.

Source: Washington State Digital Archives

Ca. 1915 view of Fourth Street in Pasco.

Source: Washington State Historical Society

1970 image of the Franklin County Courthouse in Pasco.

Photo by Werner Lenggenhager. Source: Washington State Digital Archives

Ca. 1952 view of the former bridge between Pasco and Kennewick, spanning the Columbia River.

Source: Washington State Historical Society

Points of Interest Points of Interest icon

Franklin County Courthouse

The Franklin County Courthouse, constructed in 1913 was designed by C. Lewis Wilson, the architect of the Pacific County Courthouse.

Pasco Carnegie Library

From the time of its construction in 1911 until its closure in the early 1960’s, the Pasco Carnegie Library served the residents of Pasco and parts of Benton and Franklin Counties as an important social and educational resource. The old library is soon to become a useful community facility once again as the newly adapted Franklin County Historical Society Museum.