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Selah

This Native American name, meaning still or smooth water, was given by the Yakima Native American people to about one and a half miles of the Yakima River where it emerges from Kittitas Canyon. Between Ellensburg and Pomona the river is very swift and rough, but on emerging from the Kittitas Canyon into a level valley it flows smoothly for a short distance, then passes over rapids again. Settlers extended the name to the town, a creek, and a valley. The railroad station was called Wenas until 1909 when the Northern Pacific Railway changed the name to its present form.
The city is a center for fruit-packing and cold-storage plants, bordering the railroad tracks, and a modern business district constitute the town. Mountains of boxes, great mounds of apples, piles of peelings, and the smell of fermented fruit are eloquent signs of the region’s activities during harvest and packing season.

Images

1903 view of the Selah Valley, showing farm buildings and an orchard.

Source: Washington State Historical Society

Ca. 1912 view of Selah’s main street.

Source: Washington State Historical Society

Points of Interest Points of Interest icon

Pomona Products Company

A juice processing plant, historically located at the present-day site of the Tree Top, Inc., facility located East of the downtown district. The Pomona juice processing plant was the forerunner of Tree Top, Inc. The plant was purchased in the early 1940s by Bill Charbonneau, the founder of Tree Top, from Clifford C. Ross, who had himself purchased the facility in 1937 and began producing New West Apple Juice. Ross was supposedly helped in creating a formula for his juice by Swiss chemist, Dr. Edvin Schoop, who visited Selah to assist Ross in setting-up his processing plant. The plant would late become known as the “Selah Plant” and serve as the first processing facility and headquarters of Tree Top Inc. Charbonneau began operations at the original facility in Selah in 1944.

Tree Top, Inc.

The current facility and headquarters is located on the property of the original Pomona juice processing plant. The grower–owned co-op now known as Tree Top Inc., began operating in Selah in 1944, and first used the well-known Tree Top label—with bright red apples on a green leaf background—in 1953. In 1960, founder Bill Charbonneau presented his proposal to sell his company—the Charbonneau Packing Corporation—to form a new company, Tree Top Inc., owned cooperatively by the apple growers. The new cooperative’s first 12-member Board of Directors met on May 20, 1960. On July 1st of that year, Tree Top Inc., legally assumed the place of the Charbonneau Packing Corporation. By 1971, concentrated apple juice from Tree Top was marketed across 80 percent of the United States, reaching 50 percent of the American population. In 1973, the original “Selah Plant,” where Charbonneau began operations in 1944, was replaced with a newly-built processing plant.

Selah Horticultural Union Fruit Warehouse

The former site based on a 1915 Sanborn Fire Insurance map of the Selah Horticultural Union (also known as the Yakima County Horticulture Union) was established as a union of fruit growers in 1909 with $50,000 capital for the purpose of fruit handling. The Union built a fruit warehouse in Selah in 1909 on Produce Row, and construction of a cold storage plant was planned for 1910. The 1909 warehouse was the first warehouse in the area East of downtown Selah that would later become known as “Fruit” or “Produce Row,” which still today maintains its character as a warehouse district. However, the Selah Fruit and Produce Company warehouse burned down on April 26, 1914.

Matson Fruit Company

Matson Fruit Company is a family-owned fruit production company that has operated in Selah for over a century. In 1908, Sven Matson planted a 20-acre orchard northwest of the present-day city of Selah. The cold storage building, still standing today in Produce Row, east of downtown Selah, was built in 1933. Today, the company is run by Sven Matson’s great-grandson, Rod Matson, and his sons Jason and Jordan Matson.

Pingrey Ford

Pingrey Ford is a used car dealership that was founded in 1928. The new business weathered the Great Depression and continues to operate today at the historic location on the corner of S. 1st Street and W. Naches Avenue in downtown Selah. Prior to serving as the headquarters location of Pingrey Ford, the corner of 1st & Naches was the site of a drug store owned by S. B. Kinne, and previously Selah’s first store, built in 1905 by Bill Charbonneau, founder of Tree Top, Inc. Harold Pingrey purchased the Ford dealership on April 28, 1928, after the original interest in the Ford Dealership owned by Ira King, the city’s first postmaster, had passed through the hands of several owners in short succession. When the Kinne Drug Store closed in 1930, Pingrey moved the dealership from its original location to the visible intersection located in the heart of downtown. While Pingrey grew during the Depression, the negative impacts of those lean years were felt by others in the Valley. In August 1933, following pickets at Matson Ranch, the National Guard was mobilized to protect Selah’s Produce Row. A group of Guardsmen were stationed with loaded machines guns on the corner of 1st St. & Naches Ave., in front of Pingrey Ford. Several picketers were arrested and removed in a paddy wagon for protesting unemployment, hunger and low wages. Those arrested were sent to the stockade located in downtown Yakima.

Yakima Valley Trolleys

The idea for a system of electric railroads began in 1902 when a committee from the local Yakima Commercial Club began fundraising for the rail lines. The franchise for a trolley system in Yakima was established by ordinance of the City on October 1, 1906, and soon confirmed by City Council. The birth of the Yakima Valley trolley system in 1907 can be attributed largely to a single businessman and community leader named George S. Rankin, who settled permanently in Yakima, having moved from his home state of New York in 1892. Among his many projects, Rankin influenced the development of several successful businesses and enterprises, including irrigation projects and banking businesses, in addition to the inter-urban, electric railway system. Originally known as the Yakima Inter-Valley Traction Company under corporate president H. B. Scudder, the company was reorganized in 1908, taking the name Yakima Valley Transportation Company (YVTC). After the reorganization, A. J. Splawn became President with Rankin serving as Vice President and Company Manager. A sum of $200,000 was raised to support the construction of a railway reaching three miles both east and west of Yakima. In 1909, due to financial hardship and difficulty raising additional funds to support construction, the company’s holdings were sold to North Coast Railroad Company and ownership passed to the Union Pacific Railroad Company. Over the next decade, the inter-urban lines expanded, so that in 1917, YVTC shipped 619 carloads of freight between the system’s growing number of station stops and made 2,048,117 passenger trips. At the time of publication of Volume 1 of “History of the Yakima Valley,” in 1919, YVTC tracks spanned 44 miles and included the Selah Line. The streetcars made their final run on February 1, 1947, before being decommissioned. Service was restored in 1974, largely for tourism purposes.

Themes You'll Find at this Main Street

Produce Row

The development and expansion of the apple industry over many decades and the continuous activity in the “Produce Row” warehouse district just east of downtown Selah spurred economic development and population growth in the city. The following are examples of properties supporting this theme.

Inter-Urban Transportation

The development of the transportation industry and alternative modes of transportation contributed significantly to the economic success of Selah and make possible the community’s contributions to the global agricultural market. The following are examples of properties supporting this theme.