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Toppenish

For many years it was the headquarters of Yakama Indian Reservation. The surrounding area is extremely fertile. In 1885, the Native American name for this place was given to the railroad station by the Northern Pacific Railway Company. In 1853, Capt. George McClellan mapped the place as Sahpenis. On some old maps the name is spelled Topinish.

Toppenish (“people from the foot of the hills”), like Yakima, is divided by railroad tracks. Old frame structures, relics of the early days, once stood beside staunch modern brick buildings. Hotels and stores with long, wide, creaky verandas lined sections of the main streets. On Saturday nights during the harvest season, the streets were crowded with hop and fruit pickers; whole families exchanged their meager wages for high-priced groceries and cheap entertainment.

Potatoes of a high quality were raised around Toppenish. In 1909, the Northern Pacific Railway began featuring a giant baked potato in its advertising, and the large symmetrical tubers grown here played no small part in popularizing the slogan: “Route of the Big Baked Potato.” Other important agricultural products were sugar beets, alfalfa, wheat, corn, watermelons, cantaloupes, and fruit.

Points of Interest Points of Interest icon

Utah-Idaho Sugar Beet Company Plant

Utah-Idaho Sugar Beet Company Plant is a group of large concrete buildings centered by a towering smokestack. The plant has its own wells which are from 75 to 140 feet deep and which deliver 3,000 gallons a minute. A 2,100-horsepower steam turbo-generator supplies electric power for factory lights and for the 210 motors in the plant. In the rear are railroad tracks and enormous storage piles of beets. The beets are fed by automatic conveyors into washers, hoisted to the shredders, and passed into a hot water bath to extract the juice, which goes into a battery of cookers. The juice, reduced under heat and vacuum pressure to syrup, is strained, clarified with lime and sulphur gas, and returned to the cookers. When the syrup is of the proper consistency and “grain,” it passes to spinners which, like cream separators, divide the molasses from the white sugar. The latter is dried, crystalized, screened, and passed on to the sackers. The factory, a noteworthy example of advanced engineering methods and industrial design, employs a gravity system for handling materials. The materials are brought to the top floor and descend half a dozen times through various processes, then pass through elevator conveyors or pumps and pipelines to the top to start down into further refining processes. The factory runs 24 hours daily and has not been closed in two years. Two hundred and sixty pounds of sugar are extracted from a ton of beets, and the daily run is from 1,600 to 2,000 tons of the raw beets. The company maintains another plant in Bellingham. Although the buildings are intact and loom prominently as you enter Toppenish from the north, operations at the plant ceased in the 1970s.

Yakama Indian Agency Building

The building is historically significant for its association with the Yakama Indian Nation and the federal bureau responsible for providing the Nation with economic and social services. Constructed in 1922 by a group of Toppenish civic leaders, and expanded by the federal government in 1931, the building served as agency headquarters until after World War II. From this building, the agency administered land leases, commodity sales, construction projects, and employment programs on the reservation. Designed in a Classical Revival Style, the well preserved building is one of the most distinguished landmarks in the city.

US Post Office

The Toppenish Main Post Office, constructed in 1938, is significant on the local level for its art and its legacy of the Federal public works programs of the Depression era. The Toppenish Post Office is an unaltered example of a small town single-purpose post office. The building and mural within symbolize the assistance to small communities by the Federal government, through its public buildings and arts programs, during a period of national economic emergency. It also represents the efforts of local citizens in obtaining their first and only Federal building. The mural, through its visual presentation~ relates the history of the locality and represents a significant period and type of American artistic expression.

Liberty Theater

Designed for Dr. Hiram Johnson and opened in 1915, the Liberty Theatre is a defining piece of the early character and personality of Toppenish. One of the most significant aspects of the Liberty Theater is the construction path relationship to changes in the entertainment industry over the years. The Liberty Theater, from its initial opening until its final closing, has been taken through renovation changes that are consistent with “Combination Houses” popular in 1905 – 1915, “Palaces and Palace-Era” theaters, popular in 1915 – 1936, and then renovated in later years to serve as a “Conventional Theater,” popular from 1935 – 1948. The beauty of the renovation of Liberty Theater to its original live performance stage includes full restoration of the original ceiling, two balconies, two sets of box seats on each side of the stage, and full restoration of dressing rooms beneath the stage. Although various renovation periods of the Liberty were consistent with combination theaters and convention theaters, today the Liberty most closely meets the requirements for “Palace and Palace-era Theaters 1915-1936.