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Vancouver

The seat of Clark County and oldest settlement in the State, is strategically located on the navigable lower Columbia River, north of Portland, Oregon, in an important agricultural region, within 40 miles of Bonneville Dam. Lumber and paper mills, docks, grain elevators, and canneries are concentrated on the riverside; a little farther back are breweries and other industrial concerns. The streets leading from the banks of the Columbia through the business section are flanked by modern brick and terra-cotta structures, intermingled with buildings reminiscent of the late nineteenth century or of the jerry-building of boom days. In the residential districts are old but substantially constructed houses.

Traversing the city is the Pacific Highway (US 99), east of which is the military reservation, Vancouver Barracks. North and east of the city, streets meander through prune orchards, which spread over the surrounding hills and valleys and extend to the fir and hemlock forests. To the south, across the broad river, rise the green hills of Oregon; to the southeast, the white cone of Mount Hood; and to the north, the smaller but equally beautiful Mount St. Helens. Lewis and Clark, who camped near the mouth of the Lewis River below Sauvies Island in November 1805, describe in their Journal their view of the peak some 70 miles upstream: “Three miles below the Image Canoe Island… we had a full view of the mountain … [Mount St. Helens]; it rises in the form of a sugar loaf to a great height, and is covered with snow.”

Images

Ca. 1950 birds-eye view of Vancouver.

Source: Washington State Historical Society

Ca. 1940 image of the Stagecoach Inn, four miles north of Vancouver on Pacific Highway (99). Edward Nolan collection.

Source: Washington State Historical Society

Ca. 1950 aerial view of Vancouver.

Source: Washington State Historical Society

Points of Interest Points of Interest icon

Evergreen Hotel

The oldest surviving hotel in the city, this was once the business and social hub of Vancouver. The five-story concrete structure with its Spanish tile roof was the result of an early form of crowdfunding. The citizens of Vancouver, anxious to build business interest in the community, bought stock in its construction. In 1928, the president of the Hudson’s Bay Company pushed a button in London that illuminated the new city lighting system surrounding the hotel – the longest trans-continental cable attempted to that time. Its opening was declared a local public holiday. The city center shifted to the north after the construction of Interstate-5 and the Evergreen went into a long decline before being condemned – and then rescued – in 1977.

Charles and Laura Slocum House

Considered the first r elegant home in town when built in 1878, it is now the sole survivor of that once fashionable neighborhood. It was built by a leading local merchant who modeled the house after a family home in Rhode Island. Urban renewal threatened the ornate “Carpenter Victorian” home in the 1960’s. It was moved from its original location in 1966 and renovated for use as a community theater and gathering place.

US National Bank Building

This five-story Commercial Style building with Renaissance and Classical ornamentation was built in 1912 and immediately became the address of choice for doctors, attorneys, and other professionals. In later years it was known as the Ford Building. By 1959 it was vacant.

John P. and Mary Kiggins House

This 1906-7 Craftsman was the home of noted businessman, developer, and civic leader, John Kiggins, who served multiple terms as mayor. Family legend claims that Kiggins saw this site from his jail cell at Fort Vancouver when he was stationed there and vowed that someday he would build the biggest, finest home in town there.

Elks Building

The last fraternal organization lodge left standing in Vancouver, the Elks Lodge was built in 1910-11. Additions in 1925 and 1947 completed the building as it is seen today. Once the most prestigious organization in town, Elks membership declined through the 1960’s and the lodge was sold in 1973.

Alfred and Mary Estelle Chumasero-Smith House

This 2.5 store American Foursquare was built in 1903 for the Chumasero’s. Alfred was a respected businessman who eventually got into electricity and sold his company to General Electric. Ella Smith, sister to Mary Estelle, and her husband, Otis, moved into the house in the 1930’s following a devastating fire at their residence and never left, even after the house was moved (from the site of the Kiggins Theater) in that same period. Otis owned a first-of-its-kind livery business that evolved into Vancouver’s first taxi service. The home remained in the Smith family until 1983. Richard Nixon visited the house during his 1960 campaign for president.

Vancouver Telephone Building

This handsome two-story, glazed brick and terra cotta building was built in 1934 to reflect the “modernistic” movement in American architecture. It was the first building designed specifically to support telephone service and is considered amongst the finest modernist buildings in Clark County.

US Post Office

Built from standardized plans in 1918, this buff-brick Neo-Classical building boasts and unusual projecting colonnaded portico.

St. James Cathedral

The three truncated towers of the cathedral dominate the Vancouver skyline. Built in 1885, it was the first cathedral in the Washington Territory and the seat of the Bishop of Nesqually until 1907. The red brick Gothic Revival church was designed by Donald McKay, but it is thought that Mother Joseph is responsible for its interior design.

Lowell M. Hidden and W. Foster Hidden Houses

L.M. Hidden built his home in 1885 of hand-made brick. In 1913, W.F. Hidden built his Colonial Revival home of machine-made brick – both homes were products of Hidden Company Brick, a pioneer (1871) business that literally shaped the city of Vancouver.

Vancouver Carnegie Library

Now the Clark County Historical Museum and Library, this building operated as the City Library until 1963. It was built in 1909 with additions in 1944 and 1948.

Clark County Courthouse

Designed by noted local architect Day Walter Hiborn in the Art Deco/Art Moderne style, the five-story concrete courthouse was built in 1941. It was originally to be constructed with Public Works Administration funding from the New Deal. While that funding never materialized, the PWA expectations exerted considerable influence on the design. The “Buckskin Brigade” sculpture over the main entrance illustrates Iroquois Native Americans and trappers looking toward the Columbia. It was poured as a concrete support and remained in place until 1978 when it was lost to deterioration. However, the sculpture was recast in bronze and reset in 1990.

Kiggins Theater

A Day W. Hilborn design, the two-story concrete theater with its vertical marquee was built by John P. Kiggins, several-term mayor and developer, in 1936. After many years as a feature film house, it began a slow decline in the 1950’s with the advent of new management. After struggling for many years, it finally closed, but was purchased and renovated in 2008. It stands as the only intact historic movie theater in Vancouver.

House of Providence

Commanding an impressive view of Vancouver and the Columbia River, the House of Providence has been a landmark in town since it was built in 1873, as a boarding home, orphanage and headquarters of the Sisters of Charity of the House of Providence. The Main Building, known as “The Academy” was designed and built by Mother Joseph of the Sacred Heart. It was funded through contributions from miners and lumbermen in the camps of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, and British Columbia. It is considered one of the most significant buildings in the Pacific Northwest. Four other historic buildings and seven acres that originally held extensive gardens and orchards complete the complex. The Sisters sold it in 1969.

Pearson Field

South of Officer’s Row, East of Fort Vancouver, and North of the Columbia, Pearson Field occupies a site dripping in history. Its own story is as important as its neighbors. This 150-acre collection of fields and hangars is closely associated with aviation development from the early 1900’s. Christened Pearson Field by the Army in 1925, It was a stop in the first circumnavigation of the globe in 1924, the first Moscow to New York flight of 1929, and the first trans-polar flight in 1937. It is named for Alexander Pearson, Jr., a local army aviator who set the transcontinental speed record before dying in an exhibition air show. It retains several buildings, including the “old” hangar, built in 1921, a storehouse from 1904, and a 1918 mill field office that was moved to the site in 1929. It was decommissioned by the Army Air Corps after World War II, but continues operation as a municipal airport and the home of the Pearson Air Museum.