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Wenatchee

Close to the geographic center of the state, this town became a fruit growing capital. The name is from the Indian word, We-na-tcha or We-na-tchi, meaning “river issuing from a canyon.” In 1805, Lewis and Clark used the word Wahnahchee in referring to this location and the name has been adopted for other geographical features on the east side of the Cascade Mountains in north central Washington State.

The mid-1920s and early 1930s was a period of rapid growth in the City of Wenatchee, especially in the downtown business core. Key individuals, investment groups and a booming agricultural industry fueled the construction of many significant structures in the downtown core during this era, many of which can still be seen and visited today.

Images

1943 post card showing downtown Wenatchee.

Source: Washington State Historical Society

Ca. 1940 view of the highway and landscape near Wenatchee.

Photo by Bert Huntoon. Source: Washington State Archives

Points of Interest Points of Interest icon

Wenatchee Confluence State Park

About one mile south of this crossing is the confluence of the Columbia River and Wenatchee River marked by Wenatchee Confluence State Park, a 197-acre, year-round camping park situated at the edge of town.

Ohme Gardens

Ohme Gardens is just north of the state park and offers one of the most unique landscapes in the state. Beginning in 1929, orchardists Herman and Ruth Ohme transformed a barren dry rocky hilltop into an alpine oasis high above the Columbia River and Wenatchee Valley. Ohme Gardens is now owned by the State of Washington and managed by Chelan County.

Columbia and Okanogan Steamship Company Boat Yard

This was a focal point for sternwheeler construction on the upper Columbia River. From Wenatchee, steamships under the command of skillful, daring captains ranged upstream through treacherous rapids with passengers and freight. In 1892, James J. Hill extended his Great Northern Railroad to Wenatchee on his construction drive toward the Cascade Mountains and the Pacific Coast. Along the railroad route were rich tributary areas which would bring high profits if some form of transportation could be found to tap the local vicinities. The Okanogan River Valley was one of these and steamboats seemed to be the answer. Hill induced his friend Alexander Griggs to come to Wenatchee to establish steamboat transportation on the Columbia. Griggs was a skillful pilot, having worked on the Mississippi River, where he counted Mark Twain among his acquaintances. Upon his arrival in Wenatchee, Griggs formed the Columbia and Okanogan steamship Company. After building and purchasing several boats, Griggs’ company began transporting passengers and freight on the upper Columbia, connecting with other river boats from the Okanogan country at Brewster. The record of the sternwheeler era is not complete. Not all steamboats on the river were built by the Griggs company, and there are instances where the history of some boats, including those operated by Alexander Griggs, is obscure. The total number of boats built in Wenatchee is not known.

Wells House

Built in 1909 by pioneer promoter W. T. Clark, it became known as “Clark’s Cobblestone Castle.” In 1919 A. Z. Wells purchased the house and resided there with his wife, Imogene, until 1949, when they agreed to deed their estate for the Wenatchee Junior College campus.

Wenatchee Carnegie Library

The first library in Wenatchee was operated by the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. When donations for its operation proved too small, city funds were appropriated. The city applied for a Carnegie grant of $10,000, which was awarded in 1909. The architect, Blackwell and Baker, was required by Carnegie to revise the plans because too much space was devoted to the lobby, vestibules, and stairways. Construction took place in 1911 by the contractor Bird and Hobsen, and the building formally opened on January 1, 1912. By 1918, it was already being criticized for being too small, and Carnegie was asked for money to build an addition. None was granted, however, because the program was being discontinued. In 1939 the library moved to a new building across the street. For some years the building was a museum, and it is now used for various city offices.

U.S. Post Office and Annex

This is now referred to as the old Post Office Annex; it was Wenatchee’s first postal facility owned and operated by the federal government. Prior to 1916, this function was carried out by private contractors who maintained a local branch office within their place of business. The new post office was completed in 1918 and became the central mail distribution facility for Wenatchee and North Central Washington.

Wenatchee Fire Station #1

The 1929 Wenatchee Fire Station No. 1 is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places under criterion A as a property that represents the development and growth of the City of Wenatchee’s Fire Department. The construction of the fire station, completed by the Colonial Construction Co. of Spokane, is the first building designed and built solely for the purposes of the fire department.

The building served critical fire emergency needs in the downtown and the growing residential areas to the north, south and west of the city. The history of the Wenatchee Fire Department is plagued with poor equipment and a shortage of manpower that proved futile in many of the early fires that seemed to sweep through the town. Fire chiefs came and went; salaries were low with more and more job responsibilities being added; and tempers flared.

The Beaux Arts style fire station is also historically significant as a representative work of local architect Ludwig O. Solberg, who designed hundreds of structures in a variety of architectural styles in Wenatchee and the surrounding communities from the 1920s to the mid-1950s. The list of known, documented buildings credited to Solberg reads like a who’s who of commercial structures in Wenatchee and span a 30-year period. Listing of the Fire Station in the NRHP was the first structure to represents Solberg’s work in Washington and the nomination set up a context in which to evaluate his other work. The Fire Station in particular is representative of his commercial work during the 1920s and displays his talent and skill as an architect.

St. Joseph Church and Rectory

Since its completion, the St. Joseph Church (1921) and Rectory (1908) have played a significant role in Wenatchee history, physically reflecting the growth of Catholicism in the area and closely associated with important contributions to the health, education, and social welfare of the entire community. The church building is a notable local example of Gothic Revival architecture in the early twentieth century, distinguished by a well-preserved and well-proportioned exterior and an interior nave dominated by open truss work and stained glass windows.

Columbia River Bridge

Designed by A. M. Buell & R.W. Finke, General Construction Company of Seattle and completed the bridge in 1950. The Columbia River Bridge at Wenatchee won 1st prize for its beauty of design by the American Institute of Steel Construction in 1951.

Horan House

Built in 1899, the Michael Horan House is historically significant for its association with a pioneer Wenatchee Valley rancher, orchardist, businessman, and civic leader, and is among the finest examples of Victorian residential architecture in the community. Horan, who arrived in the valley in 1889, established the town’s first butcher shop, helped form the first bank, developed a leading livestock ranch and orchard, served on the initial and subsequent city councils, and was named the first National Apple King, bringing nationwide attention to the orchards of the valley. The house he built at the confluence of the Columbia and Wenatchee Rivers is a well-preserved example of the vernacular Victorian style of the era, characterized by multiple gables and bays, porches and veranda, and spindle and sawn ornament.

Wentachee Avenue Southbound Bridge

When completed in 1955, the Wenatchee Avenue Southbound Bridge’s main 260-foot span was the longest steel plate girder span constructed in the state. To date, it remains one of the longest spans of its type on the state and local highway system.