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Yakima

On the Yakima River at the geographic center of the great Yakima Valley, the town owes its growth to the development of the surrounding region, where approximately 500,000 acres of irrigated land historically produced bountiful crops of fruits, vegetables, hops, hay, and alfalfa.

Almost ringed by sage-covered hills, the city lies upon level ground except for elevations in some of the suburban areas. Along broad Yakima Avenue is the main business district, its modern buildings interspersed here and there with surviving nineteenth century structures. North to south on Front Street, the tracks of the Northern Pacific Railroad bisect the city.

Along the tracks, a swarm of produce-processing and packing plants, refrigerated warehouses, and related enterprises crowd upon the pulsing artery of Produce Row, center of Yakima’s prosperity, which extends for more than a mile and a half. Here, from midsummer to late fall, the handling and processing of hops, cherries, peaches, pears, apples, and other small fruits is big business. Packing houses sort, pack, and store the hops, fruits and vegetables that have made Yakima’s name familiar the world over.

It is a trading center for a wide area. The settlement started in 1861 at the north entrance of the valley at Union Gap and later moved to the present site. It was incorporated as Yakima City on December 1, 1883.

When the Northern Pacific Railway Company failed to secure concessions from the town in 1884 (then at the present location of Union Gap) they established a station four miles west (at the current Yakima location) and moved over one hundred buildings from the former Yakima City (now Union Gap) to the new town free of charge. The new town was called North Yakima. On January 1, 1918, the Washington State Legislature changed the name of North Yakima to Yakima, and the name of Yakima City to Union Gap. With subsequent growth, the two places have joined boundaries.

Images

1953 aerial view of Yakima, looking southeast over Fruit Row. Rattlesnake Hills in the background.

Source: Washington State Historical Society

Ca. 1950-1955 post card of Yakima street scene.

Source: Washington State Historical Society

1949 Yakima area map.

Source: Washington State Historical Society

1914 view of the Yakima Valley Fruit Growers Association storage building #1, North Yakima, as well as additional buildings in the background.

Source: Washington State Historical Society

Ca. 1949 view east along Yakima Avenue from Front Street, downtown Yakima. The Larson Building is the tallest, right.

Source: Washington State Historical Society

Ca. 1950 view east along Yakima Avenue, between 2nd and 3rd streets, downtown Yakima.

Source: Washington State Historical Society

Yakima Avenue, 1935.

Courtesy of the Yakima Valley Museum.

Yakima Avenue, 1905-1910.

Courtesy of the Yakima Valley Museum.

Looking down along Yakima Avenue, 1905-1910.

Courtesy of the Yakima Valley Museum.

Yakima Avenue, taken from the Northern Pacific Railroad depot with a former Yakima Valley Trolley in the foreground, 1905-1910.

Courtesy of the Yakima Valley Museum.

Points of Interest Points of Interest icon

Masonic Temple

The Great Western Building rises eight stories and is one of the most commanding structures in town. The building was completed in the fall of 1911 in the Second Empire style. The stone for the keystone of the arch of the main entrance came from quarries outside of Jerusalem, where stones were supposed to have been obtained for the construction of Solomon’s Temple. The lodge room was intended as a replica of that temple. The Masons vacated and sold the building around 1965 after which it functioned as office space before being rehabilitated as a downtown hotel in 2017.

U.S. Post Office and Courthouse

The post office and federal building stands in a prominent downtown location, a three-story masonry structure, built in 1911 in the Second Renaissance Revival style. Its standard design came out of the office of Treasury Department Supervising Architect James Knox Taylor. Two three story office wings and a central one story workroom were added to the rear of the building in 1939–40. The extension was designed to closely resemble the original building. The interior has seen little change since its construction.

A. E. Larson Building

An 11-story office structure situated at the hub of Yakima’s commercial center. Designed by architect John W. Maloney and constructed in 1931, the building is a sophisticated example of Art Deco architecture. At the time of its completion, the Larson Building was the city’s first skyscraper and it continues to dominate the city’s low-lying skyline.  It has undergone minimal alteration. A builder, financier, civic worker, and entrepreneur, A.E. Larson arrived in the Washington Territory in 1884. After a stint in a lumbering camp Larson established himself in Yakima in 1891 with the purchase of a local lumber yard, followed by repeated investments in commercial real estate development.

Old North Yakima Historic District

A collection of nine historic buildings located within the original Northern Pacific right-of-way and adjacent city block to the east in downtown. The district includes the Norther Pacific depot, the historic city hall, an opera house and brewery, and several historic hotels.  It was the first center of trade and transportation in the city. The predominantly brick buildings were built between 1889 and the 1920s and reflect a variety of Victorian and early 20th century commercial designs.

Yakima Valley Transportation Company (YVTC)

A rare and intact example of an interurban electric railway system. Its complex of structures, buildings, and objects constitutes a system that has operated in the Yakima Valley since 1907. Originally, it depended on passenger service, but the system was adapted to carry freight from Yakima farms to the rail lines in the city. The growth of the freight system facilitated the planting of large orchards and helped develop Yakima into one of the state’s most productive agricultural regions. Passenger service within the city of Yakima lasted until 1947. By the time this service was discontinued, the YVTC was the only remaining passenger rail trolley system in the state. The Union Pacific Railroad abandoned the YVTC freight operations in 1985, and the system was donated to the City of Yakima and has been open as a museum since that time.

Themes You'll Find at this Main Street

Transportation

Transpiration efforts lead the town to relocate several miles from the original settlement and shape the development of the community.

Fraternal Organizations

Freemasons erected the Masonic Temple in 1910 and today it has been converted into a boutique hotel.

Stories

Town Relocation

After the first Euro-American settlers began to settle in this area of the new Washington Territory in the 1860s, a small commercial center grew up just north of the gap in the Ahtanum Ridge where the Yakima River flows through.  This center was called Yakima City.

By the early 1880s, the area had attracted enough settlement to interest the rapidly expanding railroad companies. The Northern Pacific Railroad sent their land commissioner to survey the area around Yakima City. His report stated that “the location of the old town of Yakima City was undesirable [for a depot][due to] the swampy character of the land…[and] it would be necessary to change the location to a point some two or three miles northward in order to make a good town…” This evaluation stating that Yakima City was unhealthful, however, is only part of the story.

Railroads were expensive to build, and the companies made money in only two ways. First, in the American West, the United States Government gave the railroads land bordering the tracks in place of direct cash support. The railroads could then sell this land to recapture some of their costs. Second, the railroads relied on regular freight business (as passenger traffic rarely ever made money). In both cases, an abundance of good quality land that was both saleable and perfect for freight generating businesses was crucial.  There was not enough of such land around Yakima City; what little quality land existed there was already claimed and was being offered to the railroad at a high price.  Thus, building the depot 2-3 miles north, where there was much more unclaimed good land, had a strong financial advantage for the railroad.

Therefore, a new town site called North Yakima was established, based upon the Northern Pacific Railroad agent’s recommendation that “…the location of the new town of North Yakima is, in every way, attractive and desirable. The soil is good. The land dry.” The first freight car arrived in North Yakima on December 23, 1884, delivering six barrels of whiskey and vinegar, and the new depot, originally in a converted railroad boxcar, was officially dedicated on January 14, 1885. Naturally, the residents of “old” Yakima City were not happy with the decision to bypass their town, but the railroad, which realized it needed these people, offered free building lots in the new town and encouraged the residents of Yakima City to move their business buildings and homes to North Yakima. Many accepted the offer, and during the spring and summer of 1885, there was a steady moving of buildings from Yakima City to new North Yakima.  Small logs were placed under the structures as rollers as horses pulled the buildings north to new locations. The first building to move was The Guilland House, a hotel originally built in 1876. It was said that you could tie your horse to a moving building, go shopping inside, and your horse would walk alongside the building as it moved.

Masonic Lodge

Fraternal organizations came to the Washington Territory in December 1858 when four lodges, Olympia, Steilacoom, Grand Mound, and Vancouver met at Olympia and organized the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Free & Accepted Masons of Washington. On September 28, 1874, a dispensation was granted to a lodge in Yakima City (now Union Gap). This lodge was chartered a year later and christened Yakima Lodge No 24 on February 8, 1878.

Like many new organizations in new communities, Yakima’s Masonic Lodge #24 struggled with growing pains, factional divisions, and lack of funds in its early years. But things soon stabilized and in 1908 the 158 members of Yakima Lodge No 24 committed themselves to build a permanent lodge hall. They hired architect, William (Billy) de Veaux to design a temple on the prime corner of 4th Street and Yakima Avenue in downtown Yakima.  Since de Veaux was not a Mason, he partnered with the Masonic Architect F. H. Heath of Tacoma, and the result was a $350,000 six-story structure with commercial space for rental on the lower floors and the lodge rooms on the top. Ground was broken on September 10, 1910, the corner stone laid on April 1, 1911, and the top floor lodge room dedicated on September 27, 1912. The commercial spaces attracted leading retailers, professional offices, the Chamber of Commerce, and even, for a time, the offices of the City.

This building, recently rehabilitated, still proudly stands in downtown Yakima and the lodge rooms, although no longer in use, remain as built. The structure has a number of unique elements. The keystone over the main entrance was carved from a 960-pound block of stone quarried in Jerusalem at the same place where the original material for King Solomon’s Temple is believed to have been obtained. It was secured with the help of the American Consul in the Holy Land and shipped to Yakima where, accompanied by the Overture from Tannhauser, it was ceremoniously brought to the building site for carving.

The lodge room is amazing. Although not constructed as a copy of King Solomon’s Temple (there is little evidence of the exact design or proportion of that ancient structure), the architects drew upon early 20th century knowledge of ancient Assyrian, Babylonian, and Egyptian building design. The columns, friezes, ornaments and wall panels are all based upon the work of archaeologists who uncovered the palaces and temples in what we now know as the Middle East.  And individual elements are conscious symbols of the sun, deity, justice, authority, and merit.  It remains intact although the portable furniture and other pieces were removed when the new Masonic Lodge on North Naches Avenue was built in the early 1960s.

The structure recently rehabilitated and opened as the boutique hotel, La Maison.

Masonic Temple, Hotel Maison, 2016.

View of the Masonic Temple lodgeroom.

View of the stained glass relite in the lodgeroom.