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History & Culture

First Settlers

Settler William Bud Wilson had the first claim and built the first log cabin in 1868 where Ellensburg now stands. Cowboys AJ Splawn and Ben Burch moved a 14' x 18' hewn log house to a spot nearby so they could open it as a store in 1870. John Gillispie, a young settler, made a sign for the store and dubbed it "Robber's Roost." Settlers were few and the post depended on trade in furs and horses with Native Americans to buy supplies.

In 1872, John A. Shoudy bought the store and 160 acres of land. A Civil War veteran, he had come to the valley in 1871 as part of a business plan of his family in Seattle to create an improved road connection with the Yakima country. In 1873, John started postal service in Ellensburg. John and his wife Mary Ellen platted the town and it was officially filed in April 1875. John named the new town Ellensburg for his wife.

Early Growth & Incorporation

Between 1878 and 1883, the town grew dramatically: a bank was established; Hook and Ladder Company Number 1 was organized; and the first newspaper, the Kittitas Localizer, was published on July 12, 1883. With a population of 2,768, Ellensburg became the county seat of Kittitas County when it was formed in 1883. The City of Ellensburg was first incorporated on November 26, 1883 under a territorial act effective January 1, 1884.

A second Charter of Incorporation was enacted by the Legislative Assembly of the Territory of Washington on January 28, 1886. The City's government was officially formed with the first election on February 26, 1886 and the first council meeting on March 2, 1886.

Spread of Amenities, Education & Utilities

The first train of the Northern Pacific Railroad reached Ellensburg on March 31, 1886, helping to fuel a boom in building and population. The first telephone was installed in 1889 to connect two downtown stores. It wasn't until 1889 that Washington became a state, and Ellensburg could have become the capital if a fire had not destroyed most of the city on July 4, 1889. The fire started in J.S. Anthony's Grocery store on the east side of Main Street, between Fourth and Fifth. The town recovered quickly, with brick buildings rising to replace the former wood ones.

The first water system, and the City's sewer system, one of the first in Washington, was installed in 1889. In 1889, Ellensburg became the home of Washington State Normal School, now Central Washington University. It opened in 1891. The City purchased the private electric lighting system from John Shoudy in 1890. The post office changed the spelling of the town's name to Ellensburg in 1894. The public library was begun in 1910.

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Bank Saloon Building
Ellensburg, WA 98926
This building is thought to have been built after the fire. The back wall houses an over-sized safe, used by the saloon's patrons to hold their spending cash. It has been rumored that ladies of the evening occupied the second floor of this establishment. The upstairs is now utilized as an apartment.
Ben Snipes Bank
Ellensburg, WA 98926
Built on this site in 1888, the Ben E. Snipes Bank was said to be the most attractive building in Ellensburg. In rebuilding after the fire, Snipes said the new structure needed to be equally impressive and more substantial. The new bank had two towers built with red cement and finely carved stonework. Only four years later, however, the bank closed its doors in an economic collapse that affected the entire community. The building was radically redesigned with a modern look in the 1940's.
BF Reed Building
Ellensburg, WA 98926
Briggs F. Reed, a local dairyman, constructed this building for the Ellensburg Automobile Company. The structure was used as a sales garage for several years.
Boss Bakery
Ellensburg, WA 98926
Frank Bossong built this structure directly following the great fire. F. Bossong and Co. opened the bakery's doors in November, 1889. Remodeled in 1913, the bakery moved to the rear of the structure and finally upstairs. Several other businesses have since occupied all rooms of this building.
114 E. 3rd. Ave. | Ellensburg, WA 98926
Edward P. Cadwell, who had a hand in several other buildings and businesses in town, constructed this unique building with horseshoe shaped windows. In 1974, the Kittitas County Historical Society purchased the building. A record of occupation for the Cadwell Building's second floor remains elusive; however, it does offer an unsubstantiated rumor of an upper level house of ill repute.
Castle Building
Ellensburg, WA 98926
Orin B. Castle constructed this building. Castle's business, the Keghouse, opened in 1889 and sold wines, liquors, and cigars. In 1910, the outside of the building received a face-lift, getting a concrete/plaster covering. The building's most memorable occupant was Mills Saddle and Togs, a western store.
Davidson Building
Ellensburg, WA 98926
Local attorney John B. Davidson built this well-known landmark structure of Ellensburg. Davidson spent tens of thousands of dollars on the construction work of this block. Tin-work on the facade mimics more expensive stone work. The phoenix finial at the parapet symbolized Ellensburg's rise from the ashes of the recent fire. The Davidson Building underwent a major restoration in 1979.
Dickson Building
Ellensburg, WA 98926
What was an old "billboard lot" and an "unsightly" gap between the Olympia and Lynch blocks became the Dickson Building on May 22, 1919 when W.O. Ames finished the ornamental hollow terra cotta building for Elizabeth Dickson. The first occupants of the building were C. E. Wheeler & Co. (merchantile) on the north side and J. N. O. Thompson (jewelry) on the south side. The building's most memorable occupant was Dean's Radio & Television 1968-2004. The building's interior was remodeled in 2004 for its current occupants.
Elmira Block
Ellesburg, WA 98926
Built by W. W. Fish, this was the first brick building completed after the famous fire. Fish named the building after his hometown Elmira, New York. What you cannot see of this building is the originally featured handsome arched windows, a massive cornice, and pediment. The occupancy of this building has included the Elmira Hotel (upstairs floor), the New York Store (ground floor), operated by H. L. Stowell, and later became known as the Vanderbilt Block after the building was purchased by Mr. Vanderbilt.
Farmer's Bank
Ellensburg, WA 98926
This neo-classical bank structure opened for business in 1911. F. R. Spangler, a local architect, designed the building and guided the construction effort. In 1967, Kittitas Land Title Company bought the building, remodeled it, and renamed it the Land Title Building.
Fish Block
Ellensburg, WA 98926
Another building erected by W.W. Fish, this structure later became known as the Bath Block. The Capital newspaper occupied the space for more than 25 years. New owners remodeled the block in the 1930s in the Art Deco style. More recently, the owners recessed the storefront to accommodate a clothing store.
Fogarty Building
Ellensburg, WA 98926
Originally constructed by John B. Fogarty from Springfield, Illinois, this building was completed in October of 1889. The following spring Fogarty built an identical building right next door to this one. However, in the 1930s the twin was remodeled and became the old Art Deco theater we see today.
Frontier Village
map,link,for,frontier,village Find on Google
5th & Poplar St | Ellensburg, WA 98926
Located at the Kitittas County Fairgrounds this village is a showcase for original cabins and buildings from the valley's past including the original trading post, Robbers' Roost. Tours may be arranged by contacting the Fairgrounds office.
Geddis Building
Ellensburg, WA 98926
Sylvanus Ray Geddis, a wealthy rancher, constructed the original building in 1886, but it was soon lost to the great fire. Geddis quickly rebuilt it in 1889, complete with iron columns and decorative cresting along the parapet. In 1964, the upper story was covered with aluminum sheathing and its fine architectural details were removed.
Geiger Woods Building
map,link,for,geiger,woods,building Find on Google
3l5-Y17 North Main | Ellensburg, WA 98926
John Geiger, a tailor, and Alfred Woods, a barber, quickly constructed this building after the fire. Each occupied a suite upon completion. The building's attractive pediment crowns an impressive cornice typical of construction in town at the time.
I.O.O.F. Building
Ellensburg, WA 98926
The Independent Order of Oddfellows Lodge was founded in Ellensburg in 1881. The Oddfellows first met in a two-story structure at the corner of Pearl and Third. In 1885, town founder John Shoudy donated space for a decent lodge. However, that building burned down four years later. In 1901, the Lodge finally raised enough money to purchase this site in the Maxey Block. The building was completed in 1913 and the Lodge has been in residence ever since.
Kleinberg Building
Ellensburg, WA 98926
One of the rare three story buildings in town, this building used to appear even taller, with a pediment similar to the Boss Bakery's. Also now missing is an elaborate cornice that complemented the decorative pilasters between the windows. Henry and Samuel Kleinberg constructed the building and moved in their clothing store in January of 1890. In 1908, J.B. Moser moved into town and opened The Hub, a men's clothier. The Hub remained in business until 1961.
Kreidel Building
Ellensburg, WA 98926
Built by Samuel Kreidel just after the fire, this building was among the most exuberant in Ellensburg. Before renovations in the 1940s, the center section at the corner of Third and Pearl towered above the street with an impressive cupola, dome, and finial. The Kreidel Building was built using the Germanic Empire style that Samuel Kreidel was familiar with from his home in Germany.
Main Street Market Building
map,link,for,main,street,market,building Find on Google
Main Street | Ellensburg, WA 98926
This building was at one time called the Arcade Building due to its unique arched windows. A saloon with the longest bar in the country became the original occupant. After the saloon, the building saw various incarnations, including an opera house and a meat locker. Today, the top floor is private apartments.
Masonic Temple
Ellensburg, WA 98926
Built right after the big reconstruction rush, the local Masonic Lodge planned and carried out this project. The upstairs continues to house their elaborate secret meeting rooms.
New York Cafe
map,link,for,new,york,cafe Find on Google
116 West 3rd Avenue | Ellensburg, WA 98926
Upper County resident, Peter Giovanini, built this structure. Upstairs there are 27 individual rooms off corridors lit by five different skylights. This was once the busiest intersection in Ellensburg. If you look west from this building, the old train depot still stands at the end of Third Avenue.
Pearson Building
Ellensburg, WA 98926
Samuel Pearson built this important local landmark in 1908. In this building, the local Brotherhood of Elks commissioned the top floor to their own specifications. The Elks remained in residence until 1923, followed by the Bureau of Reclamation and, later, the Palace Restaurant.
Ramsay Building
Ellensburg, WA 98926
Dick and James Ramsay, brothers from Scotland, had this building constructed to house their hardware company. Ramsay Hardware Company remained in business until 1962. The building now houses the Clymer Museum of Art. The upstairs previously housed doctor and professional offices, as well as a multi-purpose room which are still intact today.
Rehmke Building
Ellensburg, WA 98926
Rehmke and Brother Jewelry Store first commissioned and occupied this building. In 1951 a fire gutted the whole upper story. The current occupant, The Tav, a local landmark in its own right, changed its name from The Tavern in the mid-1970s. The business has occupied this space since the mid 1930s.
S.R.G. Building
Ellensburg, WA 98926
As post-fire construction boomed, Sylvanus R. Geddis played a major role in the reconstruction of Ellensburg. Geddis built this building and a large building around the corner, on Pearl and Fourth, simultaneously. The architecture of this petite building disguises its actual size. This building is one of the few to have survived for over a century in original condition.
Shoudy Cadwell Block
Ellensburg, WA 98926
On this corner site stood the original Robber's Roost, a trading post for which locals originally named Ellensburg. John Shoudy purchased the original "roost" and gained the surrounding 160 acres, later naming the plot "Ellensburgh" for his wife, Mary Ellen. John Shoudy and Edward Cadwell had this structure put up for use as a hotel with retail storefronts. The elegant upstairs hotel remains locked away with its former glory still intact.
Smithson Building
Ellensburg, WA 98926
William O. Ames, a local builder, helped with both the design and construction of this building. John H. Smithson, mayor of Ellensburg and president of The Washington State Bank, arranged its construction. The Williams-Smithson Hardware Co. occupied the site for many years. The upstairs still has several intact office suites, occupied in the past by various town doctors.
Stewart Building
Ellensburg, WA 98926
The Stewart Building has much in common with its flashier neighbor, the Davidson Building. Both buildings were under construction at the time of the fire and were commissioned by John B. Davidson. Davidson, a prominent local attorney, and his partner, D. H. McFall, were the first to occupy the second story of this impressive structure.
The Lynch Block
Ellensburg, WA 98926
The "1888 Building" was one of the few buildings that was not destroyed by the fire. Local contractor John Nash constructed the building, which was paid for by Pat Lynch. A Rag Ball Social and Oyster Supper accompanied the opening of the building on January 10, 1889. In 1976, with Bicentennial grant money, the building received a much needed renovation.
Wilson Building
Ellensburg, WA 98926
This building, like its neighbors, is made of brick manufactured in Chicago. The iron columns, however, were fabricated locally at the Ellensburg foundry. Thomas Wilson, owner of the Ellensburg and Waterville Stage Line, arranged the building's construction.
Zwicker Building
Ellensburg, WA 98926
This structure was built by Barthell Zwicker, a German immigrant who had homesteaded in the valley. Zwicker was a successful farmer and rancher who raised prized Durham cattle. The first ground floor business was H. F. Bledsoe's Grocery Store.
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