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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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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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