Rugged snow capped mountain peaks. Multi-colored spring flowers. Art-in-the-park for summertime enjoyment. Oktoberfest (October-fest) beginning the last week of September with autumn leaves of red, orange, yellow, and gold everywhere you look. That will answer the question of : What is Leavenworth Washington. Part 1
However, just reading about something is one thing, to experience it is something that will stay with you for a lifetime.
Captain Charles F. Leavenworth, along with a group of financiers, began the small settlement with hopes of ‘striking-it-rich’ in their own way.
A Glimpse Of Leavenworth History
The state of Washington, though not really a part of the so-called “old west” did have it’s own history with the native Indians. Now called, Native Americans.
The main Indian tribes that lived in and around the Leavenworth area were the : Yakima (yak-kah-ma), the Chinook (shen-nook), and the Wenatchee (wen-nat-chee).
The heavily forested mountain ranges of the Pacific Northwest Cascade Mountains were ideal hunting grounds for elk and deer. Along the many creeks, streams, and rivers, the fishing was quickly recognized as some of the best in the region.
The Icicle Creek (river) had many braves from the local tribes, fishing for salmon to bring home to smoke, or cure for later use during the winter months.
As pioneers slowly moved into the area in search of furs, gold (the gold rush of the 1860’s), or perhaps a good plot of land to farm. Soon stakes were claimed and property rights began to show up.
Family groups would arrive, building homes near the Wenatchee River.
As word spread, the Leavenworth area was soon teeming with settlers that began the townships early building stages on Icicle Flats circa 1890. In 1893, it was officially platted for township recognition.
Not until the turn of the century did Leavenworth really become something more than a stopping place for wanderers and seekers-of-fortunes.
The Great Northern Railway Company Comes To Town
With the arrival of the railroad, the town seemed to explode almost overnight. With dreams inspired by railroad tycoon James Jerome Hill, the so-called ‘Empire Builder’ a northern route across the United States was planned.
With jobs-a-plenty, the fledgling community of Leavenworth came into existence. Now that the men had steady incomes from work on the railroad, small business’, families, churches, schools and city run government came into being.
Soon after the railroad was finished, other financiers began to look with envy at the tall timbers that surrounded the region. Soon, a large lumber mill was set up by the company of Lamb-Davis near the railroad tracks.
Logging was now the main industry for Leavenworth. With an almost unquenchable thirst for lumber and wood products in the eastern United States, Leavenworth was truly blossoming into a small city.
The Winds Of Change
Always looking for the next “shiny penny” the Lamb-Davis company decided to sell off their mill along with all their land holdings. Then the Great Northern Railroad moved their main operations out of Leavenworth to the Wenatchee (wen-nat-chee) area.
The old saying of “when it rains, it pours” was about to come true for Leavenworth.
Now that the lumber mill and railroad had moved on, the town was hit by another disaster. The year was 1929. The disaster was the economic market crash which started the Great Depression of the 1930’s.
The former prosperous little township was looking more and more like a ghost town of the old west. Within its two block business section, some 24 empty storefronts were now making up most of the town.
Death of the town was near. Lack of economy was squeezing the lifeblood out of the community and its local residents.
Alpine – Bavarian Village Begins
Struggling for survival through the 1930’s, 1940’s, and 1950’s, the local residents realized that they needed to make some major changes in order to survive.
Capitalizing on what two of Seattle’s residents had done, they followed suit.
Who were the two Seattle residents and how did they influence the beginnings of the now famous Alpine – Bavarian village of Leavenworth to what it is today?
Bob Rodgers, Ted Price, And The Squirrel
Bob Rodgers fell in love with Bavaria while serving in the military during world war two. In fact, he so enjoyed its culture, music, dress and atmosphere, he returned to Europe in 1955 to be immersed once more.
Ted Price, a native of Portland, Oregon, also enjoyed the outdoor atmosphere of Europe while in the Marine Corps. He became a representative of the Pfizer (fi-zerr) company.
The two WW II friends soon were tired of life in the city of Seattle and wanted to get away from its hustle and bustle fast paced lifestyle.
Both men enjoyed the outdoors and would hike throughout the Cascade Mountains. At one point, they chose to hike near Leavenworth. Enjoying its beauty so much, that they decided to make some changes in their lives.
Then they saw it…the then future Squirrel Tree Restaurant…The transformation of Leavenworth had begun. But how? Part 2 is here.
Share your thoughts below about Leavenworth…or another Alpine-Bavarian experience.
Written by: Tom McDaniel Be sure to share this