Yakima Valley Transportation Lines

Status: Saved!

Year Listed: 1992

Location: Yakima Valley, Yakima County

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, people were lured to Washington’s Yakima Valley to grow apples on 5-10 acre orchards which promised to produce wealthy independence in “the home of the prize red apple.· Private and public irrigation projects created hundreds of thousands of acres of fruit and by 1929 Yakima County had the largest number of bearing apple trees in all of Washington’s 39 counties and had become the statewide leader in apple production. Yakima County has ranked first in national apple production since 1930.

In order to get all of those apples to market, the Yakima Valley Transportation Company (YVT) built a 48-mile-long electric interurban railroad between 1907-1913. The line, started by local Yakima County people, stretched far west of Yakima and north to Selah. In 1908 it was bought out by the Oregon Railway and Navigation Company (today the Union Pacific). Over its lifetime there were 16 streetcars, six interurban passenger/express cars, three electric locomotives and Line Car A used to repair the wires. Passenger service lasted until 1947 and was brought back as a limited tourist operation in 1974. Electric freight operations continued non-stop until 1985 when Union Pacific decided to abandon the YVT.

By that time, it was the last authentic turn-of-the-century interurban electric railroad in the United States still operating. I remember the yellow electric locomotives hauling refrigerator cars of apples to market. The abandonment by the Union Pacific saw a donation of some of the YVT to the city of Yakima, but the following years saw removal of the YVT rail lines and involvement of the Washington Trust to sound the clarion call for its preservation before it was all gone. In 1989, the YVT was listed on the Washington Trust’s “10 Most Wanted” list, a precursor to our Most Endangered Places list. Thankfully, it has been saved, and in 1992 was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In 1994, the late Les Tonkin, an architect and former president of the Washington Trust, devised a total restoration plan for the YVT.

Today the historic belt-operated shop/carbarn, powerhouse substation, and live of the original 48 miles of track remain connecting the cities of Yakima and Selah. Now more than a century old, the YVT is being operated by the non-profit passionate volunteer group Yakima Valley Trolleys and is passing on the love of the trolley to younger generations.

Leonard Round Barn

Status: Saved!

Year Listed: 1992

Location: Pullman, Whitman County

Early in 1992, the Trust began offering assistance toward saving the T.A. Leonard barn built near Pullman in 1917. Barn preservation was a growing concern statewide, and this was one of Washington’s few remaining round barns – and a unique design within that small typology. With their self-supporting roofs, smaller amount of wall space, and circular feeding and cleaning methods, round barns were briefly believed to be more efficient and modern, and less expensive to build. The Leonard Barn, documented by the Historic American Buildings Survey in 1985 (photos and drawings), is unusual for its exceptionally high roof, wooden rather than concrete base, and large number of windows.

Placement on the Trust’s Most Endangered list in 1992 brought additional local as well as statewide attention to the Leonard barn. The owner wanted to re-roof it and make it more structurally secure but lacked funds. Board members Kit Garrett from Spokane and Don Heil from Pullman, along with executive director Becky Day, met with the owner to tour the barn and offer help publicizing its challenges. The next year, the Trust proudly granted $5000 won through the LU Cookie Company’s “Restore What’s Gone Before” campaign to re-create the missing cupola, the first step in sealing out the elements.

Still, it took many years to assemble funding for fully rehabilitating the barn, which  remained on the Most Endangered list until 1996. The major renovation completed in 2001 included repairs to the beams, windows, and floors, shingle replacement, and fresh paint. The Leonard Barn is recognized in the Oxford World Vernacular Encyclopedia.

Finch Building

Status: Lost

Year Listed: 1992, 1999

Location: Aberdeen, Grays Harbor County

Politician, lumber magnate, real estate developer, and philanthropist Edward C. Finch opened his eponymous building at Heron and H Streets in downtown Aberdeen on April 1, 1910, about 20 years after the town’s incorporation. The Finch Building was the first in town with an elevator and the first commercial building to make use of reinforced concrete. The building’s Renaissance Revival design by the noted Seattle architect A. Warren Gould featured terra cotta details, and six storefronts which were active into the 1970s.

The Finch Building was largely unaltered on the exterior when first listed as Most Endangered in 1992 and again in 1999, but by the latter date all the storefronts were boarded up. The interior had suffered a great deal of deterioration. Other Washington Trust efforts to save the building, led by treasurer Les Tonkin, a Seattle architect, included city council testimony and the filing of an affidavit supporting preservation. The affidavit stated that the city was not paying heed to the options for preservation stated in the 1998 Final Environmental Impact Statement. Recognized city needs, such as a library and downtown affordable housing, were among the possible uses, and developers had expressed interest. However, the city of Aberdeen declined to accept any renovation proposals.

The Finch Building was demolished on April 5, 1999 at age 89 years and five days.

Read more from our “40 for 40” featured story from the Washington Trust’s 40th anniversary in 2016.

Sunrise Lodge

Status: Saved!

Year Listed: 1992

Location: Mount Rainier National Park, Pierce County

Completed in 1931 in just six weeks, Sunrise Lodge at Mount Rainier is a stunning example of rustic architecture, often called “Parkitecture.” Despite its popularity today, the National Park Service had sought to demolish the Lodge in the past, actively planning for its removal in the late 1980s. These actions prompted the Washington Trust to include Sunrise Lodge on our Most Endangered List in 1992, the inaugural year of our Most Endangered Program. Over the next four years, the Washington Trust, working with the Washington State Historic Preservation Office, opposed demolition while supporting efforts to require state review of any proposed action.  In 1996, a letter of understanding was signed between the NPS, the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation and the SHPO to allow “review of demolition.” This effectively prevented the NPS from carrying out its demolition plans. Sunrise Lodge still stands today.

Read more from our “40 for 40” featured story from the Washington Trust’s 40th anniversary in 2016.