Meandering through the streets of the Twin Cities, there is a sense of history. The National Register of Historic Places listings for Centralia and Chehalis offer an opportunity to see history on foot. Through the downtowns and surrounding neighborhoods, the buildings offer clues to the past.
Added to the register in 2003, Centralia’s Downtown Historic District offers a range of periods of significance starting in 1899 to 1950. The approximately 15 square blocks feature 67 historic contributing resources.
In the historic downtown district, there are four sites that are significant enough to render their own listing on the national register.
Picking up or dropping off the mail at the Centralia Main Post Office is a trip back to 1937. The building’s granite steps and landing, woodwork, art, mailboxes, and decorated sandstone spandrels are much like they were eight decades ago.
Across the street stands “The Sentinel”. The sculpture commemorates the four legionnaires killed in Centralia’s 1919 Armistice Day Riot.
Built in 1912, the red brick Centralia Union Depot features stunning interior woodwork and tiles. The vintage oak benches offering respite for travelers remain today. Photographs around the building offer a look back in the past.
For a visit back in time, the Olympic Club Saloon offers a glimpse of life in Centralia in 1908. Enter through heavy wood doors with beveled glass panes and brass hardware and slip onto a seat at the massive mahogany bar. At every turn, there are period details. Even the restrooms are something to behold.
Bordering the historic downtown is the Edison District. A walk through the neighborhood reveals streets of historic homes, many of them Craftsman style. While not on the historic register, the area has been considered and is where several homes are that are on the list.
One of those homes, the Hubbard Bungalow on Washington Avenue was built in 1908. The personal residence was for local lumber baron Francis B. Hubbard.
On E Street, sits the Birge House. The Queen Anne style house was built in 1910 and was home to George E. Birge, a local businessman who served two terms as Centralia mayor and one as a city councilman.
With its continued charm a visit to the Chehalis Downtown Historic District is much like it was in 1900. Also known as the third civic center, the area was added to the register in 1997 and consists mainly of commercial style buildings constructed between 1890 and 1927. There are 26 contributing resources within the district adding to the historical significance of the area. Two properties within the district are individually listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
The Northern Pacific Railroad Depot built in 1912 is a Mission Revival style building. Added to the register in 1974, the building is a representation of the role railroads played in the formation of the Twin Cities. On September 18, 1979 it opened as the Lewis County Historical Museum after The Historical Society board members mobilized to save the depot from being torn down.
The museum offers information on self-guided Historic Downtown Walking Tour. “The walking tour guide of Chehalis is a great opportunity to get a bit of exercise while learning firsthand about Chehalis history,” says Executive Director of Lewis County Historical Museum, Jason Mattson. “It’s certainly a way to learn something new about the early days of Chehalis and about the people who made it what it is today.”
The St. Helens Hotel or Inn was added to the historic register in 1991. Built in the late 1800s, the cornerstone of the downtown as it is seen today was constructed by William Francis West in 1917 to 1920. The Chicago style building sitting six stories tall is perhaps the most recognizable building in all of Lewis County.
The Chehalis Post Office with its colonial revival architecture was the first federally constructed building in the community built by the Public Works Administration. Opened in January 1934, the building was designed by James Wetmore, who acted as Supervising Architect of at least 2000 federal government buildings.
Pennsylvania Avenue and surrounding West Side Historic District historical homes are examples of the finest craftsmanship of the time. A stroll through the tree-lined neighborhood reveals a variety of well-preserved architectural styles including Bungalows, Craftsman, and Victorian.
In 1900, the O.K. Palmer House graced NW Pennsylvania Avenue. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1986, the businessman’s home was built in the American Foursquare style. Palmer Manufacturing Company was responsible for a lot of the millwork of the Chehalis region.
On the other side of downtown sits the Hillside Historic District with homes built from 1890 to 1930. Added to the register in 1996, this neighborhood with over 140 charming homes in Queen Anne, Colonial Revival, Bungalow and Craftsman style is a step back in time.
The newest addition to the register is the Lewis County Courthouse. Construction of the courthouse began in 1925 and was completed in 1927. With a Beaux Arts architectural design, the building offers a look at the grandeur of the style both inside and out.
Across the street sits Shakespeare and Company Coffee and Books. The former home of Judge Seymour White was built in 1904. The three-story Victorian was eventually purchased by Ella Simmons and was a house of ill repute.
While this list does not encompass all the historical sites of the area, there are plenty of walkable wonderful areas and neighborhoods that offer a look back in time. Both downtown Chehalis and Centralia are excellent places to shop or take a walk. While there, look closely for clues to the past.