Lewis County’s rich history is one thing that makes Lewis County so unique. Working, living and shopping within the historical buildings and monuments in its cities and towns is something that sets Lewis County apart. The Historic Downtown Chehalis Walking Tour is one way to experience the history first hand.

windermere centraliaThe Historic Downtown Chehalis Walking Tour was created by the Chehalis Community Renaissance Team (CCRT). It was intentionally designed as a way for the community to learn about Downtown Chehalis’ historic past. CCRT was developed in 2009 as a committee of the city to carry out projects and revitalize the entire city of Chehalis.

Annalee Tobey, chair of the CCRT, shares, “It’s an exciting mix of energized people who come together to help move us forward.” The CCRT is a volunteer based group of 20-30 members who meet monthly.

chehalis walking tour
The self-guided walking tour begins at the Lewis County Historical Museum. The museum was once the Northern Pacific Railroad Depot.

The Historic Downtown Chehalis Walking Tour was one creation designed specifically to bring people to downtown Chehalis, share in its past, and enjoy what downtown has to offer now. The self-guided walking tour is completely free and is described as a way to explore the “colorful history” of Chehalis and learn about the city’s origins.

Walking tour participants should grab a copy of the tour guidebook before beginning. The tour guidebooks can be found at the Chehalis City HallVernetta Smith Chehalis Timberland Library, Lewis County Historical Museum, and other businesses downtown. Travelers can also use the mobile-friendly, online guide.

Annalee shares that the guidebook is in its seventh reprinting. “We want to keep the guide as current as possible and up to date to reflect the current businesses and owners that are a part of downtown,” she explains.

chehalis walking tour
Downtown Chehalis includes so many historical buildings that it is classified at a historical district. Photo courtesy: Lewis County Historical Museum.

The first stop on the walking tour is the Northern Pacific Railroad Depot, which currently houses the Lewis County Historical Museum. Andy Skinner, museum director, shares that the locations selected for the Historic Downtown Chehalis Walking Tour are all determined to have historical value. In fact, the entire downtown Chehalis area is listed as a historic district because of the large number of historical buildings in the downtown area.

Andy shares, “The walking tour is great because it gets people to notice the unique nuances of our community. The tour doesn’t take too long and it’s a nice walk through downtown.” All the research for the stops described in the tour guide has been completed by the Lewis County Historical Museum.

chehalis walking tour
Andy Skinner says that the walking tour is great because “it gets people to notice the unique nuances of our community.” Photo courtesy: Lewis County Historical Museum.

Andy shares that his favorite part of the tour is something relatively small, but still amazing. Andy says, “If you look down Chehalis Avenue, you’ll see rings embedded in the sidewalk which have been there since before 1910. Those were the horse ties people used to leave their horses on while they shopped or conducted business downtown.”

Learning about the past and looking for the unique nuances, as Andy says, are all a part of the wonder of the walking tour. Andy also shares that the Chehalis courthouse was recently added to the historic register. He explains, “There’s such a rich history there and it is a beautiful building. There are so many nooks and crannies that are neat and new things are always being discovered.”

chehalis walking tour
The walking tour gives participants a chance to see the past overlaid with the present.

The walking tour is a great way for participants to see the past and the present juxtaposed over one another. Consider the small details along the sidewalks, such as the horse ties as Andy described, or the larger impact of the historic architecture of the buildings downtown. “It’s amazing what you can see if you take the time to look closely,” shares Andy. “For example, the old Sears building still says ‘Sears’ on the doors.”

With 42 points of interest and in-depth descriptions in the guide, everyone is sure to learn something new about downtown Chehalis whether they have been lifelong residents or are new to the area. “It’s fun because you get to see what was here before,” Andy explains.

Grab your favorite pair of walking shoes, grab a guidebook, and go explore downtown streets of Chehalis.

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