Walking Washington's History: Apples And Architecture In Yakima

Sep 12, 2016

Editor's note: This story was written by a Northwest Public Radio listener as part of our "Walking Washington's History" series. We asked listeners to take one of ten historical walks in a book of the same name by Judy Bentley. Stories are have been edited minimally to preserve the writer's experiences, and all photos were provided by the participants.

The Walkers: Cat Gipe-Stewart and John Stewart

Cat Gipe-Stewart and John Stewart
Credit Cat Gipe-Stewart

  John Stewart and Cat Gipe-Stewart moved to Yakima about a year ago so that Cat could pursue a marketing career in the fruit industry. Cat grew up in Corvallis, OR and lived in Seattle eight years before moving to Yakima. She took a year off from the busyness of Seattle to travel Europe, and met John in the Scottish Hebrides working on a sheep farm. They both enjoy the sunshine and quieter life in Yakima. John is currently building a jewelry box, table and sail boat in their garage.

The Walk: Yakima

A new garden stands in contrast to an old building not far from Yakima's historic opera house.
Credit Cat Gipe-Stewart

  Moving to Yakima about a year ago, my husband, John and I were excited to learn more about the history of the city we now call home. The Yakima chapter of Judy Bentley’s Walking Washington’s History felt like a treasure hunt as we found little vignettes that each of us could connect to in different ways.

Cat connected with the rich agricultural city that has brought immigrants and groups of people from all over the world. As the great-granddaughter of Midwestern farmers, she connected with the desire to settle in uncharted land and the sense of adventure and development that is foundational in Yakima. Coming from a carpentry background, John felt inspired by the city's historic architecture. The following is co-written between Cat and John, as we each reflected on separate areas of Yakima.

Cat: The Yakima Loop begins at the old Northern Pacific Railway depot, and just across from it is the old Fruit Exchange Building. Between the 1880s and 1930s, Fruit Row was the epicenter of business. Workers from all walks of life labored hard here, creating a vital time for Yakima, which continues to be the leader in nationwide apple production.

Fruit Row even served as entertainment, as a Yakima Valley Museum curator recalls: “A big thing was to come down around 5 pm and watch them ice the cars.”

Yakima's historic Capitol Theatre.
Credit Cat Gipe-Stewart

  Later in the walk, we discover that on Naches Avenue, “squirrels were added for ambiance.” Between watching fruit being iced and squirrels running down the street, John and I couldn’t help but laugh. Though it seems silly now that residents of Yakima would find entertainment in the little things, it is also a reminder that sometimes it is the little things that truly matter.

John: As Yakima grew its reputation for fine produce throughout the United States, so too grew the pride of her inhabitants. This is apparent in the fine examples of architecture to be found downtown, with examples such as the eleven story Larson Building named after lumberman A.E. Larson who wished to leave his mark on Yakima. An earlier example of civic pride can be found in the beauty of the Grand Hotel, which housed many visitors to Yakima.

Along with these and other architectural gems are the churches to be found here. Many denominations are found within walking distance of each other, a good indication of a vibrant and embracing religious culture reflecting the many faces of Yakima both past and present. Take a walk for yourself and let your imagination tell the story.