The Tri-Cities area of Washington has come a long way since settlers arrived more than 125 years ago. It all started with Pasco being first settled in 1891, followed by Kennewick in 1904, and finally Richland joining in to complete the trio in 1904. What began as a rich farming community remained mostly rural well in the 1940s. Though times have changed and many places have come and gone, there are still plenty of beautiful historic buildings showcasing this early period in Pasco’s, Kennewick’s and Richland’s history.
Gold Coast Historic District
In Richland, there is an area of residential homes known as the Gold Coast Historic District. This little town was built during the World War II Manhattan Project to house workers at the Hanford atomic plant. Homes within this district date from 1948 until 1949 and are associated with the Cold War expansion of plutonium manufacturing at the Hanford plant nearby, resulting in a need for increased staffing. This area was built up rapidly to accommodate the workers, displacing the existing village at the site in 1943.
By 1945, the population of Richland grew by 25,000, with people moving into the area. Residents paid normal rent and were assigned their units through waiting lists. Homes were allocated based on family size and needed to have a number of floor plans available. Each was identified by a letter of the alphabet and thus became known as “alphabet” houses. Since the neighborhood was intended for upper-income families and was near the Columbia River, it became known as the “Gold Coast” District.
Pasco Carnegie Library
304 N. 4th Ave., Pasco
After months of waiting and anticipation, on June 30, 1911, Pasco city officials hosted a dedication ceremony to open the brand new Carnegie Library. There were 200 people in attendance that fateful day and 1,270 books waiting for them behind the doors — all possible by a generous donation from philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. It had taken an entire year’s worth of hard work to get to the unveiling after the Pasco City Council bought the land for the library a year prior for $1,000 from a Walla Walla resident.
The final masterpiece was a Spanish-style building with a terra cotta roof. The first floor would serve as the library’s main part, with the basement used for community activities. It served the city until the 1960s when a new library was built on Hopkins Street. The old Carnegie Library was then utilized for various businesses until the Franklin County Historical Society restored it into a museum, which is still in place to this day.
Franklin County Courthouse
1016 N. 4th Ave., Pasco
The Franklin County Courthouse started in March of 1884 as a small wood-structure courthouse built in Ainsworth at the cost of $800, including the land itself. Later in February of 1887, the courthouse and jail were moved to East Lewis Street in Pasco, costing $218, where it stayed until 1912. A new courthouse was then built on North 4th Avenue, where it still is today, by architect C. Lewis Wilson and Co. of Seattle.
Gone was the wood structure, and up went the beautiful stone building with an art glass dome and two art glass skylights. There have been many add-ons and restorations since its creation, keeping in check with the historical aspect of the building, and it remains in use as the Franklin County Courthouse today.
U.S. Post Office in Prosser
1103 Meade Ave., Prosser
Meade Avenue is the home of The United States Post Office in Prosser, and the building has been calling this spot home since 1935. It was completed as a project of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal Program, which was a series of public work projects and financial reforms designed to support farmers, the unemployed, youth, and the elderly.
The building itself features a striking interior mural made by Ernest Norling. It depicts the arrival of a mail train created through the Works Progress Administration’s Federal Arts Project back in the same year. The building still stands in its original form, only having an ADA access ramp added on the north side more recently, with its signature lilacs in bloom out front each year.
Of course, the Tri-Cities don’t only have historic buildings to tell their side of history. They also have many archaeological districts preserving history within the bare land of the area. Sites like the Hanford North Archaeological District, Locke Island Archaeological District, and Rattlesnake Springs Site are currently restricted areas being used to study our past so we can tell the stories of tomorrow.