Walking Back in Time in Old Ilwaco

Jul 16, 2022 | 0 comments

On The Ilwaco Walking Tour

Today I did the impossible.  At least that’s what I would have told you yesterday!  I stood for two hours, walked a couple of miles, and had a first-hand look at Ilwaco from 1850 to 1890.  In fact, some of that time I wasn’t even in Ilwaco — I was sliding down the hill from Pacific City and walking around Unity in the years before the U. S. Post Office declared the town “Ilwaco” in 1876.

The conductor on this Walking Tour time machine was fellow Community Historian, Michael Lemeshko.  He is taking small groups to key areas that he has discovered as he has researched his forthcoming (but not quite finished) book on B.A. Seaborg.  As he explained, although most of those early buildings are gone, the geography remains much the same as it was a century-and-a-half ago.

Our Time Travelling Guide, Michael Lemeshko

But not exactly.  Half the hill where the original Presbyterian Church sat is gone — sliced away from top to bottom in order to construct the main street of town — a street which sported a store, a saloon (or two? or more?) and two houses for “sporting women.”  Ilwaco — even before it was named for the Chinook “Chief” Elwako-Jim — was a rip-roaring fishing village with a population of bachelor Finns who worked hard all day and caroused in the saloons at night.  The Presbyterians didn’t like the atmosphere and moved their church to the other side of the yet-undeveloped town.

We walked toward the present-day boat basin where our guide pointed out the once-upon-a-time high tide line — a marshy unstable area now paved over with streets and parking lots.  But some of us wondered about the underpinnings of that apparent stability… The geographic features seem obvious.  I couldn’t help but wonder how the permanence of cement and asphalt compare to the wooden and brick houses that were there 150 years ago.  Will they one day be gone as well?

IR&N Turntable in Ilwaco – 1890s

We followed the now imaginary train tracks to the once-upon-a-time turn table upon which two men could turn an entire train.  And we heard the story of the kids who were playing there and the tragedy involving a little boy whose legs were crushed…   Further up the street, was the opera house, though as far as is known, an opera was never presented there.  And, then, B.A. Seaborg’s final building — the building that we know today as…

But take the tour, yourself!  There will be another one tomorrow morning at ten o’clock and again on the third Saturdays of August and September.  Reserve your place by calling the Columbia Pacific Heritage Museum – 360-642-3446.




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