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Chris Rader | More stories that dwell inside downtown’s walls

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The 1960s and ’70s in the United States were times of urban modernization as downtown business districts competed with newly erected malls. Historic downtown storefronts and structures were torn down or covered with aluminum, Fiberglas, marblecrete, vinyl and other materials to appear newer.

Wenatchee did not escape this architectural revolution.

Fortunately, though, in the 1990s our city experienced a revival and new appreciation of its historic buildings, many of which were erected a century ago. This led many downtown business owners to invest in restoration and upkeep of their buildings — and dozens of properties were placed on local and national historic registers.

In addition to their architectural variety (Art Deco, Beaux Arts, Georgian Revival and other styles), these buildings are fascinating because of the stories behind their origins.

The current issue of the Wenatchee Valley Museum and Cultural Center’s quarterly publication, The Confluence, investigates the history of some downtown buildings. Additional findings will be published in coming issues.

A sample:

The three-story building currently housing The Gilded Lily Home at 2 N. Wenatchee Ave., was built in 1908 by J.M. Duffy, a salesman for the Olympia Brewing Company who also operated the popular Duffy’s Saloon. The Olympia Hotel, quite modern at the time, had 40 rooms to rent on the second and third floors, with a cigar shop and the Gem Theater on the ground level. The hotel continued operating till 1969. The Olympia housed a variety of downstairs businesses including a hat store, barber, jeweler, PayLess Drug, Thrifty Drugs and the Four Seasons sporting goods store.

Realtor John S. Mooney erected the two-story brick building at 19 N. Wenatchee Ave. in 1906. It housed the Wenatchee Furniture Company through the late 1930s. The Eagles Club met in the large social hall on the second floor from 1906 to 1926, when the club built its own grand hall. The police raided an Eagles meeting in March 1921, during Prohibition, and confiscated a large supply of illegal liquor. Mooney was not held accountable.

Another downtown club got into trouble in April 1931 when police swooped down and arrested seven men on charges of illegal gambling. The nonprofit Wenatchee Social Club, meeting in three elaborately furnished rooms of the Halbert Building at 29 S. Wenatchee Ave., had been organized to permit men to play pinochle, bridge, 500 and other non-gambling games. At the time of the raid, men were caught betting at five separate tables. Five spent the night in the city jail and were later fined $100, while proprietors Oscar Stevenson and Carl Hansen served time in the county lockup before paying heavier fines.

Steamboat captain Alexander Griggs; milliner Rose Reeves Fuller; druggist Herbert Claasen; pioneer farmer and mule breeder John Doneen; clothier Harry Wiester; and modern retailers Sam Mills and Wilmajean Weinstein (of the Fashion Shop) are among the colorful downtown Wenatchee business owners profiled in the fall 2013 Confluence.

The magazine is sold at the museum.

Chris Rader, former KOHO news director and Wenatchee Valley Museum public relations coordinator, is a freelance writer who contracts with the museum for research, writing and editing. She may be reached at crader@nwi.net.

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