Located in the heart of the beautiful Kittitas Valley and in the center of Washington State, historic Ellensburg is home to year-round recreational activities, numerous events, excellent shopping and dining, and a variety of performing and visual arts. Ellensburg, which is approximately 110 east of Seattle and 170 west of Spokane, has become a popular hub for concerts at the nearby Gorge Amphitheatre, water skiing on the Columbia River, golf at the new Suncadia Prospector Course, fly fishing, river rafting, snowmobiling, and cross country skiing. Ellensburg's historic district offers a wide variety of cultural activities, eclectic shops, pubs and restaurants. Nestled just east of the Cascade Mountain Range and north of the Stuart Mountains, Ellensburg experiences only about 9 inches of precipitation a year, more than 300 days of sunshine, and four distinct seasons.
Arts and Entertainment
Professional, community and university theaters and auditoriums provide the stages for a year-round schedule of plays, concerts, dance recitals, operas, musicals, films, and lectures. Art galleries and museums can be found on the CWU campus and in the community, featuring fine arts, crafts, pottery, weaving and sculpture by both students and internationally recognized Northwest artists. The National Western Art Show and Auction draws thousands of visitors annually on the third weekend in May.
Once a year, entertainment takes on a western flavor as the Ellensburg Rodeo and Kittitas County Fair turn Labor Day Weekend into a celebration of frontier life. A gigantic parade (the horsiest parade in the world), an old-fashioned country fair with all the rides, exhibits, food and entertainment, and the Ellensburg Rodeo, selected as one of the Nations top Rodeos, fills the air with the sights, sounds, and smells of a rip-roarin' time.
Agriculture continues to be a big factor in Ellensburg's economic climate. Many farms and ranches are operated by second and third generation families whose ties go back to the early settlers. Ellensburg is noted for its production of beef cattle and is one of the world's largest producers of timothy hay. The export of these crops generates many millions of dollars in revenue.
Fruit orchards provide another healthy cash crop, as technology develops hardy and flavorful new varieties of apples and pears. Export opportunities for these crops continue to expand.
Central Washington University
Central Washington UniversityCentral Washington University (http://www.cwu.edu ) celebrated its centennial in 1991, marking a 100-year presence in the community. From its beginnings as a state normal school to prepare public school teachers, CWU has grown to an institution that serves over 8500 resident and commuter students on the Ellensburg campus, and more at extended degree centers in Yakima, Lynnwood, SeaTac, Moses Lake, Steilacoom, and Wenatchee.
One of the state's three comprehensive regional universities, CWU prepares students for bachelor and master degrees in arts, sciences, business and economics, and professional studies. CWU's continuing education department works with area businesses, schools and interest groups to design workshops.
CWU's conference center attracts over 20,000 visitors a year to the campus and Ellensburg for meetings, conferences, and camps. Many of the high school students who attend one of the competitions or music, academic or sports camps throughout the year choose to return to Central for their college education.
CWU music, art and drama departments provide a rich variety of entertainment. Nationally recognized speakers on thought-provoking topics round out the menu of activities and events available to the entire community.
Kittitas Valley Community Hospital (KVCH, http://www.kvch.com/ ) is a 50 bed acute care facility licensed by the state and operated under the auspices of Kittitas County Public Hospital District No. 1. KVCH is qualified to handle a broad range of medical, surgical, pediatric, obstetrical, and gynecological health care needs.
Twenty-six physicians serve the community with specialties in family practice, internal medicine, OB/Gyn, ophthalmology, pediatrics, orthopedics, and general surgery.
Hospital inpatient and outpatient services include a 24-hour emergency room and Level IV trauma service, respiratory therapy, pharmacy, diagnostic radiology, ultrasound, CT scanning, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), mammography, echocardiography, physical rehabilitation, critical care, obstetrics, and outpatient surgery.
Surgery services include a broad spectrum of modern procedures and the latest technological advances including knee and hip joint replacement, cataract excision, laparoscopy, colonoscopy, and arthroscopy.
An array of home care services is also offered by the hospital district through Home Care and Hospice of Kittitas Valley, including home infusion, home rehabilitation therapy, home respiratory therapy and oxygen, home nursing care, and Medicare Hospice. The hospital district also sponsors a variety of health education and outreach support services for the community including a community health library, a diabetic education class and support groups, prenatal classes, health screening, and cancer outreach.
Historic EllensburgLong before Ellensburg existed, the Yakama Indians roamed the Kittitas valley, enjoying its beauty, bounty and serenity. Kittitas means "plenty of food" and the Yakamas looked to the valley for berries, grains and game to sustain them through the winter.
Settlers began moving into the valley in the early 1860s, and by the early 1870s a trading post was established near the present corner of Third and Main Streets. John Shoudy bought the store, known as Robbers' Roost, along with the 160 acre claim, and plotted the future townsite of Ellensburg, named for his wife Mary Ellen. The lovely home John built for Mary Ellen is located at Kittitas and West 5th Avenue.
With the arrival of the Northern Pacific Railroad in 1886, there was speculation that Ellensburg would become the "Pittsburgh of the West" because of readily available sources of iron ore and coal.
Ellensburg was the site of the state Admissions Convention in 1889, called by citizens of the territory for the purpose of petitioning Congress for statehood. There were high hopes that Ellensburg would be named the state capital due to its central location. Plans were even drawn up for the capitol site on the northwest edge of town and a mansion to house the Governor was built across town. That building, known locally as "The Castle" may be seen today at the corner of Third and Chestnut.
Whether it was disaster or politics that changed the course of history is open to debate. On the evening of July 5, 1889, a fire, fanned by Ellensburg's famous northwest wind, destroyed most of the business district and many homes. Although the rebuilding of the city began in a matter of days, this time with brick construction, Olympia was chosen as the state capital.
The only major business building to survive the fire was the Lynch Block, still alive and well today at the corner of Fifth and Pearl. It still represents the city rising from the ashes.
Ellensburg was soon chosen as the site for the state Normal School for the preparation of teachers. The original building, Barge Hall, serves as a familiar landmark on Eighth Avenue for what became Central Washington University.
Ellensburg's downtown is an eclectic mix of those brick buildings built in 1889, combined with examples of early 20th century architecture. Many of the homes in what was known as the "Railroad Addition" located next to the CWU campus are listed on the national historical register and reflect a lifestyle of another era.
Frontier Village at the Kittitas County Fairgrounds is a showcase for original cabins and buildings from the valley's past, including the original trading post, Robbers' Roost. Tours may be arranged by contacting the Fairgrounds office, (509) 962-7639.
Olmstead State Park, located four miles east of Ellensburg, is a heritage site which celebrates the legacy of the family farm. The original log cabin and pioneer barns are furnished with authentic materials from 1885 to 1890 when the farm was occupied by the Olmstead family.
The Thorp Gristmill offers another glimpse into the agricultural history of the area Located off I-90 four miles west of Ellensburg, the beautifully restored mill is in a park-like setting that invites a stay.
Information courtesy Ellensburg Chamber of Commerce.