Seattle Now & Then: Centralia Depot

(click to enlarge photos)

THEN: The Centralia Railroad Depot, recorded not long after its opening in 1912. (Courtesy Dan Kerlee)
NOW: In order to catch the tableau of a family greeting on the right, Jean Sherrard moved his camera somewhat closer to the depot and the Amtrak carrier too across the tracks.

On a recent visit to Mt. St. Helens with his family, Jean Sherrard stopped off in both Centralia and Chehalis to photograph their railroad depots.  Of course, for these “repeat” purposes Jean carried with him historical photographs of the “twin cities” stations.  While in Centralia he was blessed with good “now and then luck.” Picking up and letting go passengers, Amtrak’s Coast Starlight packet was also waiting and posing for him.

Both depots are splendid examples of brick depot architecture and next year both will celebrate their centennials.  While making preparations for the birthdays, the Lewis County Historical Society and its museum are fittingly sited.  Both have a home in the landmark Chehalis depot.

The Centralia Depot was completed quickly in 1912.  Many of the estimated 500 workers were, of course, specialists.  The floor was made of terrazzo, the roof tiled, the windows leaded, and hardwood oak was used extensively. Anticipating a booming population the station was also built big.  It reaches will over three hundred feet, with five sections separated by breezeways.   The restoration took much longer – eight years.  It was completed in 2002.

Even before railroads were laid thru them, the Lewis County twins served as halfway destinations between the Columbia River and Puget Sound.  Now the railroad line between Portland and Seattle – or with its greatest reach, between Eugene and Vancouver B.C. – is Amtrak’s eighth-busies route, carrying the most passengers of any railroads outside of the Northeastern U.S. or California.

For one dollar the state purchased the station from the Burlington Northern Railroad in 1994 and promptly gave it over to the city of Centralia.  The depot is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.


This time round, I’ve got a few things to add myself, Paul. Several cribbed from our 2007 book, Washington Then and Now:


The Chehalis Depot
A photo taken this past summer

Now the Lewis County Historical Museum.


The popular Chautauqua movement began in the east in the 1870s with a mixture of Bible studies and lectures on self-improvement.  Here on Market Boulevard in Chehalis the movement has them dancing in the street.  The Lewis County Historical Museum figures that this invigorated scene dates from about 1914, and the Chautauqua dances were held at this location until 1918 when the turreted St. Helens Hotel in the background was replaced with the current masonry building.  In the right background is the Chehalis City Hall, built in 1912 and still in service, although minus its ornate trim, damaged in the 1949 earthquake that was generally cruel to the region’s cornices.   In my repeat, City Hall is barely visible through the trees.


The Francis Church

The Claquato Church

Two landmark pioneer churches – at Francis and Claquato – stand above State Highway No. 6 between Chehalis and South Bend.  The later (on the right), about three miles west of Chehalis is also distinguished as the oldest standing church in the state.  Built in 1858 with a crown of thorns topping its tower the parish lost its parishioners after Chehalis took the county seat from Claquato in the 1870s.  Although empty when it was photographed in 1891 it survived for a full restoration in the 1950s.  Holy Family Catholic Church in Francis dates from 1892 when the Northern Pacific Railroad was approaching this largely Swiss settlement.

Anything to add, Paul?

Yes, a few subjects Jean, but not the usual horde.  Ahh but the above reminds me of what a pleasing time we had building our book “Washington Then and Now,” you traveling the state and me sitting in my basement – for the most – talking with you on the phone.

Here a small back of subjects that are either of Centralia or Chehalis, or they are in the greater neighborhood, like the churches above.  I’ll keep the captions brief.

A different look at the Chehalis Depot. (Courtesy Dan Kerlee)
Centralia from the sky. One can easily find the depot.
A Centralia Bank
A Centralia street
A frame - but big - hotel in Centralia
Company F stands guard, or poses, on a Chehalis Street in 1895.
Pres. Theo Roosevelt on the stump - named for Pres. McKinley - in Chehalis.
Pioneer Ezra Meeker and is Ox team pose beside the stump.
Real photo postcard artist Ellis visits Chehalis - probably more than once. (Compliments, John Cooper)
St. Helens Hotel in Chehalis (See Jean's "now" above for the "dancing in the streets" subject.)
The hotel's namesake mountain - three times by Ellis. Note that his numbers are clustered. These were probably taken during the same visit to Spirit Lake, although for order one cannot rely on Ellis numbers because he reused them - according to Ellis expert and collector John Cooper, whom we also thank for helping us with Ellis cards. (Click to Enlarge - throughout.)
Back in Chehalis beside the hotel. This is an early Ellis.
Elma Birdseye (compliments Michael Maslan)
Elma then . . .
Elma now - actually about six years ago. This then-and-now looks west on Main Street across 2nd Ave. City Hall is on the right. Elma community librarian Laura Young notes that the bell from the old bell tower survives on the stoop of the new fire station, located a half block north on 2nd Ave. and thus just to the right of this "now" view.
Three of Morton, which is 40 miles east Chehalis on a highway named Main Avenue. (All are by Ellis and courtesy of John Cooper.)
Mineral - about 40 miles east of Centralia, but not as any highway goes but as the crow flies.
Orting, Washington. The crow knows, 43 miles northeast of Centralia.
Randle - Another twenty miles east of Morton.
Tenino - near the mounds and less than 15 miles north-northeast of Centralia on a blue highway. This Mount Rainier is the postcard artist's impression.

Follow THREE of WINLOCK (“most likely”)

For this someone has penciled on the flip side "Most Likely Winlock."



5 thoughts on “Seattle Now & Then: Centralia Depot”

  1. McKinley’s Stump also seems visible, sans sign and upended, within what appears to be the speaking stand, outside the Historical Museum. I do not recall if it was there on a visit I took to the museum in October 2001. I do recall both a tank and a rotary aircraft engine of the type used in Camels and other late-war aircraft, probably so located due to the role of the Army Air Corps in militarized forestry during the war.

  2. My father’s half-brother Robert Joseph Cook and his mother Elizabeth Blanche (Johnstone) Cook ran the Centralia newspaper for some time, and are both buried in Mountain View Cem. at Centralia. They lived at 114 S. King St. and 814 Locust Street in Centralia.
    Very pleased to see this article and pictures.
    Do you by any chance have a photo of the newspaper office?
    If so, I would appreciate receiving a copy.
    Thank you.

  3. Mike
    A curious predicament for that stump, if it is indeed now upended. If you go back please take a snapshot of what you suspect may be the stump and share it.

    Alas I have no photograph of the newspaper office, but surely the local and county historical societies would. Have you made inquiries there?

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