Thursday, September 17, 2009

Let's go on a road trip - We've been to Concrete


Concrete, WA that is . . .

A very small town up in the mountains of Western Washington. The drive is leisurely and we decided to go there one sunny afternoon. So we packed a picnic and off we went. First - a little history about Concrete - because a town with a name like that MUST be very interesting.

How Concrete Got Its Name

Early settlers came to the Baker River in 1871, originally calling the settlement on the west bank "Minnehaha". In 1890 a post office was set up, and the name "Baker" was adopted. On the east bank of the river, the community that sprang up around the Washington Portland Cement Company (1905) was named "Cement City". After the Superior Portland Cement Company plant (1908) was built in Baker, it was decided to merge the two towns, and in 1909, after much discussion, the new community settled on the name "Concrete". The cement plants produced the concrete needed to build the high wall dams on the river.


Concrete Main Street Buildings

Prior to 1921, several fires destroyed most of the original wooden buildings which had lined Main Street. Since concrete was in ample supply, it was decided that subsequent commercial buildings would be made from this nonflammable material - so the town is now "concrete".


Lower Baker Dam

Completed in 1925 and raised to 293 feet in 1927, it was
the highest hydroelectric dam in the world at that time.


Superior Portland Cement Site
Now known as Silo Park, this was the site of Concrete's second cement plant, completed in 1908, and later operated by Lone Star Northwest until 1967. All the remains is an office building and the silos in Silo Park (the city park in Concrete).

Thimbleberries blooming. . .

The scenery along the river is gorgeous - we spent time driving along the river - and then stopped to have our picnic lunch and sit by the river.


Some lovely old stumps in the park . . .




And a fabulous old tree . . .




Flowers gone to seed along the river. . .



A view of the nearby mountains . . . runoff from the mountains keeps the two lakes behind the dams full of water. . .


Some buttercups growing beside the river . . .


And the open pastures are wonderful . . .


This hillside shows many layers of the different rocks in the area -
it was sliding down towards the road.



And here is Concrete's moment of fame - - -

On Octboer 30, 1938, a radio station from Seattle broadcast Orson Welles' "War of the Worlds" radio drama.

Then on October 31, the next day - the New York Times reported wide-spread panic over the "War of the Worlds" radio broadcast.

At the point of the drama where the Martian invaders were invading towns and the countryside with flashes of light and poison gases, a power failure suddenly plunged almost the entire town of 1,000 (Concrete) into darkness. Some listeners fainted while others grabbed their families to head up into the mountains. Other more enterprising locals headed for the surrounding hills to guard their moonshine stills. On man was said to have jumped up out of his chair and, in bare feet, run the two miles from his home to the center of town. Some of the men grabbed their guns, and one businessman - a devout Catholic man got his wife into the family car, drove to the nearest service station and demanded gasoline. Without paying the attendant, he rushed off to Bellingham - (about forty-miles away) in order to see his priest for a last-minute absolution of sins. The distraught man reportedly told the gas-station attendant that paying for the gas "[wouldn't] make any difference, everyone is going to die!".

Because the phone lines (as well the electricity) were out, the town's residents were unable to call neighbors, family, or friends to verify that their fears were legitimate. Of course, the real story was not as fantastic as the fictional radio drama - all that had occurred was that the Superior Portland Cement Company's electrical sub-station suffered a short-circuit with a flash of brilliant light, and all the town's lights went dark. The more conservative radio-listeners in Concrete (who had been listening to Charlie McCarthy on another station), attempted to calm neighbors, reporting that they hadn't heard a thing about any "disaster". Reporters heard soon after of the coincidental blackout of Concrete, and sent the story out over the international newswire and soon the town of Concrete was known (if only for a moment) world-wide.

It was much calmer the day we visited - a few visitors stopped by the park for picnics, children rode their bikes in Silo Park and neighbors visited at the local store - and we had a fabulous time by the river.

11 comments:

Linda B said...

Ah, yes, concrete. You should have seen this town when the concrete plants were still active. Everything was gray. Those lovely trees and shrubs and berries were all coated with a fine layer of concrete.

Marilyn said...

Never heard of this town.... It was so interesting & your photos are beautiful!! Glad you had a great time & thank you so much for the story!!
Hugs to You!!
Marilyn

Crispy said...

Thanks for the slice of home this morning Jo :0)

Crispy

Happy Cottage Quilter said...

Beautiful pictures. And such an interesting story about Concrete.

Olde Dame Penniwig said...

There's some weird writer from Concrete, too...did you see the high school? With the road going thru it and the high walkway?

I had a mental meltdown in Concrete...we drove up there on a gray day, and everything looked "blasted." The trees were blackened, everything was dark, dripping wet -- maybe the Martians decided to REALLY pay it a visit.

Fearless Nester said...

Oh I love packing picnics and heading out on a new exploration. Quite an interesting history that town has. And, I love seeing glimpses of your beautiful State as we've never made it that far West yet!

Dena said...

Yes, the lovely town of Concrete. There was a movie filmed there recently, starring Ray Liota and Tobey Maguire. There was also a movie, several years ago, which starred Robert DeNiro and the concrete tower was featured in it too. Lots of history for such a small town.

Nancy Jo said...

Well that was fun. Great pictures and info. I had never heard of that town. But then I can't know everything. Sometimes I think I do as my husband reminds me. HA.
And yes Dave is a very clever bear.
Nancy Jo

Terri said...

Love those pictures......

Judy S. said...

Great photos, Jo. We love to go to the North Cascades.

Judy said...

I've never been there! Shame on me. I remember my Grampa talking about working in Concrete.
Your pictures are stunning. You sure have an eye...
Hugs