When Arcadia Publishing approached Wenatchee Valley Museum director Brenda Abney a year or two ago to ask who in Wenatchee might be able to write a history of the town using historic photographs, Brenda replied, “We can do it here at the museum!”
Who else would have a wide assortment of images that could tell Wenatchee’s story, from Native American powwows through early pioneers and town growth to the Pangborn flight and Appleyard explosion? Mark Behler and I immediately signed on to do the research, photo selection and writing.
Per square inch, the book devotes more space to photographs than to text. But that doesn’t mean it was easy to write!
We really wanted to choose images that tell stories of as many aspects of Wenatchee history as possible and to organize them in an interesting way. It was Mark’s idea to choose sites that people could drive to, and then to talk about historic events, businesses and people associated with each site. Brenda and I agreed this approach would be fun and unique.
The three of us brainstormed the nine locations that would become our chapters, ordering them chronologically. We started with the Wenatchee-Columbia confluence (gathering place for Wenatchi/P’squosa, Columbia/Sinkiuse and other tribes) and ended with Appleyard-South Wenatchee, site of a deadly 1925 flood and devastating 1974 explosion, and Fancher Heights-East Wenatchee.
Within each chapter, the captioned images are in chronological order. Of course Mark and I have many other duties at the museum besides producing a book, so we didn’t devote ourselves to the project wholeheartedly until last summer when Arcadia gave us an October deadline.
Searching through the collections database was really fun and educational. Type in “steamboat” and up pop 159 items, from sternwheeler whistles and silkscreen graphics to maps of Columbia River rapids and a wide variety of photographs. Choosing six or seven photos that allowed us to describe all aspects of Wenatchee’s steamship era was a challenge!
The same is true for so many of the subjects we covered: early orchards, pioneer businesses, parks, Apple Blossom Festival, etc. But the museum’s photo collection is a treasure, and we’re happy we had this chance to share some choice images and stories with the community.
The book is on sale at the Museum Store; we hope you’ll check it out!
– Chris Rader