The Kittitas County Historical Museum And Ellensburg, Washington

Ellensburg, Washington

The first time we went to a Dead & Company concert at The Gorge Amphitheater, we camped at the Oasis Campground. It was awesome and totally convenient, but also very loud. So this year, when we had back to back concerts at The Gorge in Washington and Autzen Stadium in Oregon, we needed to get a good night sleep and opted to stay at a hotel in Ellensburg — and that gave us a little bit of time to explore the city.

We first took advantage of the perfect photo op with the famous Ellensburg Bull by Rich Beyer in the Rotary Pavillion and oogled the historic Davidson Building. We walked through the historic district, checked out Dick And Jane’s Spot, and visited the Kittitas County Historical Museum.

The Kittitas County Historical Museum is a small museum in the restored Caldwell Building in downtown Ellensburg.

From dinosaur bones, petrified wood, and geological specimens dating back millions of years to modern day tools and equipment, the museum boasts approximately 15,000 objects in their collections, including tools, clothing, furniture, artwork, toys, household items, historic photographs, antique cars, military objects, and Native American baskets, bags, and stone tools.

The museum was way more interesting and bigger than we expected it to be and we all really enjoyed browsing the six exhibit galleries.

When we were done checking out Ellensburg’s Historic District, we decided to go for a drive and check out Leavenworth, a Bavarian Village similar to California’s Solvang. On our drive, we found 97 Rock House, a cool roadside travel stop and restaurant (that fills growlers with beer and cider), passed several beautiful old barns and farms, and even saw a herd of elk!

History of the Caldwell Building

After the Great Ellensburgh Fire of 1889, Edward P. Cadwell, a lawyer and abstractor of titles, and J.C. Lloyd, owner of Lloyd Mercantile Co., dry goods, clothing and grocery, partnered to build a new building at 114 East Third Avenue. The Lloyd-Cadwell Building was built with approximately one million bricks as a 60 x 80 foot, two-story building two retail stores on the ground floor and offices upstairs.

Cadwell bought Lloyd’s interest in the building, renaming it the Cadwell Building, but in 1895, was sold at a Sheriff’s sale because Cadwell had neglected to make the mortgage payments. Over the years, the building was bought and sold more about seven times until 1974 when the Kittitas County Historical Society purchased the Cadwell Building for $100,000.

The Kittitas County Historical Museum officially opened in the Cadwell Building in 1975 and since then, the Kittitas County Historical Society has purchased the adjoining buildings to expand the museum to nearly 9,000 square feet.

About Ellensburg, Washington

William Bud Wilson built the first log cabin the Kittitas Valley in 1868 where Ellensburg now stands. Then 1871, John Alden Shoudy purchased a small trading post called Robber’s Roost. It was the first business in the area besides trading among American Indians, cattle drivers, trappers, and miners. Shoudy named the town Ellensburgh after his wife, Mary Ellen Shoudy and named the streets in the downtown district. In 1883, the city was officially incorporated as Ellensburg.

Today Ellensburg, located just east of the Cascade Range on Interstate 90, is the county seat of Kittitas County, Washington and home to Central Washington University. Downtown Ellensburg has many historic buildings, many of which were constructed in the late 19th century. This is a legacy of its bid to be the state capital, which it lost to Olympia.

Know Before You Go

  • The Kittitas County Historical Museum is located at 114 E 3rd Ave, Ellensburg, Washington 98926 in Kittitas County.
  • The museum is open Monday through Saturday from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm.
  • Admission is free.
  • The museum offers self-guided and guided Historic Walking Tours focused on public art, community history, haunted legends and more!
  • Ellensburg is one of Washington State’s most centrally located cities. Its close proximity to The Gorge Amphitheater also means it’s a popular place for concert-goers to stay.
  • The Downtown Ellensburg Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1977, As well as Olmstead Place State Park in 1971, Washington State Normal School Building in 1976, Springfield Farm in 1977, Albert Nelson Farmstead in 1982, Ramsay House in 1986, the First Railroad Addition Historic District in 1987, the Northern Pacific Railway Passenger Depot in 1991, Shoudy House in 1992, Dr. Paschal and Agnes Gray House in 1997, and the Kittitas County Fairgrounds in 1999.

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