Sunday, December 3, 2023

Would You Like to Go to Leavenworth?


Leavenworth, Washington, that is. Without the aid of the vibrant photos above and at left, you might have thought of the prison instead. Incidentally, these two areas are named for members of the same lineage. In the case of Leavenworth above, the moniker is connected to Captain Charles Leavenworth. While he served in the Union Army during the Civil War, he earned the captain title during his reign over the shipping business. Before shipping, he was president of the Okanogan Investment Company in Washington and involved in the creation of this town. Why would a company invest in this town? I am glad you asked.

To answer this question, I am drawing on information provided by Coco, our capable and kind tour guide from Bavarian Walking Tours, as well as bits and pieces from the Leavenworth Museum. We perused the heart of this quaint location, often referred to as "A Hallmark Christmas town" and learned of its history. Our knowledgeable host made this trip fantastic in more ways than one. In this post, I hope to give you a glimpse of Leavenworth yet leave much for you to discover on a tour of your own.
First, this area was tribal land of šnp̓əšqʷáw̓šəxʷ ~ Wenatchi. There is an exhibit in the Leavenworth
Museum that shares some of their history. You can also read more about the "The Twelve Bands compose the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation" to garner an appreciation of who lived there long before this became the attraction it is today. It is my hope that I provided accurate information here to honor the people.

Next, Leavenworth became a town in the time the Great Northern Railway was nearly completed. Captain Leavenworth saw an opportunity as the nearby town of Icicle was nearly bursting at its seams. His investment company bought a 40-acre parcel of land from the US Government just a mile from Icicle. His vision was to build a new town right near the tracks. From 1893 to 1927, this was a brilliant and fruitful plan. Leavenworth was reliant on the railroad to support its timber industry – cedar, pine, and Douglas fir, as well as apples orchards from the surrounding areas. The sawmill flourished. The railroad moved the shipments providing income streams. It was a thriving area until the lumber prices dropped, the forests became depleted, the sawmill closed, and one fateful day.

An avalanche occurred resulting in the deadliest train accident in the country. Ninety-five people perished. After this horrible event, the railroad moved to Wenatchee. Without this transportation, the area lost its main source of revenue and all that went along with it. They could not sell apples or wood. Without jobs, residents migrated to other areas of the state. This town was floundering. What could they do? How would they survive?

Around 1950, a group of women decided to gather and brainstorm possibilities to save this doomed point on the map. Eventually they hired a consultant. He was a professor from the University of Washington in Seattle. This academician asked them the question, “What does your town have to offer?” After little debate, the women presented the idea for tourism. As this section of the United States resembled (and still does) European topography, that would be their niche. The mountains with opportunities for hiking, skiing, and snowboarding offered additional possibilities. So began Project LIFE (Leavenworth Improvement for Everyone).

Ted Price and Bob Rogers entered the scene. Years before, these two gentlemen had purchased a restaurant and inn located halfway between Stevens Pass and Leavenworth. Bob fashioned The Squirrel Tree Inn with Bavarian influence due to inspiration of the Alpine villages of Bavaria where he lived (and served) after WWII. They became interested in the struggles of nearby Leavenworth. Joining forces with Project LIFE, Ted and Bob were instrumental in reshaping downtown. 

They sold the Squirrel Tree Inn and purchased property in Leavenworth. They worked with Project LIFE to transform buildings by enhancing facades of existing structures. They replaced flat roof designs with pitched. They covered brick (one remaining brick building with flat roof featured in photo above), some to resemble half-timber and others with plaster. Artists painted Luftels (murals) on the buildings. Carpenters added balconies, plant boxes, and other features. These architectural enhancements combined with the nearby mountains to create a feel of being in Bavaria and even other European cities. On our visit, I felt like I was back in Norway. Uncanny resemblance.


Today, approximately two million visitors flock to this picturesque village. Some for recreation. Others for nostalgia. Whatever your interest, I highly recommend the trip. A few of our favorites in case you do make the trek: Bavarian Walking Tours to gain an appreciation of the area. Icicle Village Resort, to stay in walking distance of all the hotspots. Nice accommodations and restaurant. Even if you are not planning a visit soon, click the link and watch the video. You will get a stunning bird's eye view of Leavenworth, the mountains, and the resort. Argonaut - Coffee and Biscuits, for the best coffee in the area. Leavenworth Museum for the full scoop, past and present. You can find additional information and even watch live camera footage on their homepage.

What do you think? Is it time to book a flight or pack the car?

As a child, Rebecca loved to write. She nurtured this skill as an educator and later as an editor for an online magazine. Rebecca then joined the Cru Ministry - NBS2GO/Neighbor Bible Studies 2GO, at its inception. She serves as the YouVersion Content Creator, with over 110 Plans on the app.

Rebecca lives near the mountains with her husband and a rescued dog named Ranger. If it were up to her, she would be traveling - right now. As a member of ACFW and FHLCW, Rebecca learns the craft of fiction while networking with a host of generous writers. She is working on her first fiction novel. This story unfolds from the 1830s in Northern Georgia. 

Rebecca shot the photos included with exception of the header. Thank you, Justin, for sharing your memories. Connect with Rebecca: Facebook Goodreads Instagram Pinterest Twitter


  1. Thank you for posting today. I love those murals!

    1. They are gorgeous! Thank you for reading and commenting.

  2. I critiqued a series set in Leavenworth that a friend wrote. Ever since then I've wanted to visit there. Maybe one day.

    1. Is the series published yet? Visit for sure! Just make sure to book way in advance.