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Memory Monday: Richland as the Secret City

Discover some of the historical structures in Richland from the Manhattan Project and the Cold War:

  • Rodney Block Park and the Alphabet Homes
  • Richland Laundry and Dry Cleaners (now US Linen and Uniform)
  • The Greenway (now Richland Park Way)
  • CC Anderson’s Department Store (now Things Worth Keeping on the Parkway)
  • Gold Coast Historic District
  • Uptown Shopping Center

From a small fruit and vegetable farming community of around 250 people, Richland’s population boomed to about 16,000 due to the classified Manhattan Project (Arskey, 2009). The Hanford Engineer Works (HEW) Village was decided to be placed in Richland due to its proximity to the Hanford site all while maintaining secrecy. With the former residents displaced, forced to give up their homes and land, a new and walkable community was master planned and designed by Spokane architect and engineer Gustav Alvin Pehrson. Housing, civic, recreational, and service facilities were constructed for accommodating the newcomers, workers of the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. Let’s look back at the past and re-visit some of the remaining historical structures of Richland.

  • Rodney Block Park: Richland Alphabet House Manhattan project
    • In just a matter of months, housing designed by Ar. Gustav Albin Pehrson of Spokane was constructed in Richland known as Alphabet houses since he labeled these floorplans by letters. They were homes to workers of the Hanford site and their families (NPS, 2022a).
    • The remaining Alphabet homes can still be seen around Rodney Block Park.
  • Richland laundry and dry cleaners – US Linen and Uniform
    • Of course, with housing comes service facilities and Richland Laundry and Dry Cleaners is one of them that remains (NPS, 2022b).
    • Today, it’s home to the US Linen and Uniform. Still operated by the original owner’s family, the company stopped with the laundry and dry-cleaning market and focused more on uniform rentals and linen (Poe, 2021).
  • The Greenway (Richland Parkway)
    • Described as “Richland’s commercial anchor point”, the Greenway consisted of recreational facilities for the community. Now known as the Parkway, it’s still a thriving community hub (NPS, 2022d).
  • Richland Players Theater
    • The theater provided opportunity for recreation and relaxation for the Hanford workers. Along with live plays and performances, news documentaries were also shown here in Richland Players Theater (NPS, 2022e). 
    • In the present, Richland Players Theater continues to thrive and host live shows and performances.
  • CC Anderson’s Department Store (Things Worth Keeping on the Parkway)
    • The building of Things Worth Keeping on the Parkway used to be CC Anderson’s Department store where the community shops for their clothes and furniture. Being the only department store in the city which may have offered limited consumer choices, Richland residents would go to Pasco and Kennewick and shop with their retailers’ wider availability of choices (NPS, 2022f).

The Manhattan Project disbanded while Cold War begun in 1947. The federal government declared plans for producing more plutonium, leading to the Tri-Cities’ “second burst of growth” and new neighborhoods were constructed with the in-migration of new workers (Center for the Study of the Pacific Northwest, University of Washington, n.d.).

  • Gold Coast Historic District built 1949 Cold War
    • This community also consisted of alphabet homes but different from the earlier version since they “were larger and more expensive than earlier homes and tended to house professionals” (NPS, 2022h).
  • Uptown Shopping Center opened 1949
    • Compared to the earlier shopping amenity in Richland, the Uptown Shopping Center provided a wider selection of shops and restaurants for the community. (NPS, 2022i).

Have you visited some of these landmarks yet? The Tri-Cities is a great community, rich in the natural and built heritage. It’s amazing to see that these structures are still used by the present generation, and can hopefully still be utilized by the future generations.

References

Center for the Study of the Pacific Northwest, University of Washington. (n.d.). Lesson Twenty-four: The Impact of the Cold War on Washington; Hanford, 1942-1992. https://www.washington.edu/uwired/outreach/cspn/Website/Classroom%20Materials/Pacific%20Northwest%20History/Lessons/Lesson%2024/24.html

National Park Service. (2022a). Rodney Block Park. https://www.nps.gov/places/000/rodney-block-park.htm

NPS. (2022b). Richland Laundry and Alphabet Homes. https://www.nps.gov/places/000/richland-laundry-and-alphabet-homes.htm

NPS. (2022c). Dyer Building (Gallery At The Park). https://www.nps.gov/places/000/dyer-building-gallery-in-the-park.htm

NPS. (2022d). The Greenway (Richland Parkway)   https://www.nps.gov/places/000/the-parkway.htm??

NPS. (2022e). Richland Players Theater https://www.nps.gov/places/000/richland-players-theater.htm

NPS. (2022f). C.C. Anderson Department Store (Things Worth Keeping on The Parkway). https://www.nps.gov/places/000/c-c-anderson-department-store-ariel-gifts.htm

NPS. (2022g). Gress’s Meat Market (Frost Me Sweet).  https://www.nps.gov/places/000/gresss-meat-market-frost-me-sweet.htm

NPS. (2022h).Gold Coast Historic District. Retrieved from https://www.nps.gov/places/000/gold-coast-historic-district.htm

NPS. (2022i).Uptown Shopping Center. Retrieved from  https://www.nps.gov/places/000/uptown-shopping-center.htm

Poe, M. (July 2021). Success Story: U.S. Linen & Uniform. https://americanlaundrynews.com/articles/success-story-us-linen-uniform#:~:text=U.S.%20Linen%20%26%20Uniform%27s%20story%20actually,to%20pay%20for%20the%20pants.

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