Across the Map: In Search of Washington’s Historic Chimneys


It was recently added to the state heritage register and is one of the tallest structures of its type in Washington, so you may have to crane your neck and tilt your head back to get a good view. insight into an imposing century of Northwest history.

Onalaska is in Lewis County, about 100 miles south of Seattle and about 10 miles east of I-5. It’s an old lumber town – so much so that Onalaska High School’s mascot is the lumberjacks.

The recent addition to the Washington Heritage Register is a tall, skinny artifact of an old mill that closed 80 years ago. The official name is “Carlisle Lumber Company Smokestack”, which is now in Carlisle Lake Park.

John Blair is an Alaskan native who led the Heritage Registry nomination process.

“You can see it from a lot of different places, especially on the hills above Onalaska,” Blair told KIRO Newsradio on Thursday. “It’s about 225 feet tall, so it’s very visible. And it’s just a big concrete tower, a very tall, incredible landmark.

Blair told KIRO Newsradio that the chimney has been there for as long as he can remember and is an integral part of the local landscape and skyline. In research he carried out for the Heritage Register nomination, Blair determined that the chimney was built in the 1920s, although it is unclear when exactly. The Carlisle Lumber Company first built a sawmill in Onalaska in 1916; the chimney was part of the steam power station built to power the mill around 1920.

But why so big?

“It was about clearing the smoke from the area where the mill was and dispersing it over the town,” Blair said.

Onalaska was a company town named by Carlisle Lumber after Onalaska, Arkansas, where Carlisle also had a mill. The origins of the name are said to come from a Scottish poet named Thomas Campbell and a line from his 1799 poem, “Pleasures of Hope” – in reference to Unalaska, an island in the Aleutians.

Now away he sweeps, where scarcely a summer smiles,

On the rocks of Behrring or the bare islands of Greenland;

Cold on its midnight watch the breezes blow,

Deserts sleeping in the eternal snows;

And float, through the tumultuous roar of the wave,

The long howl of the wolf from the shore of Oonalaska.

“Unalaska” (spelled “Oonalaska” by the poet) is an anglicization of an indigenous Aleut word; “Onalaska” is an alternate spelling that has caught on in Arkansas – as well as Washington, and supposedly, two other Carlisle factories in Wisconsin and Texas.

John Blair is retired and sits on the board of directors of the non-profit group called Onalaska Alliance, which manages the publicly accessible private park where the chimney is located. Also in the park is the old mill pond, now called Lake Carlisle. It is a popular fishing spot as it has its own hatchery run by loggers from the nearby high school.

Blair says the six-month effort to name the fireplace sustainable on the Washington Heritage Register is part of a larger strategy to attract visitors to explore Onalaska’s history and spend money on businesses. locals, such as the Carlisle Bar & Grill, a story-themed restaurant that its sibling recently opened in town.

When the vast Carlisle factory complex was closed in 1942, what used to be up to 900 jobs all disappeared and nearly wiped out Onalaska’s economy. After closing, a fire subsequently damaged much of the mill, and most of the buildings were subsequently demolished. The pile was left standing because it was too expensive and dangerous to demolish.

John Blair says the great earthquakes in the Northwest in 1949, 1965 and 2001 did not damage the chimney, nor did at least one attempt by Onalaska High School students in the 1960s to knock it over with the dynamite exploded at the 12-foot diameter of the base chimney. The openings in the lower reaches of the pile that once allowed people to climb inside were bricked up many years ago.

Searching for other old fireplaces

Anywhere on the map I would love to get help from KIRO listeners to identify and collect photos of other historic smokestacks in Washington and the greater Pacific Northwest – much like we did a few years ago, with the help from the auditors, for the old locomotives.

For example, two fireplaces immediately come to mind. One is in Monroe, just along the south side of US Highway 2 – and now stands alone in the middle of a grocery store parking lot, but originally built for a Carnation Milk Condensery. The other is in Stanwood, just south of town, across SR-532, a remnant of the old Hamilton Sawmill, and soon to be part of Stanwood Hamilton Landing Park.

KIRO Newsradio would like to know the story of other fireplaces, but we especially want to see current photos taken by listeners – not just taken from an image search – so that we can assemble an online gallery of fireplace images to share via MyNorthwest. We will gladly credit the photographers. Please email fireplace photos to [email protected].

In addition to sharing photos with your favorite radio station, John Blair encourages other Evergreen State towns with chimneys to consider nominating their local specimens to the Washington Heritage Register.

“I encourage everyone to put it on a historical record, especially if there’s a story connected to it,” Blair said. “We’re a small town, so that helps. We try to highlight things and promote tourism and different things like that.

You can hear Feliks every Wednesday and Friday morning on Seattle’s Morning News, learn more about himhereand subscribe to The Resident Historian podcast here. If you have a story idea or question about Northwest history, please email Felikshere.

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