- Places to Stay
- Things To Do
- Eat & Drink
- Community Guide
The City of Aberdeen once was known as “the great green yonder” due to the area’s abundant forests comprised of seemingly never-ending trees that stretched to the horizons. After a massive timber and economic boom during the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, the town’s population grew significantly and was no longer considered a small village, but a proper town. This resulted in a vision for the future, including state-of-the-art buildings, homes, industries and conveniences that can still be explored and learned about today. Take a virtual tour of Aberdeen’s fascinating history before your next trip to the Washington Coast.
Visit this map to discover each of these historical locations.
101 East Wishkah Street
Completed in 1926 at a cost of $300,000, this expansive four-story structure once housed the Aberdeen Elks Lodge for many years. In its early years, the building was widely known as one of the most magnificent fraternal structures in the Pacific Northwest.
After nearly a century, the building has been transformed and modernized into an impressive event space, Soiree on Broadway. Located on the second floor, the four large multipurpose rooms help shape this large, historic venue. The towering windows stretch up to the ceilings and offer views of the historic streets below, while the quirky features such as stairways to former Elk member’s living quarters and hidden lookouts in the walls give us a glimpse into the past. Below the event space are modern businesses including Tinderbox Coffee Roasters Steam Donkey Brewing Company, CaKeCaKes Gourmet Treats, and Grays Harbor Wine Sellars.
101-106 East Heron Street
It’s hard to imagine a time without cell phones and video games, but it’s even more difficult to picture a world without electricity. Not all that long ago, less than 100 years to be exact, electricity was still a fairly new concept. After the construction of the beaux arts and neoclassical terra cotta structure was completed and the 1,000 exterior light bulbs flickered on, residents of Aberdeen couldn’t help but admire the magnificent building. Recorded depictions elicit how the then named Light and Power building shone as bright as day in the twilight as the lights reflected off the shiny marble facade. Over the years, a variety of residents occupied the space including practitioners and store owners. To this day, the Electric Building remains an important staple in the downtown corridor.
A quick glance at the Chehalis River certainly doesn’t do justice to the deep history that flows through its banks. As one of the largest timber exporters in the world, Aberdeen and the surrounding area relied heavily on the river to deliver lumber, build ships and welcome sailors and workers from around the world. Being a day closer to Asia than any other port on the west coast offered immense advantages to the power players in the area. The Chehalis River also proved useful to the Grays Harbor Motorship Corporation in 1918 as they built 15 ships to be used in World War I’s Emergency Fleet. The shipyard covered 10 acres along State Street (then, Hume Street) and was considered one of the most well-equipped shipyards in the United States. Additionally, the Port of Grays Harbor shipped its billionth board foot of the year on the Japanese steamer, Kashu Maru in 1924, shattering records.
Aberdeen’s evenly paved streets that are driven upon and walked along today are a far cry from original “streets” that horses and pedestrians used during the city’s heyday. Before the inception of cement, the streets were comprised of planks of wood. Since there was no settled earth to build proper streets upon, planked streets were implemented instead. To the dismay of locals, high tide would prove dangerous as the boards that created the planked streets would rise up as the river water levels increased. This would have been a major problem for homes and businesses on the flats rather than those located at higher elevations, such as up Broadway Street. Residents who forgot to grab a lantern would often step outside and discover that the planks were no longer in place and, after the tide receded, the planks would move out with them.
Corner of G and Heron Streets
The villainous Billy Gohl is perhaps the most well-known character from Aberdeen’s early history. As one of the country’s most prolific serial killers, Gohl was a union official who viciously murdered sailors passing through Aberdeen. He continued his murderous deeds for an unknown amount of years and was a suspect in dozens of murders that transfixed the town until his arrest in 1910.
Although the actual building where Gohl performed his murders stood on F Street and is no longer standing, Billy’s Bar and Grill offers a taste into the history of the city and the man behind the name. The building was erected in 1910 as the Crowther Wooding Building and would later go on to house the Red Cross Pharmacy in the 1930’s. As the 1950’s rolled around, so did the wave of brothels throughout the city and country. The famous Elnora Rooms were located upstairs and welcomed sailors and other patrons to it’s rooms. Dark history still lingers including, as legend has it, a bullet hole that was fired by one of the working prostitute who shot her pimp through the wall. Today, the restaurant has preserved the historical elements of both the interior and exterior of the building while serving up delicious food and drinks.
201 East Wishkah Street
This ornate neoclassical structure is now the home of the well-established Wiitamaki Jewelry Store, but the history includes a much more detailed past. Aberdeen’s very own founder, Sam Benn, assisted in the building process that was completed on March 10, 1909. After completion, Benn occupied an office that he rented out at the front of the building. One day, he heard a strange noise coming from the boiler and escaped just in time to avoid an explosion that could have killed him.
The first major occupant to utilize the large space was the Aberdeen World, christening the building “The World Building,” which would later go on to become The Daily World that continues to publish newspapers today. After occupying the building for a time, the newspaper company moved out and the Grays Harbor National Bank moved in. Following the bank’s time in the building, Ali Baba’s Night Club also had a stint in the space during the 1970’s, welcoming movie stars including John Wayne as he filmed scenes for the film, McQ. Take a visit to Wiitamaki’s today and marvel at the historic structure that’s held so much history over the years.
Formally known as the “Restricted District,” this area of Aberdeen during the early to mid-1900’s was strictly off limits to women and children. The district was centered mainly along State and F Streets, although directories listed the area’s brothels simply as “female housing” in a feeble attempt to disguise them. Within the industry, the atmosphere was not at all glamorous. For fear of being recognized in public, many of the brothel’s madams would do the shopping for ladies of the night or, on special occasions, shop owners would keep their doors open extra late for them to run their errands. Although the district was very popular among the large numbers of loggers and seamen that resided in and visited the city, the end of the industry came in 1959 when Aberdeen Police Captain, Nick Yanstin, began the unravelling of one of the Northwest’s major brothel hotspots.