Edmonds was once like Ritzville | Taking Stock

By Tim Raetzloff | Oct 19, 2016

I visited Ritzville, Washington, recently. Many people will find that funny because they just drive through Ritzville on I-90, or maybe stop to fill the gas tank or get a meal along the highway. And I admit that I would have fallen into that category until recently.

It turns out that there is more than would seen to be from driving by on the interstate. Ritzville has more in common with Edmonds than most would guess. Ritzville was incorporated exactly four weeks before Edmonds.

Within a couple of years of incorporation, the railroad arrived in each town, an event of monumental proportions in the 19th century. The first census for each town was conducted in 1900: The population of Ritzville was 761, Edmonds 474.

Both towns grew similarly through 1950, when the population of Ritzville was 2,145 and Edmonds 2,057.

Ritzville has a lovely historic district, including a Carnegie library, not unlike the Carnegie library of which Edmonds is justifiably proud.

The old train depot has been preserved as a museum. There, they will proudly tell you that the depot was built so large because it was once the largest grain shipping location in the world and justified a large depot for the eight to 10 passenger trains a day.

But after 1950, Ritzville and Edmonds went different directions. The population of Ritzville was 1,673 at the 2010 census. Edmonds bulged with 39,709 residents. What happened? Did Edmonds make better decisions than Ritzville? Can we pat ourselves on the back?

It is more a case of the old real estate phrase: "location, location, location."

In the middle of the last century, our society changed from a rural agrarian society to an urban society. Ritzville is located quite literally in the middle of nowhere; Edmonds is located on the edge of a dynamic urban center.

Ritzville remains frozen in time.

For Edmonds, it has been build and build some more. The old houses and buildings of Ritzville remain because it doesn't make economic sense to tear them down. In Edmonds, many lovely old structures are gone because the land was too valuable to not build new structures.

As a member of the Edmonds Historical Preservation Commission, I am saddened by the structures we have lost, but I recognize why it happened. And, as a promoter of economic growth, I am partly at fault. But I am pleased that I can still visit towns that are "frozen in time" and see what it may have looked like around Edmonds 75 years ago.

But, whenever and wherever it is possible, it is nice to preserve some of our own heritage.


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