While the recent weather seems to say that the days of sunny, 80-degree weather have come to a close, summer isn’t officially over until September 22. Know what that means? One last installment in the Summer Motel Series!
Today, I present you with a mid-century look at the Coulee Dam Motel!
Despite my research, I couldn’t find anything about this motel other than the information on the back of the postcard. A cruise around Coulee Dam on Google Maps suggests that this current motel is no longer standing. However, it appears that it may have been replaced with the Columbia River Inn.
The Columbia River Inn was built in 1972 and offers 35 rooms at what claims to be some of the lowest rates in town. Located at 10 Lincoln Avenue in Coulee Dam, WA, it sits right across the road from the Grand Coulee Dam Visitor’s Center and has views of the dam itself. The laser light show, which debuted in 1989, is just a short walk away June through October.
Since the dam’s construction, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation was aware of public interest in its history and planned and built a variety of tourist attractions. To encourage visitors to stay the night in local motels, the bureau introduced the first light show in 1957.
While the motel pictured in the postcard is no longer standing, there are several old motels located around Coulee Dam, and the laser show runs through the end of the month. The summer weather may have vanished, but we still have 5 days of summer left.
It may be September, but summer isn’t over yet! It’s not too late to pay a visit to one of the vintage beauties featured in the Summer Motel Guide.
If you’ve been thinking about heading to the Moses Lake area, why not try the Sage n’ Sand Motel and Coffee Shop? Especially if you like to swim.
This unusual 1960s postcard captures the motel’s small but welcoming pool area and its glowing neon sign. The Sage n’ Sand, built in the early 1950s, was not only a place for travelers to sleep and swim, but also a place for passing motorists to grab a cup of coffee or a bite to eat.
This motel featured all of the modern amenities: a heated pool, air conditioning, phones, televisions, and radios. It even offered suites and rooms with kitchenettes. Like many motels of yesteryear, it was AAA accredited.
Located at 1011 S. Pioneer Way in Moses Lake, the Sage n’ Sand is still open for business. While the interior has been modernized, the outside still bolsters a retro 50s look and the original pool. With 14 different room styles, there is something for everyone.
If I only knew if they still had those blue-and-gold patio chairs…
In the 1870s, gold miners in central Washington began using a series of Indian trails to travel across the Wenatchee Mountains and between camps. As interest in the mines grew so did the trails, curving close around the side of the mountain and relying on switchbacks to offset the steepness of the terrain. In 1897, a Geological Survey made a map of the area and named this road “Blewett Pass.”
In 1915, Governor Lister dedicated Sunset Highway, the state’s first safely passable route across the Cascade Mountains. Seven years later, it was re-routed to include Blewett Pass, which was designed as a two-lane dirt-and-gravel road with one-way concrete bridges. The pass was paved in 1925.
Although considered safely passable compared to its wagon trail predecessors, Blewett Pass was hardly a safe road. Built into the hillside, it was narrow and windy, filled with switchbacks, and dotted with “caution” signs. Despite the safety projects carried out by the CCC in the 1930s, by the mid-40s the road was too outdated for modern traffic.
In 1956, a new pass was constructed through Swauk Pass, resulting in the demolition of the town of Blewett. The new road boasted less curves (37 instead of 248), passing lanes, and shoulders. The road, known for years as Blewett Pass Highway, US 97, and Primary State Highway #2, was renamed Swauk Pass Highway.
In 1991, the Department of Transportation changed the Blewett Pass signs to Swauk Pass, sparking a local outrage. While the state and Federal Board of Geographical Names hoped to be geographically accurate, the locals refused to change the nomenclature of their road. The state relented in 1992, and officially changed the name and the signs back to Blewett Pass.
The Old Blewett Pass still exists, and portions of it can be seen from the new pass, Unfortunately, the lack of maintenance and decades of weather have taken their toll and much of the road has fallen into Peshastin Creek. The white center line and rock bridge abutments can still be seen.
The Forest Service maintains a 13-mile stretch of the road that includes Echo Point and the old summit. The road is open to traffic April through September.
I had the chance to travel this stretch of road Monday with my dad, who vaguely remembers traveling over the original pass as a small child. Unfortunately, I forgot to take my postcard along as a reference, but I think I did okay taking a modern-day shot of Echo Point.
There are no more guardrails, and the surrounding flora looks a little different, but it was clear to tell when we had reached Echo Point. “How do you know?” my sister asked me. You just know.
If you park and walk a little bit off of the road, you can get a glimpse of the new road, a tiny look at the Red Top Mountain Lookout, and, of course, miles and miles of trees.
This particular postcard, sent from Cle Elum in 1955, spells Blewett as “Blewitt.” Although sent when the road was considered dangerous and obsolete, the caption tries its best to romanticize the pass. The message, sent to Miss Dessie M. Dunagan in Ferndale, WA, reads as follows:
“Dear Dessie May, I expect you are near home by now. I have been here two weeks: plan to stay until Armistice Day. Ralph will bring me home then. On the 9th we went to a golden wedding at Sunnyside. People they know. It rained hard all day. Heavy traffic in evening. Hunters going out to the (?). Some had deer. One bear. Hope you are well. Bye, Belva.”
Interestingly, the recipient of this postcard was the daughter of James Dunagan, a prominent farmer and mail carrier in Whatcom County. She was a graduate of the Whatcom Normal School (now WWU).