Ellensburg Heritage is a project of Washington Rural Heritage, a collection of historically significant materials residing in libraries, heritage institutions, and private collections throughout Washington State. The collection includes photographs, documents, and artifacts which tell the stories of Washington's small and rural communities.
The Ellensburg Public Library's Local History Collection and Archives consists of nearly 7,000 historical photographs covering a wide variety of subjects. The photographs in the collections have been donated to or purchased for the library. Many of the photographs are copies from Kittitas Valley residents' personal collections.
Drawn from a variety of the Ellensburg Public Library's historical files, this collection includes images of early homes, rural schools, the Ellensburg downtown business district, and local businesses throughout the county. From the log cabins of the region's pioneers, to the beautiful Victorian homes of successful business owners, to massive public school buildings, these historic photographs paint a vivid picture of the amazing growth and change in Ellensburg and the Kittitas Valley.
Douglas MacArthur, a lifelong resident of the Kittitas Valley, developed an interest in photography while a rodeo performer. Being raised on ranches and farms owned and operated by his grandfather, Frank Erickson, Doug was very comfortable around horses, cattle, and ranch life. Realizing there were few quality action photographs of the rougher aspects of rodeo life, he started "taking pictures" during the 1960s and 1970s. For a few years, Doug was a stand-in on western television shows life Gunsmoke and Bonanza. Returning to the valley he loved, Doug continued taking photographs of the scenic beauty of the area, and became especially captivated by the unique beauty and history of barns of the county. He has mounted several barn photograph exhibits. "Barns are part of our rural history, a piece of the past. Looking at barns gives one the ability to see our heritage. Each barn has a story to tell." Douglas MacArthur has a collection of over 200 Kittitas County barn photographs and plans to capture these and more barns as they age during different times of the year. To explore a map of MacArthurs's barn photos, visit this page.
The Ellensburg Rodeo Collection contains 170 photographs dating from the early 1920s to the mid 1960s. One of the top 25 rodeos in the United States, the Ellensburg Rodeo plays a key role in the unique western lifestyle of many of the residents of Kittitas County. The collection portrays many aspects of rodeo life and activities. For more information about the Ellensburg Rodeo, visit the Ellensburg Rodeo Hall of Fame site.
The Fred L. Breckon Historic Portraits Collection consists of 13 albums containing nearly 1,300 photographs taken between 1941 and 1966. Fred Breckon (1883-1971) discovered his passion for photography as a young man during a camping trip through Yellowstone National Park in 1906. Arriving in Ellensburg in 1924 as the newly hired City Engineer, Fred continued photographing points of interest in the Pacific Northwest. In 1941, he began a photography project that lasted for the next 25 years. Fred photographed nearly 1,300 men and women in Ellensburg and the Kittitas Valley. Many of these people were very early pioneers and their children who had lived in the area since the 1870s. Fred Breckon added informative biographical information of each person in the photographs. His contribution to the visual and biographical history of the Kittitas Valley is extremely valuable.
The Historic Transportation Photograph Collection at the Ellensburg Public Library consists of 475 photographs depicting many modes of early transportation throughout Kittitas County and Central Washington. Travel by foot or horseback was the primary means of transportation for the region's earliest miners, cattlemen, and U.S. Army surveyors. As the first pioneers arrived by covered wagon, stagecoach, or river steamer, a need for better trails and simple roads was recognized. Before the mid-1880s, traveling across the territory was difficult and slow. With the advent of the Northern Pacific Railroad in 1884-1886, life changed tremendously for citizens of Kittitas County. The Transportation Photograph Collection shows a visual progression of the advancements in travel through the modern day. The collection depicts horses and wagons, stagecoaches, river steamers, railroad trains, early automobiles, crude motorcycles, and lastly, airplanes.
The Kittitas Valley Crossroads Collection contains photographs depicting American Indian life in Ellensburg and surrounding areas. Most of the photographs were taken of the Native Americans from Central and Eastern Washington, Idaho, and Northern Oregon. Native Americans crossed the (present-day) Kittitas Valley traveling north, south, east and west for the last 7,000 years. The Kittitas Valley was the meeting site for thousands of Northwest Indians at the famous Che-lo-han grounds. The photograph collection also contains several images taken by early photographers Lee Moorhouse and Eli E. James.
The Ida Nason Collection consists of over 150 historical photographs of Ida Nason's life, family, home, and Native American handicrafts. Ida Joseph was born near Cashmere, Washington in 1888. She moved to the Kittitas Valley as a child to live with her grandmother, a daughter of the famous Chief Owhi. Ida married John Nason and raised a large family on their ranch on Nanum Creek north of Ellensburg, Washington. After Ida's husband died, she married Tony Aronica. Ida was instrumental in preserving her Native American heritage and culture. Many of her hand-woven baskets and beaded items are on loan to the Kittitas County Historical Museum. Ida Nason died in 1992 at the age of 103 years. Her legacy will live on in the Kittitas Valley.
Kittitas County, Washington is known for its recreational opportunities. Today, as in the past, the natural beauty of the county has drawn people from near and far to hunt, fish, hike, ski, swim, and participate in a variety of outdoor activities. The county spans from the Cascade Mountains to the Columbia River and provides four seasons of activity for the whole family. This collection of historic recreation photos is drawn from professional and avocational photographers, including the work of Otto William Pautzke, Will Lane Zetzsche, Mary Mires, and the Connell family. It also includes a variety of photographs taken by unknown photographers, drawn from the Library's topical (vertical) files. Many of the people and places in this collection are unidentified. If you have additional information about any of the photographs in our collections, please use the "Comment" feature located above each photo to tell us! This information will be publicly displayed, and will be added to the photograph's catalog record where appropriate. You may also contact us directly to update item information.
The Ellensburg Public Library, serving an area of 17,080 residents and 36,000 residents county-wide, has a collection of 60,000 books and periodicals, 6,500 audio-visual items and computer workstations available for use by the general public. The Ellensburg Carnegie Public Library first opened its doors in January 1910, and has been a vital part of the lives of city and county residents ever since. Located in the center of Washington State, the library serves visitors from around the nation and world to fulfill their library needs. The Local History Collection and Archives was created during the 1970s as a way to preserve the local and county heritage. The Local History Collection has become a unique collection of materials and photographs used daily by historical and genealogical researchers.
209 N. Ruby
Ellensburg, WA 98926
Digital collections hosted by the Central Washington University Brooks Library: