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La Grande’s Futuristic Homes (1957)

Submitted by on June 7, 2012 – 6:19 pm21 Comments

Nitrogen Plant and Chimney-free homes at LaGrande (ca. 1912)

Nitrogen Plant and Chimney-free homes at LaGrande (ca. 1912)

Around 1912 La Grande became known in Ripley’s Believe it or Not as the “town without a chimney.” They were heated and lit by Tacoma Power and Light. (To read and see more pictures of these homes, click HERE.)

Neal Purdy provided a list of who was living in those homes in 1957, as well as a map.
• Ed Morgan
• Harold Lanning Sr.
• Don Olsen
• Darrell Tunks
• Elmer Cochran
• Roy Kreibel
• Don Hilkemier
• Joe Kearney

List of Home owners in 1957

List of Home owners in 1957

• John Nordstrom Sr. (in duplex)
• Ray Etherington
• Lee Cole
• Glenn Melvin

Today the homes no longer stand, but these folks got to be a piece of history.

Click on images to enlarge.

Map of residents at La Grande, 1957

Map of residents at La Grande, 1957


  • Mike P says:

    Has the road through La Grande always been in the same location? A friend of mine thinks at some point the past the road was moved significantly.

  • Kiane Purdy Arnold says:

    The Original road thru LaGrande has been significantly changed with the building of the Alder Dam. It originally went past the Old Canyada and then down close to the river into Old Alder. Hwy 7 was built during the Alder Dam Project.

  • Pat Van Eaton says:

    The road to my knowledge has’nt changed in 70 years but most of what was around in La Grande has disappeared–rail road,cafe, motel,Richfield oil plant, Canyada Inn (twice),all the Tacoma Power homes & more.

  • Mike P says:

    Awesome. Thank you for the responses.

    The list seems to be in slight conflict with the map sketch. I think homes 11-13 are backwards with 13 south of 12, then 11 the northern most home. Either way this list and map are very valuable peices of history.

    For people who enjoy seeking out any remnants of our history, things like this are a big help. With some time combing with Google Earth with Mr Purdy’s list and map for reference it really seems like these homes are truly gone. Circle drive retains it’s general shape however, one of the three roads depicted on the Purdy Map is gone. Circle drive may be completely altered from history. I think the only chance for finding any kind of evidence of one of these homes is 11 through 13. They might be in the trees a bit. That said, it seems like they did a thorough job of removing these homes.

    By the way, you can see the old road clearly on Google Earth.

    • dimettler says:

      Thanks for this. And I should go up there and see if I can find some remnants — if I don’t get kicked off. 🙂 And now I have to go check out Google Earth. 🙂

      • Mike P says:

        I am currently wearing a cast on my right leg. It comes off Monday (18th) freeing me from the sofa. My dad, whom just retired from Tacoma Power was able to get his old friend’s phone number in La Grande. This individual owns the land the Canyada ruins stand on. With a little hiking through the woods on his property I hope to also find something indicating a base for the bridge over the Nisqually (sp?) River.

        Once I’ve gotten the whole “ability to walk” thing back I fully intend to contact the property owner. My goal is to get permission to really explore and photograph the Canyada ruins. I think I was 15 the last time I saw them. The rest of the property west of the Canyada is either his or owned by the city. If you study the photo of the Nisqually cable bridge with the Canyada in the background, you see how the rock juts out and sort of forms an ideal base for the bridge. This should be easy to find.

        And yes, Google Earth is a great tool for stuff like this.

        • dimettler says:

          Boy, when you get out there take loads of pictures!! 🙂 I’m jealous.

          • Mike P says:

            I know a couple people I might ask to take good photos once I know if/when I’ll get access to the property. Though the Droid’s 8MP camera takes nice photos it represents the extent of my photography ability.

            Oh, and to ice the jealousy cake. The last time I was there and walked through the ruins the landowner (I’m respecting his privacy) retrieved a photo album to show me some old pictures of it. Old pictures! We know of the existence of what, four or five pictures of the Canyada total? I remember seeing at least four old photos of the lodge in his album. Very exciting.

            The landowner knows exactly what he has on his property and loves it. The lawn was nice and freshly mowed right up to the front steps and around the corner of the foundation on the northern end 17ish years ago.

        • dimettler says:

          Please take LOTS of pictures. 🙂

  • David Beane says:

    I remember the school bus route back in grade school went up to LaGrande. I remember Dawn Olson (a girl who was in the same class as me in grade school) would get off the bus, and according to Neal Purdy’s map, the Olson’s house #3 is just where she would go. From what Roger Hoskins told me, Don Olson(Dawn’s father) was transfered to another place, and they moved some time in the early to mid’60s I may be mistaken, but It seems like the school bus would use the “Loop” to turn around and head back toward Eatonville on the Mountain highway. I was just in grade school at the time, but I still recall how much the houses on the “loop” looked like a picture perfect neighborhood.

  • […] Around 1912 La Grande was home to what was “a town without a chimney“. […]

  • […] the 1940s the second Alder dam was built at La Grande. The town of Alder had to be moved to make way for the lake (Alder Lake) that would be created. This […]

  • […] 2-3334 • Glen Emery, 2-3540 • O. Enwall (Swan Lake Dairy), 3911 • Jack Estes, 2-3651 • Ray C. Etherington, […]

  • […] McKasson, 2-4443 • W. A. McPhee, 462 • Charles McTee Jr., 2-4174 • Bert Meddaugh, 2-4734 • Glen Melvin, 2-8515 • Louie Mettler, 6R13 • Henry Meyers, […]

  • […] La Grande was a interesting town in the early 1900s — famous for it’s all-electric, ultra-modern homes. […]

  • Jeannie Cole-Woehl says:

    I lived in one of the LaGrande houses from the time I was born in 1944 until we moved to Tacome in 1960. It was an idyllic area in which a child could group up. When I learned the city houses had been removed, I was very disappointed. My husband and I drove through there today. I asked a Tacoma City engineer, who happened to be there, if the tram to the power house was still in operation. He said it was, but used only for equipment. I told him I use to ride my bike to the tram and ride it down to the power house to take lunch to my dad who was the operator. He was amazed I was allowed to do that. It’s a steep ride down the hill. When you a kid, everything is fun!

    • dimettler says:

      That is an incredible story. Thank you so much for sharing. You don’t happen to have any pictures from back then. I would LOVE to post them on the site. :-). diane

      • Jeannie Cole-Woehl says:

        In response to my request for pictures from Tacoma Power Company or Tacoma Public Utilities, I received 29 a few days ago. They are mostly from the early 40’s to 50’s. I’d be happy to share them with you. The house I grew up in is not in any of the pictures except the aerial photos. Please respond to me by my email Thank you.

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