Brewing up Trouble

historic photos courtesy of Baker County Library

While on the subject of future tourist attraction and business opportunities, look a block south of Auburn Street. We’ve been here before, in “The Modern Troughs.” Borello’s, previously One-Eyed Charlie’s previously Ichalaba previously Whitman National Forest headquarters previously Killen, Warner, & Stewart Mining Stock previously Sumpter Townsite Syndicate. And maybe a few other things besides.

Borello's02       Sumpter Townsite Co_nodate02

Well, I was chatting with my crazy friend, and she’d been chatting with someone about how it would be interesting for a microbrew to be established in the Townsite Building. The microbrew could name its different products for the different businesses that had been housed in the building. The first brew produced, the one to become the signature bottled product, would have to be named Syndicate.

Sumpter historian Brooks Hawley doesn’t give a build date for building on his 1965 map of the boom year businesses in Sumpter. It was built after the arrival of the railroad in 1896; the track prevented the syndicate from building a rectangular building with square corners. Instead, the building is a trapezoid, where the front width is greater than the back width because the north wall was built angling away from the rails. Pictures of the interior are dated prior to 1910.

S_townsite_interior_nodate                S_townsite_1900_10_interior02

According to Wikipedia, Whitman National Forest—the precursor to the current Wallowa-Whitman National Forest—was established July 1, 1908. So the interior pictures may represent townsite offices, mining offices, or forest offices, depending on when each business occupied space in the building and when the photos actually were taken.

As to where the microbrewery would get its ingredients, hops grow in several places in Sumpter. They’re found outside the old Basche Building two blocks north of Auburn on Mill Street. They’re found growing up the outside of one of the old homes two-and-a-half blocks east of Mill on Auburn. I have no idea how good they are for brewing, but hops grow here. In the photos below, they are a bit dormant.

old city hall_cell       Toll house

So, a microbrewery in an historic building in town, lots of brew names to choose from, and local conditions that allow use of a local crop. What could be better? Hey, there’s a lot of old apple trees in Sumpter, too, so the brewery could add those tart little suckers to one of their mixes. Whether it’s a porter or a hard cider, how about that be the bottle marked One-Eyed Charlie’s?

By the way, according to one source, those first Sumpter townsites cost $25 each. What a deal!


Future Cast

Yeah, I stole a tag line from one of the local network news’s weather reports. Figuring out what the future holds for Sumpter is just about as certain as a weather forecast. Unless you’re saying, “Periods of sun and frost in the mountains with scattered wind and rain that could turn to snow.” That weather guess is good in Sumpter any season.

I also snatch ideas I hear as I’m wandering around town or chatting with folks. I agree with those who feel Sumpter’s future has always been about the outdoors. Logging booms, mining booms, hunting season, snowmobile season, ATV season. And economically, bit by bit, outdoor recreation has outpaced outdoor cutting and digging.

Thing is, outdoor recreation can be supplemented by indoor activities, too. One crazy gal around town talks about putt-putt golf and more museums. I can see her point, though: if you have lots of tourist attractions, businesses will come in order to take advantage of the number of tourists. The wider the range of tourist attractions, the wider the range of tourists and the more types of businesses supported.

For example, many people choose to travel with small humanoids known as “children.” Not only do these people travel with these “children,” they treat them affectionately, as if they were pets or something. These people even confine themselves with these children in small metal boxes on wheels variously known as “cars,” “mini-vans,” “SUVs,” or other catchy titles. They confine themselves for miles and miles, seeking entertainment for themselves and their children.

When they find such entertainment, these people are very, very, very happy. They cannot always express their happiness with lots of money, but they do express their happiness to all their friends with children when they get back home.

“I found a great new place with lots of stuff for the kids. Next summer you have to go there.” (“Kids” is another way to refer to the children humanoids.) So next summer three or four “cars” with “children” arrive. Three carloads spend more money than one carload. And so forth.

Putt-putt golf with obstacles like obstinate mules, spinning gold pans, tipping ore cars, elk antlers, miniature trains, floating dredges, and the like would certainly be a unique course. I suppose with the popularity of the “Skeleton Creek” books and broadcast on Syfy of “Ghost Mine,” Joe Bush would need to put in an appearance, too. The Joe Bush Memorial Golf Course has a nice ring, don’t you think?

One of the oldest buildings left in town (built 1897) is in danger of being destroyed forever, and that would be a shame. I’m referring to the building that housed Sumpter’s first steam plant. It’s on the south side of Auburn Street, second building down from Columbia Street. If renovated, it could hold exhibits about steam power and refer tourists onward to the Fremont Power Plant, making sure they spent plenty of time in our area. The steam plant building might also host information about the Chinese workers who were so much a part of early Sumpter.

And all this done in a child-friendly way, of course, almost a children’s museum. The kids could crawl in and out of tunnels that represent those supposedly built by the Chinese under parts of Sumpter. They could twist and turn big gear replicas and giant plastic pistons of the steam workings. How about a nice big diorama of Sumpter as it looked in 1903, at the peak of its population? I think I just moved the cars from beside the building to the junkyard and added a wing. Multi-level tunnels!  Make them big enough for me, too!

The 1917 Fire and Granite Street

historic photos courtesy of Baker County Library

I don’t really like to talk about the 1917 fire. I definitely don’t like to look at pictures of the aftermath. But the fire is as much a part of the history of Sumpter as the rest of the months and years of her existence.

Fire was ever the enemy of the wooden towns of the Old West. The drive to get buildings up and get them up quick led to many “innovations.” Why put up two separate walls when one wall could serve two buildings? And that meant cold air couldn’t come in through the gap between buildings, either. Trees were tall and plentiful. Just cut studs for framing tall enough to stretch from the bottom of the wall to the top, even if the top was twenty or more feet up.

To a fire, this balloon construction of continuous studs from base to roof was an open invitation to leap as high as flames could reach. If a wall happened to be insulated, it was usually with paper or sawdust. Most sidewalks, if they existed, were wooden. Sumpter had a high class two blocks of businesses where even crossing the street you were above the mud on 4” by 4” thirty-foot lengths of planking.

As mentioned in “Early and Later,” the planking of Granite St from Mill to Cracker started in 1900. The piles of planking are shown in below left photo taken in March or April of 1900. Construction of the Sumpter Hotel has not yet been started. The photo below right was taken in 1906 from just a little farther east than the left-hand photo. From the higher angle, the planked street looks very smooth. The Sumpter Hotel has been open for four years. Both photos are of Granite St looking west from Mill St.

Image   Image

At approximately one o’clock on the afternoon of Aug 13, 1917, a fire started in the Capital Hotel and spread rapidly. According to Miles F. Potter in Oregon’s Golden Years, it took only three hours to destroy twelve blocks of businesses and homes, causing an estimated loss of $500,000. The photos below were taken from the steps of the school and show the spread of the fire across Granite St.

Image   Image


People removed items from many buildings, storing them within the brick walls of the Sumpter Hotel. But it, too, burned.



Sumpter Hotel, 1901


Sumpter Hotel, 1917 (First National Bank in background)

First National Bank, 1906                   First National Bank, 1926

         Image    Image

What good does it do to string hose across a street to fight fire when the street itself is burning? How do you counter August heat and afternoon winds? In the end, it is said, they used dynamite to keep the fire from spreading into the forested hills surrounding town.

From the river to Columbia Street, Granite Street lost: Baird’s store, John Arthur’s The Louvre (wine and women), Cato Johns’ store, Hickock Hardware, Sullivan Brothers (the toughest saloon in town), Tedrowe Hotel Bar, Capital Hotel* and Bar, Starr* Hotel, Gagan & Sloan Saloon (previously Kentucky Liquor Store and previous to that Phoenix Saloon), Portland Café (lunch for twenty-five cents), Gem Saloon, Sumpter Meat Co., a barbershop, a shoe store, the Oregon Restaurant, First National* Bank, W.R. Hawley Store and Hobson Mercantile Co (shared brick building), the post office (in what had once been Columbia Market*), Bank Saloon, Board of Trade Saloon, Elite Cigar Store, Beamer’s Harness Shop (previously Hub Clothing Store), Vienna Café, Mercer Drugs, Landreth & Campbell Jewelry, The Club Saloon, Anna Weigand’s dress shop, Sumpter* Hotel, Edwards Drugs and Soda Fountain, C.P. Holly’s Harness Shop (once Dick Neill’s dry goods*), Ellis Opera House, the brick Sumpter Power & Water office, and the homes of Dr L.F. Brock, Clark Snide, and George Peet. Across Columbia St, the hospital* and school* survived.

There were other losses and other saves, but those are for another time.

*tagged in photographs in this and previous articles From Auburn Street; information on which businesses existed came from Brooks Hawleys’s 1965 map