Town to celebrate 100 years of incorporation
Guess who is turning 100 next year?
Although the community has been around longer than that, Winthrop will celebrate a century of official incorporation as a town in March 2024.
Settlement began in the late 1880s and the legendary Guy Waring platted the town in 1901, but the residents didn’t get around to voting on incorporation for nearly another quarter-century.
It wasn’t a sure thing.
A small story on page 1 of the March 14, 1924, issue of the Methow Valley News, with the efficient headline “Winthrop Incorporates,” documented the vote but, as we say in the news business, buried the lead. The last sentence relates that “the vote to incorporate was carried by 54-42.” That’s 56% in favor, but not exactly a landslide.
The short item on Winthrop’s vote, plunked in between a story about the formation of Twisp’s baseball team and a report on the filming of a movie that would be playing at the Twisp Opera House (Twisp had an opera house?), noted that R. E. Johnson was elected mayor, Carl Nickell, S. W. Shafer, David Anderson, R. M. Badger and R. B. Kenison were elected as councilmen (suggesting an all-male contingent) and C. H. Yand would be the town’s treasurer.
The News was Twisp-centric at the time; it’s likely that Bill Brinkerhoff’s Methow Valley Journal, Winthrop’s first newspaper (published until 1942), had a more full report on the incorporation election.
The desire for civic improvement may have had something to do with the incorporation vote. The News reported that “a more adequate water system, it is learned, is principal upon the minds of the sister town to the north.” News founder Harry Marble, who had been publishing the paper for 21 years at the point, apparently had done a bit of sleuthing in “the town to the north.”
Ten decades later, a “more adequate water system” is still on the minds of Winthrop officials and residents, thanks to the town’s growth over the years.
Making it official
Sally Portman’s landmark Methow Valley history, “The Smiling Country,” relates that “after many disagreements, Winthrop was incorporated in 1924 to include Winthrop proper, Heckendorn, and Carl Johnson’s addition across the river … The residential area just downriver from Winthrop is still called Heckendorn by locals, but it’s no longer a bona fide town.”
The bona fide town’s official date of incorporation was March 12, 1924. At its meeting last week, the Town Council adopted a resolution stating that “whereas, with fortitude, perseverance, and a vibrant history of citizen contributions the Town of Winthrop has flourished through good times and bad,” there will be a party.
The resolution directs the town staff to plan appropriate centennial celebrations and authorizes the use of town funds to support the events. This time, the vote was unanimous.
Mayor Sally Ranzau said it’s not too early to start planning and “get everybody excited about it.”
Winthrop has much in common with the burg that was incorporated 100 years ago. As Portman wrote, “In the roaring ’20s, Winthrop still looked like a rough western town with false-fronted buildings, board sidewalks and hitching rails. But despite its old-fashioned image, technology connected the valley to the outside world. Electricity streamed into the Methow and autos putted on potholed lanes. You could view Hollywood at local motion picture shows and hear the news on the radio. New businesses sprouted up, including the Winthrop Billiard Parlor, which evolved into Three Fingered Jack’s.”
Which is why the steep portion of Bridge Street is still colloquially known as “pool hall hill.”