Yesterday was the Centralia College graduation. It was held on the lawn between the clocktower and Kemp Hall. Just four months ago it was covered in snow. During the commencement speach, the speaker told the story of Centralia College. It is amazing how important our own community college has been for this community. In my own family there are 4 cousins, my wife, two sister-in-laws, my great aunt and myself who have attended as first generation college students. It is definitely a part of us. Below is a wikipedia article I recently contributed to about Centralia and our own Centralia College.
Centralia College is the oldest continuously operating junior college in the state of Washington. The college has been in operation since September 14, 1925. The college’s first classes were held in the top floor of the Centralia High School building and classes were taught by part-time teachers who also taught high school students.
The college found its beginning in large part due to the efforts of C. L. Littel, Centralia Public Schools Superintendent and Dean Frederick E. Bolton of the University of Washington School of Education. During the early years Centralia College prepared students who would later go on to enroll at the University of Washington and a special partnership between the colleges remained in place until 1947. The following year Centralia College earned its accreditation from the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. Two years later the college’s first major campus building, Kemp Hall, was constructed in the heart of Centralia. One member of the Centralia College Foundation Board of Directors was part of the first class in 1950 that helped move chairs from the high school building to the new hall on campus.
The effort to expand and develop a separate campus was largely influenced by the end of WWII and newly enacted GI Bill. This created an oversupply of new students ready to train for their career with limited space to do so. Just prior to this enrollment had been shrinking, as many young Centralians and other residents of Lewis County had left to join the war effort. Prior to the war the college’s future was previously in jeopardy during the Great Depression and resulting local bank closures. From approximately 1925 through the 1940’s the college was primarily funded through private loans and donations from local businesses and community members but steady funds were not always readily available. Credit for Centralia College surviving during these difficult times is in part given to Margaret Corbet, administrator, faculty member, and namesake of Corbet Hall, due to her efforts to keep the college financially afloat.
Points of interest
Carnegie Library is located in Washington Park and was originally built in 1913 followed by a remodel in 1977-78. The building houses a large chandelier taken from the old Centralia High School. The library is now part of the Timberland Regional Library system. During the month of December it is the site of the annual Christmas Tree Lighting.
Centralia Factory Outlets is an outlet mall that hosts tenants such as Aéropostale, Bass, Bath & Body Works, Billabong, Christian Outlet, Claire’s, Coach Eddie Bauer, Helly Hansen, Lane Bryant, Nike Clearance Store, Polo Ralph Lauren Factory Store, Quiksilver, Van Heusen, VF Outlet, Volcom, and others.
Centralia Farmer’s Market is held Fridays, May thru September and has been in existence since 1996. The market features locally grown produce, annuals and perennials, baked goods, and handcrafted items.
Centralia Park System consists of a variety of 15 beautiful parks, trails, and recreational and outdoor areas of interest scattered across 240 acres of combined space. Fort Borst Park is the largest of these areas with over 100 acres of park space. It is home to Borst Lake, nearby Chehalis and Skookumchuck Rivers, and adjoining outdoor sports facilities. Within the park you can also find the historic 1860’s Borst Mansion, the iconic old Fort Borst Blockhouse, and a replica of the original Borst One Room Schoolhouse.
Centralia Union Depot was built in 1912 and features red brick architecture, vintage oak benches, and internal and external woodworking throughout. In 1996 restoration projects were started and finished in 2002. The depot is currently served by Amtrak as the midpoint between Kelso, Washington and Lacey, Washington. The depot is also served by connections to the Twin Transit Transportation system and is located within walking distance to Carnegie Library, Historic Fox Theater, McMenamin’s Olympic Club Hotel & Theater, Santa Lucia Coffee Company as well as various eateries, shops, and antique vendors.
Country Cousin is a local country themed restaurant, lounge, and gift shop. At the front door customers are greeted by a door activated crowing rooster sound and seated by wait staff. Throughout the restaurant the country theme continues with farm implements, antique kitchen utensils, and folk art paintings displayed on walls and hanging throughout. Each booth includes various pages from farmers almanac, newspaper clippings, vintage photographs and other local history saved on the tabletops. Unique food items include yak meat and sour cream blackberry pie.
Fox Theater originally opened on September 5, 1930. It was built with approximately 1,200 seats over three seating levels. The first film seen by the public was Buster Keaton in Dough Boys. In 1982 the theater underwent renovations and separated the main stage into three smaller screening areas. The theater closed in 1998 and was purchased by Opera Pacfica in 2004 and underwent initial stages of restoration. In 2007 the City of Centralia bought the theater and it is currently being further restored by the Historic Fox Theatre Restorations. Limited film performances began again in 2009.
McMenamin’s Olympic Club Hotel & Theater opened in 1908 followed by an extensive remodel in 1913. Since then much of the building has remained unchanged. The hotel hosts 27 European-style guestrooms. Each room is named after a person of interest, including Roy Gardner a trainer robber caught behind the hotel in 1921. The club was originally only frequented by gentlemen but has been opened to families for many years. The theater shows second run films, musical and comedy performances, and some televised sports events. The theater has replaced theater seating with various chairs and couches throughout. The pub serves Terminator Stout, Hammerhead, Ruby, and other beverages and food items. Adjoining the pub and dinning area is a 6 table poolroom and snooker table that was recently rated in the top 5 for “Best Pool Hall in Western Washington”. Every April or May the Olympic Club host its annual Brewfest, where local, import, and guest brews are highlighted.
Murals are found throughout historic downtown Centralia. Examples include murals depicting: The founder of Centralia (Centerville) named George Washington, Buffalo Bill and his Wild West Show, and an abstract mural depicting the 1919 Armistice Day Centralia Massacre also known as the Wobbly War.
Santa Lucia Coffee Company is a locally owned coffee house, featuring locally roasted coffee, bottled beverages, pastries, sandwiches, local artists and musicians, and complimentary wi-fi internet.