Wednesday, April 14, 2010

L is for Longview

Longview, a Planned City

Longview is a city with a unique history. At the time of its conception, Longview was the only planned city of its magnitude to have ever been conceived of and built entirely with private funds. But don't be carried away by romantic visions of Pierre Lafont's capitol city, or the benevolent experiments of utopian social scientists. Longview was the direct result of industrial expansionism.

What makes Longview different from the majority of cities that have sprung up throughout history is that it was completely planned down to the last sidewalk and the last street name before construction ever began. Originally, this planning allowed the city to grow inwards along organized lines with separate areas designated for business, industrial and residential areas.

The Beginnings

The city´s origins can be traced back to decisions made in a Kansas City, Missouri board room in 1918. Present at that meeting were Robert Alexander Long, president of Long-Bell Lumber Company, and Mr. S. M. Morris, among others. By 1918 the southern timber holdings of Long-Bell lumber were nearly depleted. In the days before tree farming, logging operations clear cut all the timber in a given area and then moved on. The board of directors had to decide whether to liquidate the company´s sizeable logging operation and concentrate on their line of hardware stores and commercial lumber yards or to look elsewhere for another source of timber. No one present that day could have imagined that just six years into the future Long-Bell would be responsible for the incorporation of a fully modern city.

The Move

The decision was made to stay in the timber business. Originally, Long-Bell planned to build only one mill at the site which was to become Longview, and had no intention of ever building a city. In those days it was common to build a mill and then let a mill town spring up pell-mell around it. Living conditions for loggers and mill workers alike were usually abysmal and little thought was given to their comfort or to that of their dependants. As Long-Bell planned to build first one, then two mills at the sight, it became apparent that upwards of 14,000 workers would be needed at the site. The nearest center of population, Kelso, had less than 2,000 residents, and it was obvious to even the casual observer that a fraction of the new workers would inundate the existing town's infrastructure.

In May, 1921, Wesley Vandercook, Long-Bell's Chief Engineer set up headquarters in Kelso, and with a hundred men began to survey the new purchase. The result was a highly detailed contour map that filled an entire room. This map could be used by the loggers to plan their cuttings, the location of railroad grades, and even the spar trees to be used in hauling timber up inclines before any operations were begun. As Mr. Vandercook began to appraise the local situation, it became clear that major accommodations would have to be made for the mill site and for the workers who would man it.

First, the majority of the flat land, purchased by Long-Bell across the Cowlitz River and about four miles from Kelso, had a high water table and would require the surrounding protection of a large dike in order to be suitable land for building. In addition, Mr. Vandercook realized that Long-Bell had not purchased enough of the flat valley land to contain their operations. After conferring with Mr. Long, principal stockholder and general manager of Long-Bell, an additional 47 options to buy were contracted on the lowlands stretching between the Cowlitz and Columbia Rivers. All of these options to buy were exercised by Long-Bell in the next five months, giving the company a majority of the valley's flat land.

The City

Longview is the modern city that it is today due in a large part to the personal determination of Robert A. Long. George B. Kessler of St. Louis, and Hare & Hare of Kansas City, nationally known city planners, were contracted to complete the plans for Longview. Monticello Hotel, R. A. Long High School, the YMCA building, and the Longview Public Library were donated by Mr. Long personally. The city planners originally imagined a fully developed Longview to be a city with 75,000 residents. Today the population is 35,000.

Longview was dedicated in July, 1923. In February of 1924, it was incorporated and a municipal government was established. Its history began in the roaring ´20s and today Longview continues to grow in size and diversity. It is a fresh, new, healthy town with a promising future and an already rich past.



A most interesting post, very educational. I just love to read about places I have never heard of before and never likely to visit,
It feels I know this place yet I'm on the other side of the world,


Lisa said...

When I first read "Longview", I thought you meant Longview, Texas. From the pictures and your descriptions, it looks like a lovely place to live!

Beth said...

Interesting "L" post! Looks like a beautiful place to live but then I love the west coast ... scenery not politics :)

Raquel Byrnes said...

The pictures make it look picturesque and lovely to live in. Interesting L post.

arlee bird said...

Looks and sounds like a wonderful place. I guess I've been near it-- once when I was staying in Seattle I drove down to Portland to see a Bruce Cockburn concert, so I drove right past it.
When I was in high school I recall that I used to be fascinated by the idea of planned "utopian" communities. I used to like to draw up plans for cities. I think I was inspired by something I saw Walt Disney talking about on TV once.
Maybe I'll be able to check out Longview one day. My wife and I have talked about taking a driving vacation up the coast to Seattle some day. It sounds like it would be a neat trip.
Blogging From A to Z April Challenge


I'm not sure when planned communities started but they sure have been successful. We have some beautiful ones here in So. California. I asked my wife if we could move to a 55 plus one in Palm Desert and she said that she didn't want to live a bunch of old people! ha! ha! they don't call me The Old Geezer for nothing!

Ellie said...

It looks like a lovely place, interesting pics and planned points of interest! Intriguing!
I have been by it, without realizing
it's story..thanks for sharing!

Wanda said...

Well that post caught be by surprise. I was thinking of Longview, TX. Great information you provided.

Debra Harris-Johnson said...

I'm with Wanda, I was certain the only Longview was in Tx. Thanks for the history and geography lesson. Enjoyed the visit. I'll be back.

Tori Cooper said...

Very Interesting... I'm originally from Washington- well raised in Seattle. I remember passing through Longview many times but I was too young to remember much about it! That's cool how you broke it down the history about your town! :-)

Brian Ray Todd said...

I've always wanted to caught a Salmon. In our one trip to Portland, Oregon, we saw fishermen with beautiful Silver Salmon just caught in the Columbia River. Unfortunately, my young son (at that time) told the fisherman that they weren't that big. I still laugh at that. Beautiful country on the west side of the Cascade Mountains.