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.
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.
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.