Rebuilding the past

prairie sunset

“Hey, did you hear about the brothel?”

“The what?”

“We found what we think might have been a brothel, upstairs from City Hall.”

“That’s pretty cool.”

“Do you want to see it?”

I already had one foot out the door.

It’s dark and dirty. Gorgeous wainscoting decorates the hallway, while wallpaper hangs in tears from the walls and ceiling.

abandoned brothel

 

Inches of dust and patches of horrible vinyl flooring cover a beautiful hardwood floor of red fir.

Each room has its original door, a number painted on. A vent marks where each room held a small potbelly stove. The remains of an old cot sit propped up against one wall.

Big vision

Dillon, my benefactor of the secret brothel, is the mayor of Harrington, WA. Yes, Dillon Haas, the youngest mayor in the history of the once booming town just south of Davenport.

harrington mayor

Sworn into office on January 13, 2016, the 26-year-old has an incredible vision for the town of 426. He grew up here and left for the big city, his eye on schooling and careers. He grew tired of the hustle and bustle, though, and yearned for a slower pace.

He was drawn home, encouraged by a career shift to remote IT work for Microsoft.

Once he arrived, he wanted to get involved in the community. He volunteered for various community groups, including the Harrington Opera House restoration team.

Running for mayor seemed a natural progression for him.

He unseated the long-time mayor, running on a platform to rebuild Harrington’s downtown core.

Dillon sees a future where more of us are remote workers. My American already does, handling his high-tech job from home for 10 years.

He predicts many of us will want to leave the big city. We will shirk big rents, high-stress commutes and unmanageable costs of living.

He envisions a rebuilt downtown core with high-speed WiFi available.

“City hall already has 60 up, 40 down,” he says.

He wants people like us to move to Harrington for a quieter lifestyle, a slower pace and the sunsets.

“Have you seen the sunsets here? They’re incredible!”

They are. (Although they’d fall a notch or two behind a sunset on my beloved Alberta Rocky Mountains.)

He and an always-at-the-ready team of volunteers have started on the opera house. Built in 1904, it was the town’s cultural center and the site of theatrical productions, balls and dances. The last event, according to Spokane Historical, was a Valentine’s Day dance in 1942. It was canceled due to the war and weather conditions.

The decorations from that dance were not taken down until the buildings eventual sale in 1992.

It’s the cog of restoration efforts, too. It has since re-opened to hosting town meetings and concerts.

Just up the way, the Hotel Lincoln awaits its grand re-opening. First opened in 1902, the hotel closed its doors in the 1980s, another victim to the urban centralization of the economy and the population.

harrington hotel

A couple years ago, Jerry and Karen Allen bought the abandoned hotel and started their own restoration project. They’ve had to bolster the structure with new steal beams.

My friend Jerry Hardy, whose passion for local history is evident in his willingness to show Bella and I around and tell stories, says the hotel was often filled up by the teachers at his high school.

He points out the grain elevators, the original City Hall with the old fire siren on top, where the town hospital sat, the site of the church that was disassembled and rebuilt in Davenport, and more.

harrington jailhouse

He listens earnestly while Dillon shares his plans for Harrington and beams with hope that the little town will once again become a lively place where young people thrive and families can grow.

Maybe … probably … without the brothel.

Definitely sunsets, though.

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