HARRINGTON, Wash. – This small Lincoln County wheat town no more than an hour’s drive west of Spokane is undergoing a historic revival.
Third Street in Harrington is lined on both sides with aging brick buildings, giving it the look and feel of the early 20th century.
Restoration is under way at a historic auto dealership, a working-class hotel and the beloved Opera House.
Local preservationists are hoping to capitalize on their assets and bring new vitality to this sleepy slice of wheat country.
“In most of the small towns, the buildings have been torn down or have gone away,” said Mayor Paul Gilliland. “We are blessed with having most of the original buildings.”
Two years ago, residents and property owners formed the Harrington Historic Preservation Commission, making Harrington the smallest city in Washington to have such a certified commission.
“A lot of people say these old towns are dying,” said Jerry Allen, who is working on restoring the 1902 Hotel Lincoln at 109 S. Third St.
Their hopes are pinned on the chance that more people in coming years will seek out quieter lives in places like Harrington.
“A lot of people are deciding to move back to these small towns,” he said.
Third Street – the main drag that doubles as state Highway 23 – has been improved to handle its steady flow of traffic.
Harrington also has upgraded utilities over the years, the mayor said. New fiber-optic cable is being installed along state Highway 28 on the north side of Harrington and will provide high-speed Internet. The mayor said he hopes it draws new businesses.
But currently, there are few businesses drawing people to the downtown area, and many of the nearly two dozen commercial buildings are seriously deteriorated.
“You can see the potential, but it’s a leap of faith in a way,” said Jim Kolva, a Spokane consultant who was hired to produce a historic resource survey.
Harrington, population 424, is named after land speculator W.P. Harrington, a Californian who invested there in 1882 and filed a town site six years before statehood, according to Kolva’s survey.
Fortunes took off when the Great Northern Railway built its transcontinental line through Harrington along with a station to serve it in 1892.
Harrington incorporated in 1902, and by 1910 the city had a population of 661.
After the livery stable burned, the owners replaced it with an auto garage, which became the city’s Ford dealership.
Allen Barth and a partner acquired the 1916 garage two months ago, with plans to renovate it for their vintage car business.
The building at 9 N. Third St. stands today much as it did when it opened. The window glass is distorted and waved with age. The parts room has its original shelves and divider windows. The showroom space is small but offers another reflection of the time.
Already, the garage contains a number of vintage cars, including a 1922 Studebaker touring car in original running condition.
Barth does commercial auto restorations and is going to use the building for his work. “I build cars for people,” he said simply.
The Lincoln County resident has clients from around the country and his own collection of old cars.
“I’m always open to people stopping in and visiting,” he said.
But peeling paint over the brick in front needs to be removed.
A group of volunteers from Spokane Preservation Advocates is traveling to Harrington on Oct. 15 to help with that. The work party runs from 9 a.m. to noon, followed by a tour.
To the south, Jerry and Karen Allen, of Medical Lake, are midway into a project to restore the three-level Hotel Lincoln.
They’ve consulted with experts, shored up walls and floors, and are repairing mortar joints in exterior brick.
They’ve had the building listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
“We want to bring it back to its original purpose, which is a hotel,” said Karen Allen, a member of the city’s historic preservation commission. “It’s a great old building.”
They hope to attract new businesses such as a restaurant.
Another project that dates back to the 1990s involves the restoration of the historic Opera House in the Harrington Bank Block at 19 S. Third St. The bank block is listed on the national register. The project has state grant funding if the community can raise matching money, the mayor said.
“We think the historic district has lots of potential,” Gilliland said. “We may be the smallest, but we are very active.”