History of Leavenworth, Washington

Leavenworth’s history does not begin with the alpine tradition it knows today, but with the proud heritage of the Yakama, Chinook and Wenatchi tribes. The Native American tribes lived by hunting the land for deer and elk, as well as fishing Icicle Creek for salmon. Surrounded by some of the most bountiful lands in North America, the three tribes co-existed from Lake Wenatchee to the Icicle and beyond.

The area was eventually settled by pioneers in search of gold, furs and fertile farmland. Stakes were claimed, and the Leavenworth area was soon bustling with settlers. By 1890, the original town was built on the Icicle Flats.

It wasn’t until the end of the century that the town began to blossom with the arrival of the rail line. The Great Northern Railway Company’s tracks through Leavenworth brought with them opportunities for work, commerce and a new economy.

Sadly, Leavenworth’s rich and healthy economy eventually fell apart. The withdrawal of the Great Northern Rail Road and the closure of the local mill were the primary factors in this change.

But in the early 1960’s, everything changed. In a last-chance effort to turn their precarious situation around, the leaders of the community decided to change Leavenworth’s appearance, hoping to bring tourism into the area. Using the beautiful backdrop of the surrounding Alpine hills to their advantage, the town agreed to remodel their town into a Bavarian village.

Hoping to create more than a mere facelift, many members of the community rallied to create the illusion of Bavaria in the middle of Washington State. Besides the complete renovation of the downtown area, community members planned a series of festivals. The Autumn Leaf Festival, Maifest, and the extremely popular Christmas Lighting Ceremony were the first of many attractions Leavenworth offered to its visitors.

Since the change to a Bavarian theme village, Leavenworth has become a pillar of the tourism industry in the Pacific Northwest. Today, more than a million tourists come to Leavenworth each year. It would be our pleasure to host you as you visit our Bavarian village. Please feel free to explore our site or contact us with any questions you might have about Leavenworth or our hotel. We look forward to serving you.