Best Travel Places: Experience the History of Sealy, Texas

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The historical hotspot of Sealy is known for its architectural windows on the past -- and mattresses. (Photo by Billy Hathorn.)

The historical hotspot of Sealy is known for its architectural windows on the past — and mattresses. (Photo by Billy Hathorn.)

By Melissa Voelker

The town of Sealy may not seem like much as you are driving past it on a long stretch of I-10, but there is a lot more to this sleepy Texas town than meets the eye. Founded around 1879, Sealy is home to some of the most interesting historical buildings and houses in Austin County. One of the oldest historical structures is the Austin County Jail. Built in 1896, it served as home for law enforcement officers as well as jailed prisoners. It even had an execution area on the fourth floor which came included with gallows (though these were only used once during its history). The Austin County Jail continued to see business until 1982, when it was replaced with a larger and more modern structure elsewhere.

Two of the next-oldest buildings in the area are closely related and include the Haynes Mattress Factory and the Haynes-Riley House. Daniel Haynes, inventor of the mattress that would one day be known nationally as the Sealy mattress, opened the factory in 1909. It remained in business until 1976. The Haynes-Riley House was built specifically for him, also in 1909, and it was his primary place of residence for many years.

Another famous historical house located in Sealy is the Hackbarth House. Constructed in 1911, this structure belonged to Paul and Mahala Hackbarth, two important figures in the community. It was considered an oddity in its time, being composed of vernacular architecture that was rarely seen in that area of Texas. If you are in the area, heading west down I-10 toward Columbus or east toward Katy, you should take some time to drive through town. It is worth the visit, especially if some small slices of Texas history are your cup of tea.

Melissa Voelker is a Toot’n Towns USA correspondent.

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Best Travel Places: The Old-West Charm of Roslyn, Washington

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Once the center of Washington's coal-mining industry, Roslyn has found new life as a tourist and recreation hub. (Photo by Mark Wibe.)

Once the center of Washington’s coal-mining industry, Roslyn has found new life as the hub for local tourism and recreational activities. (Photo by Mark Wibe.)

By Marc Stephens

After many visits to Roslyn, I still find this town to be one of my favorites. This is because it has so much to offer – historic buildings, great stores and shops, a unique cemetery, and an atmosphere that makes one wonder how such an interesting town came to be.

The first impression visitors have of Roslyn is that it seems precarious, its numerous small homes clinging uneasily to the steep slopes on either side of the highway that runs into town. Despite the age of the buildings, it doesn’t seem as if Roslyn has been around for very long. It feels raw and unfinished, as if the town had been placed in an environment that wasn’t designed for human settlement. Given Roslyn’s origins as a coal-mining town, this is to be expected, since the original settlers had to live where the mines were, and the mines were located in what seems like a cramped and narrow valley. The homes one sees when entering the town thus sit on crowded hillsides, and they often feel as though they are uncomfortably close to the highway.

Most visitors head straight to downtown, where many of the structures that appeared in the 1990s TV series “Northern Exposure” are located. One such building is the Brick Tavern, which is easy to spot on the corner of the highway and Pennsylvania Avenue and which makes an excellent place to stop for a beer, lunch, or dinner. This street also features gift stores, a museum, the Post Office, a Masonic hall, a small hotel, and specialty stores such as a glass shop where visitors can buy artistic glassware or make their own glass jewelry. During the summer Pennsylvania Avenue is also the site of the local Farmer’s Market, making it an especially crowded and lively area on Sundays. Just off the highway leading into town visitors can also stop at Carek’s Meat Market, which has been selling a variety of fresh and cured meats since it was established by one of Roslyn’s Croatian immigrant families in 1913.

If one takes a short walk up Pennsylvania Avenue, one finds the entrance to the Roslyn Cemetery, now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The cemetery is a fascinating reflection of the social diversity of old Roslyn, as it is made up of 26 different cemeteries that are segregated according to ethnicity and social background. Each of the town’s ethnic groups (Serbian, Croatian, German, Pole, Italian, Lithuanian, etc.) was represented by its own cemetery, and the same was true for Roslyn’s fraternal organizations. Strolling through the various cemeteries gives visitors a fascinating glimpse of the virtual melting pot of races and ethnic groups that comprised Roslyn when it was a coal-mining community.

The town is also a good jump-off point for people interested in the area’s recreational opportunities. Suncadia Resort, with its golf courses and horse-riding trails, is only a few miles away, while in Roslyn itself the former railroad route is now a hiking trail that leads past old mines and slag hills that lie in thick forest. Also nearby is the Cle Elum River (a prime fishing spot), and the town hosts several festivals and special events during the year, such as the Pioneer Days Picnic, the Coal Mining Festival, and the Manly Man Festival.

Roslyn has much to offer both the occasional and regular visitor. Visually intriguing and rich in local history, Roslyn is one of the gems of central Washington and the eastern slopes of the Cascade Mountains.

Marc Stephens is a Toot’n Towns USA correspondent.

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Best Travel Places: Delightfully Untraditional Bellingham, Washington

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Standing astride the waters of Bellingham Bay and the western slopes of the Cascades, Bellingham offers visitors a rich assortment of attractions and recreational opportunities. (Photo by Dwiki.)

By Jennifer Chapman

This large but humble town sits nestled in between mountains and water. In my opinion, the great Pacific Northwest’s jewel is an amazing place for anyone who loves the outdoors and the untraditional funk of life. The old town area with cobbled streets that overlook Bellingham Bay carry the passersby that smile and say hello. A large population of bikers creates many paths that litter the hills and woods with trails. A touch of green fills the streets for the farmers market from April to October, and a plethora of handmade goodies and mom-and-pop shops fill the area with warmth and a familiar feeling of home. This town that seems so big but feels so small contains fantastic breweries and gorgeous scenery that help make this a wonderful place to live and to visit.

Jennifer Chapman is a Toot’n Towns USA correspondent.

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Best Travel Places: Hop On Over to Moxee, Washington

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An abandoned church outside Moxee stands as a reminder of the history of this center of the Yakima Valley’s hops-growing industry. (Photo by Marc Stephens.)

By Marc Stephens

Moxee lies a short, five-mile drive from Yakima, where it sits in the middle of the region’s hops and grape-growing industry. That Moxee was an important center for growing and processing hops is evident from the city’s largest building – a tall, cement building in the downtown area that still bears faded lettering from its days as part of the hops industry. At some point it was apparently consumed by fire, and its empty shell now stands rather incongruously over a used-car lot. It is clearly a monument, however, to a colorful past.

The area was first settled in the 1860s by French-speaking colonists who recognized that its sandy soil was ideal for growing hops and grapes. In 1921 the town was incorporated, though by then the French influence had largely disappeared. Sadly there is little left that reveals Moxee’s French heritage except for the street names, a large number of which are still French. The town’s demographics have also changed dramatically over time, with about one-third of the population now being Hispanic.

In recognition of the importance of the hops industry for Moxee, the town sponsors the Moxee Hop Festival in honor of the crop. Held in early August, the festival features parades, a pancake breakfast, a barbeque cook-off, evening fireworks, street dancing, and even a coronation ceremony for those town residents who sell the most raffle tickets for the festival. Visitors to Moxee can thus expect to witness the high level of civic pride held by the town’s residents as they celebrate the crop that helped to create Moxee.

While there is little left of the town’s history to see in the downtown area, visitors can enjoy Moxee’s quiet atmosphere by dining at a Japanese teriyaki restaurant or by buying fresh-baked pastries at a nearby bakery. If they venture further out of town, they can see fragments of the area’s history, such as an abandoned church that is just off the highway that leads back to Yakima. Furthermore, other recreational opportunities such as boating, fishing, and swimming are readily available at the Yakima River – which is just a short hop away from Moxee.


Marc Stephens is a Toot’n Towns USA correspondent.

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Best Travel Places: There’s More than Aplets and Cotlets in Cashmere, Washington

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History is alive and well in the Wentachee River community of Cashmere in central Washington. (Photo by Joe Mabel.)

History is alive and well in the Wentachee River community of Cashmere in central Washington. (Photo by Joe Mabel.)

By Marc Stephens

It’s easy to pass by Cashmere on Washington state’s Highway 2 when traveling east to Wenatchee or west to Leavenworth, but a visit is well worthwhile. Before going into Cashmere for the first time, my wife and I thought of it as the home of “aplets” and “cotlets,” those unique candies made from fruits grown in central Washington. It turns out, however, that Cashmere offers more than candy, however delicious it may be.

A short drive into the town brought us to the historic core, which is lined with old but picturesque brick buildings and pedestrian-friendly walkways. Indeed, so mindful of the needs of pedestrians is Cashmere that it has built covered crosswalks to protect visitors and residents alike from rain or snow. We didn’t need that much protection when we visited Cashmere, but it was nice to see that it was there. Instead we had the opportunity to admire the architectural and historical features of the buildings, both inside and outside. One feature that took us especially by surprise was the presence of an authentic ice cream fountain in Cashmere’s pharmacy, though the winter day was unfortunately too cold to avail ourselves of the fountain.

Our walk through town eventually took us to the railroad tracks and an aging red-brick building that housed a rambling antique store. (There are several fine antique stores that guard the entrance to the town on Highway 2, though one runs the risk of spending so much time in them that one might not have enough time to go into Cashmere itself.) As one who enjoys such stores, it was an even greater pleasure to hear the unexpected rumbling of trains as they thundered past the store. But that was not the only sample of atmosphere that was available to visitors. After leaving the store, we strolled through the nearby residential areas of town to have a look at some of the houses, schools, and churches before returning to our car and the drive home.

Our visit was not long, but it gave us a chance to appreciate the warm hospitality of Cashmere and the people who call it home.



Marc Stephens is a Toot’n Towns USA correspondent.

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Best Travel Places: Take a Quick Look at the Toot’n Town of Winthrop, Washington

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What makes Winthrop such a great place to visit? Come take a look!

Winthrop, Washington

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Best Travel Places: Take a Quick Look at the Toot’n Town of Port Townsend, Washington

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What makes Port Townsend a great place to visit? Come take a look!

Port Townsend, Washington

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Best Travel Places: History Is in a Stitch in La Conner, Washington

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M

Quilt of the Gaches Mansion, now the home of the La Conner Quilt & Textile Museum.

By Alice Dusenberry

The La Conner Quilt & Textile Museum is a must-see attraction for both quilters and local history buffs who are traveling in the Pacific Northwest. Located less than two hours from Seattle, the quilt museum occupies the three floors of the restored Victorian-era Gaches Mansion, which was built in 1891. All three floors are restored with period furnishings, and each room contains a fascinating exhibit of quilts. The hand-made quilts range from the late 1700’s to the present. In addition, the quilts showcase many techniques, styles, and patterns. Throughout the year, new quilts are added to the collection.

The museum’s brochure indicates that the mansion had a long history of different uses before it became the quilt museum. Originally it was the private residence of La Conner’s prominent Gaches family. Later, it became a small town hospital, a boarding house, and then the original location for the Museum of Northwest Art. In 1973 the building was nearly destroyed by a fire, but through the efforts of local citizens and volunteers, it was rescued and restored to its present condition. Today the Gaches Mansion is owned by the La Conner Quilt & Textile Museum and staffed with volunteers who act as docents, greeting visitors and working at the front desk and museum store.


Alice Dusenberry is a Toot’n Towns USA correspondent.

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Best Travel Places: Brush Up on Your Deutsch and Have Fun in Leavenworth, Washington

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Leavenworth's annual tree-lighting ceremony draws tens of thousands of visitors to the town to celebrate the approach of Christmas. (Photo by Marc Stephens.)

Leavenworth’s annual tree-lighting ceremony draws tens of thousands of visitors to the town to celebrate the approach of Christmas. (Photo by Marc Stephens.)

By Crystal Rosenau

Brush up on your Deutsch and visit the old-fashioned, Bavarian-themed town nestled in the mountains just outside of the hustle and bustle of the busy, upbeat, Seattle metro area! Even the McDonalds, Starbucks and Safeway are festively garnished to keep up with the theme. Enjoy the shops that have unique gifts for everyone. From the candy stores to the boutique fashion shops and everything in between (gingerbread house shop, doll shop, wine shop), you can shop till you drop.

If shopping isn’t your bag, don’t worry; Leavenworth offers a beautiful setting to enjoy hiking, fishing, river rafting and biking. Kids can enjoy the park at the end of the hike path along the Wenatchee River or even the arcade and movie theater. Kids of all ages will enjoy the Nutcracker Museum. Also offered are the variety of restaurants that range from traditional German fare to Mexican, Italian or even American menus. You won’t have to go far to bring home a bottle of wine or beer from the many surrounding wineries or the brewery. Believe it or not – this tiny town that has made a big name for itself is also a hotspot for a destination wedding! Keep that in mind when you are trying to find a breathtaking backdrop for your wedding photos.

No matter what time of year you choose to visit, you will likely be able to catch one of the many festivals or events that grace the town’s calendar. There is no shortage of good-quality lodging catering to all tastes for a relaxing end to whatever you fill your day with here.

Crystal Rosenau is a Toot’n Towns USA correspondent.

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Best Travel Places: Exploring Heritage and History in Spokane Valley, Washington

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The Spokane Valley Heritage Museum is one of the main regional museums of eastern Washington. (Photo by   Alboerz2013.)

The Spokane Valley Heritage Museum is one of the main regional museums of eastern Washington. (Photo by Alboerz2013.)

By Melissa Voelker

The people of Spokane Valley take pride in their community and their history, and nowhere is this displayed more prominently than at the Spokane Valley Heritage Museum. Located on East Sprague next door to Dave’s Bar & Grill, the Museum is home to both permanent and temporary exhibits showcasing not only local history, but events of national and international importance as well. It may be small and run by a skeleton crew of volunteers and supporters, but what it lacks in funding and space it more than makes up for in heart. If you want to know about the history of Spokane Valley and the surrounding area, this is the place to find it.

The permanent exhibits are each centered around the moments, both big and small, that define the area. “Under the Sky” presents pictures, artifacts, and details about the time period between 1800 and 1899, and includes historical figures such as settler Antoine Plante. It doesn’t cover over the less pleasant events of the time period either. The Horse Slaughter story, when 800 Native American horses were slaughtered by order of US Army Colonel George Wright, is given more than a cursory mention. Other permanent exhibits include a vintage Texaco gas station and the aviation history of the region.

The Heritage Museum also opens its doors and shelf space to temporary and traveling exhibits each year. In 2012 they had three new exhibits to explore. “Titanic: 100 Years After the Tragedy” discussed the lasting impact of the sinking of the Titanic, while “The Colors of Patriotism” honored all who fought in WWII and includes pictures, interviews, and artifacts from Tuskegee Airmen, Navaho “Wind Talkers,” and the Japanese-American 442nd Regiment. While these two exhibits focus on topics that are not area specific, “All Aboard” once again brings your attention back to the area with information about the railroads and the part they played on the development of Spokane Valley and the surrounding region.

Visitors can go to the Spokane Valley Heritage Museum Wednesday through Friday from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m., Saturdays from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m., and Sundays from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.. This is not a free museum, unfortunately, but all fees are used to maintain the exhibits and continue to keep the doors open for years to come. Adults can enter for $6, while seniors are charged only $5 and children are admitted for $4; children under the age of 7 are admitted free.

This might not be the biggest or most expansive museum in the world, or even in the region, but it is one of the most specific to the area. And it says a lot about the community and the people of Spokane Valley that they are proud to show off their history to the world.

Melissa Voelker is a Toot’n Towns USA correspondent.

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