Damming the Columbia

MAC 100 Stories: A Centennial Exhibition - Story 2

Talk of a Columbia River dam began in arid Ephrata, Washington in 1917, when city leaders met to discuss ways to boost wartime food production. If glacial dams once plugged the river, they argued, why couldn't concrete do the same? A rival irrigation proposal called the Gravity Project brought Idaho lake water to the Columbia Basin, but dam supporters had an influential proponent in U.S. Senator Clarence Dill of Washington. Plans stalled until the Great Depression brought another justification - jobs - and the dam finally opened in 1941. Salmon runs upriver, which nourished Northern Plateau tribes for generations, ended after the dam's construction.

MAC 100 Stories: A Centennial Exhibition is told on the Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture campus in Spokane's Browne's Addition, with additional highlights at 15 sites in Spokane and eastern Washington. The exhibit experience (February 22, 2014 - January 2016) weaves stories and programs about Inland Northwest people, places and events by capitalizing on the MAC's extraordinary collection. www.northwestmuseum.org

Spokane Historical presents 15 regional and city tours in partnership with the Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture and its 100 Stories exhibition.

Please see " Taming the Mighty Columbia" tour for related Spokane Historical Stops.

Images

Marcus, Washington

Marcus, Washington

The muddy streets of Marcus before it was flooded behind the newly-built dam. Image L86-48.9 courtesy of the Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture View File Details Page

Life while building the dam, 1934

Life while building the dam, 1934

This simple town sprung up to serve the needs of the workers building the Grand Coulee dam. Image L87-1.3443-34 courtesy of the Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture View File Details Page

The general store, 1935

The general store, 1935

General stores like this one catered to the needs of working men. Image L87-1.6813-35 courtesy of the Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture View File Details Page

The dining hall, 1935

The dining hall, 1935

Facilities like this fed hundreds of workers every day. Image L87-1.6815-35 courtesy of the Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture View File Details Page

The town of Grand Coulee, 1936

The town of Grand Coulee, 1936

Just above the dam, the Town of Grand Coulee flourished during the period of construction. Image L87-1.9135-36 courtesy of the Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

“Damming the Columbia,” Spokane Historical, accessed June 24, 2017, http://spokanehistorical.org/items/show/401.
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