The History of Harrington
The Harrington Museum is dedicated to the history this quintessential eastern Washington wheat town. The firm of Harrington, Furth, and Robinson, composed of speculators from Calusa County California, established Harrington in 1882 after purchasing 1,500 acres of land in the Big Bend wheat belt. Harrington continued to grow after the construction of the Great Northern Pacific Railroad and station in 1892, which helped wheat farmers transport their product to distant markets for sale. The first store opened in 1883 and slowly the town expanded opening a saloon, Tinsley House (a boarding house), a blacksmith, and Pickell Hotel.
Harrington attracted wheat farmers and cattle ranchers to homestead. The town prospered during the construction of the Great Northern Pacific Railroad, and new buildings and stores were built with the rush of new settlers. High wheat prices, inexpensive land, and easy transportation made Harrington a boomtown, and growth continued into the 1920s when Harrington had 882 residents.
Harrington at its peak included luxuries of any growing railroad town. The citizens enjoyed a modern opera house, built in 1904 that attracted touring groups from all across the area. Harrington had multiple hotels with the flagship being the Electric Hotel. Passenger train services connected Harrington to Spokane and Seattle. There was also a Harvester Factory, a hospital, and an active main street with saloons, hardware stores, a newspaper office and a barbershop. Harrington had made it.
After the Second World War, the town began to dwindle. The harvester plant burnt down in the 1920s, as did the hospital ten years later. Neither was rebuilt. The introduction of the highway system in the early 1950s led to passenger rail services discontinuation. With more people using the highways, Harrington was bypassed more often and as a result the Opera House, as well as many other businesses closed down. In the 1980s passenger service stopped and the railroad depot was shut down. The Lincoln Hotel closed as well.
Wheat farming continued to be the dominant industry of Lincoln County and the land was fertile as ever. With advances in technology, less manpower was required to farm larger plots of land. The once boomtown of Harrington now has a population of 424 as of the 2010 census.
However, Harrington may be coming back. There is a strong revitalization effort going on amongst the people of Harrington with the restoration of the Electric Hotel, the Opera House, as well as numerous other buildings throughout the town. As of 2013 Harrington is receiving ultra-high speed internet service, and there is even talk about passenger rail service returning. Harrington may be on the verge of a new era.