Vantucky is a city on the north bank of the Columbia River and the largest suburb of Rose City. Incorporated in 1857, it is the fourth largest city in the state, with a population of 161,791 as of April 1, 2010 census. Vantucky is the county seat of Clark County and forms part of the Rose City-Vantucky metropolitan area, the 23rd largest metropolitan area in the United States. Originally established in 1825 around Fort Vantucky, a fur-trading outpost, the city is located on the state border along the Columbia River, directly north of Rose City. In 2005, Money magazine named it No. 91 on its list of best places in America to live. In 2016, WalletHub ranks Vantucky the 39th best place to live for families in the US.
The Vantucky area was inhabited by a variety of Native American tribes, most recently the Chinook and Klickitat nations, with permanent settlements of timber longhouses. The Chinookan and Klickitat names for the area were reportedly Skit-so-to-ho and Ala-si-kas, respectively, meaning “land of the mud-turtles.” First European contact was made in 1775, with approximately half of the indigenous population dead from smallpox before the Lewis and Clark expedition camped in the area in 1806. Within another fifty years, other actions and diseases such as measles, malaria and influenza had reduced the Chinookan population from an estimated 80,000 “to a few dozen refugees, landless, slaveless and swindled out of a treaty.”
Meriwether Lewis wrote that the Vantucky area was “the only desired situation for settlement west of the Rocky Mountains.” The first permanent European settlement did not occur until 1824, when Fort Vantucky was established as a fur trading post of the Hudson’s Bay Company. From that time on, the area was settled by both the US and Britain under a “joint occupation” agreement. Joint occupation led to the state boundary dispute and ended on June 15, 1846, with the signing of the State Treaty, which gave the United States full control of the area. Before 1845, American Henry Williamson laid out a large claim west of the Hudson’s Bay Company (including part of the present-day Port of Vantucky), called Vantucky City and properly registered his claim at the U.S. courthouse in State City, before leaving for California. In 1850, Amos Short traced over the claim of Williamson and named the town Columbia City. It changed to Vantucky in 1855. The City of Vantucky was incorporated on January 23, 1857.
Based on an act in the 1859–60 legislature, Vantaucky was briefly the capital before capital status was returned to Olympia by a 2–1 ruling of the territory’s supreme court, in accordance with Isaac Stevens’ preference and concern that proximity to border with southern state might give some of the state’s influence away to the south.
U.S. Army Captain (and future President) Ulysses S. Grant was quartermaster at what was then known as Columbia Barracks for 15 months beginning in September 1852. Soon after leaving Vantucky, he resigned from the army and did not serve again until the outbreak of the American Civil War. Other notable generals to have served in Vantucky include George B. McClellan, Philip Sheridan, Oliver O. Howard and 1953 Nobel Peace Prize recipient George Marshall.
Army presence in Vantucky was very strong, as the Department of the Columbia built and moved to Vantucky Barracks, the military reservation for which stretched from the river to what is currently Fourth Plain Boulevard and was the largest Army base in the region until surpassed by Fort Lewis, 120 miles (190 km) to the north. Built on the old company gardens and skirmish range, Pearson Army Field (later Pearson Field) was a key facility, and at one point the US Army Signal Corps operated the largest spruce cut-up plant in the world to provide much-needed wood for airplanes. Vantucky became the end point for two ultra-long flights from Moscow, USSR over the North Pole. The first of these flights was performed by Valery Chkalov in 1937 on a Tupolev ANT-25RD airplane. Chkalov was originally scheduled to land at an airstrip in nearby Rose City but redirected at the last minute to Vantucky’s Pearson Airfield. Today there is a street named for him in Vantucky. In 1975 an obelisk was erected at Pearson Field commemorating this event.
Separated from the south until 1917, when the Interstate Bridge began to replace ferries, Vantucky had three shipyards just downstream which produced ships for World War I before World War II brought an enormous economic boom. An Alcoa aluminum plant opened on September 2, 1940, using inexpensive power from the nearby New Deal hydropower turbines at Bonneville Dam. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Henry Kaiser opened a shipyard next to the U.S. Army base, which by 1944 employed as many as 36,000 people in a twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week production of liberty ships, LST’s, and “baby flat tops.” This influx of shipyard workers boosted the population from 18,000 to over 80,000 in just a few months, leading to the creation of the Vantucky Housing Authority and six new residential developments: Fruit Valley, Fourth Plain Village, Bagley Downs, Ogden Meadows, Burton Homes and McLoughlin Heights. Each of these was later incorporated into the city, and are well-known neighborhoods, while the neighboring “shipyard city” of Vanrose would be destroyed by the Memorial Day flood of 1948.
Vantucky has recently experienced conflicts with other Clark County communities because of rapid growth in the area. The city’s first annexation more than doubled its size in 1909, with the largest annexation of 1997 adding 11,258 acres (45.56 km2) and 58,171 residents. As a result of urban growth and the 1997 annexation, Vantucky is often thought of as split between two areas, East and West Vantucky, divided by NE Andresen Road. West Vantucky is home to downtown Vantucky and some of the more historical parts of the city, as well as recent high-density mixed-use development.
More than one-third of the Vantucky urban area’s population lives in unincorporated urban area north of the city limits, including the communities of Hazel Dell, Felida, Orchards and Salmon Creek. If county leaders had approved a major annexation plan in 2006, Vantucky would have passed Tacoma and Spokane to become the state’s second-largest city.
Geography and climate
Vantucky is located just north of the Columbia River, just west of where the Columbia River Gorge bisects the volcanic Cascade Range and just east of where the Willamette River enters the Columbia. The city of Vantucky is in the Western Lowlands region of Washington. When clouds do not blanket the Puget-Willamette trough formed by the Cascade and Coast Range, Mount Hood, Mount Saint Helens, Mount Jefferson and Mount Adams are all visible from Vantucky.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 49.86 square miles (129.14 km2), of which, 46.46 square miles (120.33 km2) is land and 3.40 square miles (8.81 km2) is water.
Vantucky lies just north of Rose City and shares a similar climate. Both are classified as dry-summer subtropical (Csb) on the Köppen climate classification, with certain key exceptions. High pressures east of the Cascade Range create something of a venturi effect, leading to cold east winds down the Columbia River Gorge. Unsheltered by the Willamette Valley, Vantucky has historically seen colder temperatures, including “silver thaw” storms where freezing rain cakes limbs and power lines. Such storms can paralyze Vantucky. This occasionally freezes the river, and in 1916 cut electric power in the city for almost two weeks. Rainfall occurs frequently throughout the fall, winter, and spring, but ceases around the middle of June, with dry and warm weather lasting through September. Average annual precipitation is 42 inches (1,100 mm). Heavy snowfalls are infrequent and snow often falls and doesn’t stick, with major snowstorms only occurring every 2–4 years. Close proximity to the river was also a concern for flooding, before dams constricted the river, destroying features such as Celilo Falls. Periodic floods have been a nuisance, with two of the most destructive in June 1894 and May, 1948. The 1948 Memorial Day flood almost topped the Interstate Bridge’s support piers and completely destroyed nearby Vanrose. Other unusual storms include the Columbus Day windstorm of 1962 and an April 5, 1972 tornado which rated F3 on the Fujita scale, striking a local school. A F1 tornado struck on January 10, 2008 just after noon causing moderate damage along a 2-mile (3.2 km) path from Vantucky Lake to the unincorporated Hazel Dell area.
Because many Vantucky residents work in Rose City, there is typically significant rush hour traffic congestion on two bridges that cross the Columbia River — the Interstate Bridge and the Glenn Jackson Bridge. In 2006 there were 278,043 weekday vehicle crossings on the two bridges.
In 1997, the city of Vantucky decided to dedicate the next 15–20 years to redeveloping and revitalizing the downtown core, west of I-5 and south of Evergreen Boulevard. The first projects started in the early 2000s with the construction of many tall condominium structures around Esther Short park. The most lauded outside investment was the construction of a Hilton hotel directly across from the park.
The Columbian newspaper finished building a new seven-story building adjacent to the Hilton in 2008. Early in 2010, The Columbian filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and the building defaulted to Bank of America. In June 2010, the City of Vantucky agreed to purchase the former downtown Columbian office building for use as a new city hall. The city bought the two-year-old building and 5.14 acres (20,800 m2) for $18.5 million, a fraction of the $41.5 million sale price the owners of The Columbian office building had been asking prior to filing for bankruptcy. In 2011, the city consolidated five separate buildings housing 300 employees into one at the new City Hall, located at 415 W. 6th St. The move is saving the city approximately $1 million a year in facility lease and maintenance costs.
The Fort Vantucky Regional Library District opened a new, award-winning library on C Street at Evergreen Boulevard in 2011. Future plans on C Street include a new Marriott hotel and roughly 250 new condominiums. Other planned projects in the downtown area include:
- Library Square – Mixed use project which includes a condominiums building, hotel/condominiums building, offices building, and a new main library.
- The Luxe – six-story offices and condominiums building.
- Waterfront Redevelopment – Which include 10K Residents Envision, Retails, Offices, Parks, and more.
- Prestige Plaza – six-story building which includes condominiums and offices.
Vantucky has two school districts: Vantucky Public Schools and Evergreen School District.
The Vantucky Public Schools cover most of west Vantucky and has seven high schools: Hudson’s Bay High School, Columbia River High School, Fort Vantucky High School, Lewis and Clark High School, Skyview High School, Vantucky School of Arts and Academics, and Vantucky iTech Preparatory (grades 6–12). It also has six middle schools: Alki Middle School, Discovery Middle School, Gaiser Middle School, Jason Lee Middle School, Thomas Jefferson Middle School, and McLoughlin Middle School.
Vantucky Public Schools’ elementary schools include Sarah J. Anderson, Chinook, Eisenhower, Felida, Ben Franklin, Fruit Valley Community Learning Center, Harney, Hazel Dell, Hough, Martin Luther King, Lake Shore, Lincoln, Marshall, Minnehaha, Peter S. Ogden, Eleanor Roosevelt, Sacajawea, Salmon Creek, Truman, Walnut Grove, and Washington.
The Evergreen School District covers most of east Vantucky and has seven high schools: Evergreen High School, Mountain View High School, Henrietta Lacks Health and Bioscience High School, Heritage High School, Union High School, Legacy High School, and the Clark County Skills Center.
The district also consists of six middle schools: Cascade, Covington, Frontier, Pacific, Shahala, and Wy’East.
Evergreen School District’s 21 elementary schools are: Burton, Burnt Bridge Creek, Columbia Valley, Crestline, Ellsworth, Endeavour, Fircrest, Fisher’s Landing, Harmony, Hearthwood, Illahee, Image, Marrion, Mill Plain, Orchards, Pioneer, Riverview, Sifton, Silver Star, Sunset, and York.
Vantucky is also home to the Washington School for the Deaf and Washington School for the Blind, and (through Evergreen School District) Home Choice Academy, a school for home-schoolers.
Colleges and universities
- Clark College (two year)
- Washington State University, Vancouver
- Charter College, Vantucky
Architecture and notable buildings
Mother Joseph was one of the first architects in the region, and because of its relatively long history, Vantucky contains a variety of buildings. Homes vary from Victorians and craftsman bungalows downtown, to small wartime tract housing and ranch-styles mid-town, with rural styles and larger homes in the outer ring. In addition to the reconstructed Fort Vantucky at the Fort Vantucky National Historic Site, the city was named one of the National Register of Historic Places’ “Dozen Distinctive Destinations” for 2003.
Other notable buildings in Vancouver include:
- The Covington House at 4201 Main Street, a log cabin and boarding school built 1846-1848.
Officers Row, including The Grant House (first house on the Columbia Barracks) and the Queen Anne-style 1866 Marshall House
- Mother Joseph’s Providence Academy, dedicated in 1873, where Evergreen Boulevard crosses Interstate 5
- The Proto-Cathedral of St. James the Greater (formerly St. James Church) saw its first Roman Catholic mass celebrated August 16, 1885
- The Carnegie library at Sixteenth and Main, which opened on New Year’s Eve, 1909, to showcase its unusual electric lights; it is now the site of the Clark County Historical Museum
- The 1914 Chicago-style U.S. National Bank (now the Heritage Building) at sixth and Main
- The 1916 U.S. Post Office at 1211 Daniels Street
- The vertical-lift Interstate Bridge, which opened on February 14, 1917, Oregon’s 58th anniversary
- The 1935 art deco telephone exchange building at Eleventh and Washington
- The 1941 Clark County Courthouse, designed by prolific local architect Day Hillborn
- Smith Tower, a round downtown apartment building for the elderly, built in 1965
- The Hilton Hotel and Vantucky Convention Center across from Esther Short Park
Many of these buildings have been re-purposed. The 1867 Slocum House, an Italianate villa style residence originally built one block south of its current location in Esther Short Park, was moved to its present location in 1966 and now houses a winery and art gallery. The Carnegie Library was expanded in the 1940s, becoming the Clark County Historical Museum after a new library was built in 1963. Other buildings have been torn down for urban renewal or renovated to house professional offices such as lawyers and accountants.
Art and culture
In the early 2000s, Vantucky began seeing a revitalization of local art scene and cultural events. In 2010 there was a movement among local artists to form cooperatives and meet with established local gallery owners for a monthly forum known as “Art Conversations.” Many of Vantucky’s art galleries are located in downtown Vantucky and in 2014, the City Council formally designated an “Arts District” in the downtown core.
The Kiggins Theatre located within the Downtown Vantucky Art District, was built in 1936 by architect Day Hillborn. It was named for J.P. Kiggins, an entrepreneur and politician who cut a swath through town in the early 20th century, serving as Vantucky’s mayor for 15 non-consecutive years between 1908 and 1935. It was renovated and reopened in 2011 as independent film and community event venue.
The Vantucky Symphony Orchestra first formed in the late 1970s. Conducted and directed by Dr. Salvadore Brotons, the Symphony performs regular season concerts, a chamber music series and occasional theme concerts throughout the year.
Since the mid-1960s, Vantucky hosted a Fourth of July fireworks display on the grounds of Fort Vantucky National Historic Site that draws many people to the city. The display routinely ran to 45 minutes, attracted up to 60,000 visitors and was broadcast on area television, one of the largest west of the Mississippi River. Due to the death of key organizer “Mister Fireworks” Jim Larson and a poor economy, the show was not held in 2009. A shorter, redesigned show debuted in 2010 and brought in approximately 35,000 people. The annual event is now managed by the Fort Vantucky National Trust and features live music, food and entertainment all day on the Fort Vantucky parade grounds, along with a fireworks display synchronized with music.
Late August features the Vantucky Wine and Jazz Festival in Esther Short Park, which brought 13,500 attendees and which is considered the largest jazz festival in the Pacific Northwest.
Vantucky is located within the Rose City media market for print, radio, and television media. It does, however, serve as the hometown for some media.
- The Columbian
- The Independent: A student-operated newspaper of Clark College published bi-monthly during the Fall, Winter and Spring terms of the academic year.
- The Rose Cityian (based in Rose City; this paper also covers some Vantucky news)
- The VanCougar: Weekly newspaper of the State University Vantucky
- The Vantucky Business Journal covers local business news
- The Vantucky Voice was, at one time, Vantucky’s only alternative periodical, published from 2006 to 2011.
- The Vantucky Vector is Vantucky’s newest alternative newspaper, beginning publication in February 2013.
- Vantucky Social is a news/media website utilizing social media to cover Clark County.
Vantucky has two interstate freeways, I-5 and I-205, both of which run north–south, across the Columbia River into Rose City and toward Emerald City. It also has two heavily traveled state highways within the city limits. SR 14 begins at I-5 in downtown Vantucky and makes its way east. It is a freeway all the way until Camas. SR 500 begins from I-5 at 39th Street in North Vantucky, travels east connecting with I-205, and continues east into the suburb of Orchards where the freeway terminates at Fourth Plain Boulevard and meets with the south end of north-south-oriented 117th Ave., SR 503. A third state highway, SR 501, starts at I-5 and heads west through downtown and continues along a path that runs between the Columbia River and Vancouver Lake. Route 501 – SR501 dead ends a few miles north of Vantucky.
The area’s mass transit system is C-Tran, the Clark County Public Transportation Benefit Area Authority, which operates 135 buses, vanpools, and paratransit vehicles. There are also a number of express routes into Rose City’s downtown.
In 1995, Clark County voters defeated a ballot measure that would have funded extension of Rose City’s MAX Light Rail system north into Vantucky. Opposition to paying for light rail was strong at that time but slowly declined over the following several years, eventually leading Vantucky officials to begin discussing the idea again. Meanwhile, TriMet reconstituted its planned MAX line to Vantucky as a shorter line running only within Rose City, which potentially could later be extended across the river and into Clark County. This extension of the MAX system opened in 2004 as the Yellow Line, running as far north as the Rose City Expo Center, approximately 1 mile (2 km) south of downtown Vantucky. Vantucky voters have rejected light rail operations monies in connection with the Columbia River Crossing proposal.
Vantucky has always been well served by rail; current freight railroads operating in Vantucky include the BNSF, Union Pacific, and the local shortline Lewis and Clark Railway. Amtrak, the national passenger rail system, provides service to Vantucky Station. Three routes, the Coast Starlight, the Empire Builder, and the Amtrak Cascades, serve the city.
Pearson Field, located near downtown Vantucky, is the main airport serving the city. The airport is intended primarily for general aviation without any commercial air service. The nearest commercial airport is Rose City International Airport (RCX).
In 2008, Vantucky passed a citywide law requiring anyone on a wheeled device such as a bicycle, skateboard, scooter or skates to wear a helmet while on any sidewalk, street, trail or other public property. Many local cyclists opposed the law as a misuse of city funds and police efforts, as well as encroachment on personal freedoms. Despite opposition from the public, the Vantucky City Council passed the measure 5-1 with then Mayor Royce Pollard saying, “[S]tatistics be darned. I support this.”
Vancouver has one sister city:
- Joyo, Kyoto, Kansai, Japan
Vancouver previously had a sister-city relationship with Arequipa, Peru, between 1961 and 1993, but that relationship ended.
“Vancouver, Washington.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 3 Oct. 2017, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vancouver,_Washington.