I imagine philanthropist Robert A. Long, founder of our planned City of Longview, in 1923, looking out with great satisfaction (perhaps from Rainier hill) across the vast landscape of “Site E”, which was to become the City of Longview. The land sat perfectly between the two flowing rivers, the Cowlitz and the Columbia, both of which begged for active industry along their shores’ edges. Robert A. Long’s vision for industry, schools, and a central civic town hub would be on the books as a “planned city”, a City Beautiful, and would include a library, post office, city hall and the historic Monticello Hotel. I can only imagine the thrill of plans to create a lovely gathering area for families to picnic and play, or take in a swim or day of fishing, on the banks of Fowlers Slough, later to become Longview’s crowning gem, Lake Sacajawea.
So much transpired in those early development years; countless hours in meetings and studies with shareholders such as Bell, Vandercook, Nichols, Kessler, Morris, McClelland and Tennant. As a result, in the early 1920’s, families arrived in droves to begin establishing themselves along the westside neighborhoods to build their homes and businesses throughout the city. Many individuals that have lived generation to generation here have witnessed the growth of railroads, businesses, hospitals, schools, churches, roads, homes, and the industrious paper mills and lumber companies. The early years of diligence paid off, and those who came to town later said, “What is that smell?” The local townsfolk simply stated, “The smell of money.”
Fast forward to present day with a downtown revitalization plan in place, newly paved streets, new parks, new industry, beautifications to Lake Sacajawea, a transit center, continued growth, new neighborhoods, new homes, and lots of multi-generational family ties. Just the other day I spoke with an elderly woman on the phone who grew up in the same neighborhood as my dad and his three brothers. She remembered the “Lloyd boys on Field St.” and it brought a smile to my face.
Over the years, our little community has sent people to the legislature, elected countless others to city council, retired and rehired police and fire chiefs, city managers and employees. We became Tree City USA (and now Nation), we have busted out roads to build shopping malls and businesses, and have added a beautiful gazebo to R. A. Long’s Jefferson Park. In a few months we will have a brand new 50-acre business park at the Beech Street extension to accommodate aspiring businesses. We’ll also have a new 911 center, newly paved roads on Oregon and California Way, and, with the hopes of our Legislative Capital fund requests, the reconstruction of Martin’s Dock, and newly constructed bathrooms and sidewalks at Hemlock Plaza at Lake Sacajawea.
I think it is fair to say that Mr. Long and the early city planners would be proud of this little planned city that was put in motion by the awe-inspiring ideas to create a City Beautiful. I feel a sense of pride and gratitude to be a recipient of the great work of the early pioneers. I wonder, what role do we as citizens play to continue adding to the beauty we enjoy here, and how do we perpetuate the growth and vitality of our community? Are we reasonable with our balance between wants and needs? Are we contributing in a positive way? Do we trust in, and support, the stakeholders of today to expand the vision of yesterday for our tomorrows?
I love our City Beautiful. I marvel at the imagination and ingenuity of the early leaders, thrill at the continued transformations and developments, and I love the opportunity of serving as your Mayor.
Have courage in all you do, be brave, and be blessed always,
Mayor MaryAlice Wallis