The tinsel candles attached to the light poles gave a festive air to Kennewick’s downtown shopping district in 1978, which at the time included shops such as Coin Cradle, Brutzman’s Office Supplies and the Persian Palace.
The festive spirit continued in downtown Kennewick with the annual Numerica Hometown Holiday parade held on Dec. 7. The parade featured floats, drummers and the Kennewick High marching band.
Some longtime locals may remember the brick planters and concrete toadstool umbrellas featured in the accompanying photo that used to grace the downtown shopping district in its big push for modernization back in the 1970s.
At the time of installation, the planters and shade were part of an effort by the Chamber of Commerce to keep retailers and shoppers from migrating west to the recently constructed shopping centers near Highway 395 and Columbia Center mall.
Downtown parking was a key issue of the day. Prior to the redesign, much of the downtown streets ran on coin-operated parking meters. With the advent of the mall and free parking, something had to give. Several buildings came down near Washington Street and Kennewick Avenue to make way for more parking.
Additionally, many buildings received facelifts to match the more organic and natural style of the time. Changes to facades included stone facias, wooden cladding and shingle fronts.
The changes were helpful for a time, but the pull west was inescapable for some businesses. Coin Cradle moved closer to Highway 395; Brutzman’s moved to Columbia Center Boulevard.
Everything comes around again. Kennewick’s downtown corridor went through a bit of a renaissance at the start of the millennium. The streets again were straightened out to make room for more parking around in the early 2000s. The straight streets, while disliked by some, seemed easier to accommodate downtown events, such as the annual car show and shine. The now dated street lights were taken back to a style now considered classic and similar to what had originally lined the avenue. Honey locust trees were planted for shade. Additionally, these changes spread beyond just Kennewick Avenue to First Avenue and some of the side streets as well.
Heritage buildings along the street also were renovated to their original looks. These included the Roxy Theater, the Cascade Building and the building at 15 W. Kennewick Ave. A notable exception was Washington Hardware, which at the time had been key in the original revitalization process. The owners’ comments at the time were they had been through the process once before and they weren’t interested in doing it again.
At the East Benton County History Museum, the Benton Theater Gallery features a new exhibit, “Christmas in the County.” It includes two local holiday traditions: Christmas Carol Lane and the Lighted Boat Parade.
This exhibit features an original display from the historic neighborhood off Garfield Street and its musical songbook. It also highlights photos and the history of the Clover Island Yacht Club’s annual boat parade upriver.
Video presentations of the past year’s boat parades are showing in the theater. Other historic holiday items and classic holiday films also are on display in December.
The museum, located at 205 W. Keewaydin Drive, is open noon to
4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.
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