The Top 5 Iconic Features of Ellensburg
If you’ve been spending your days longing to travel and searching for some future itinerary inspiration, you’re in luck. The town of Ellensburg, Washington holds the key to everything you’ve been searching for in a future weekend getaway, from local eateries full of charm to epic outdoor adventures to a rich history centered around the arts and a Western culture. Dive into the stories of some of Ellensburg’s most iconic landmarks, events, and more that make our town what it is. These features have been a part of Ellensburg for decades and will continue playing a large role in our town’s culture for years to come. So, when the time finally comes for you to visit again, just know that all this and more will be waiting for you here in Ellensburg.
The Ellensburg Bull
This Ellensburg icon was created by Richard Beyer, the prominent Seattle sculptor who created “Waiting for the Interurban” by the Fremont Street Bridge. In 1984, well-known Ellensburg artists Dick Elliott and Jane Orelman came up with the idea of adding a sculpture to Ellensburg’s Rotary Pavillion and convinced the town to commission Beyer. Despite good intentions, the piece received opposition from locals in the beginning stages. The original model was named “Cowboy” in honor of the area’s cattle industry and Western heritage, however, local ranchers disliked the name. Also, in the original design, the bull was thought to be too anatomically correct. As a result, Beyer changed the name to “The Bull” and placed a cowboy hat discretely on its lap. With these changes, the sculpture got a stamp of approval from the community. Ever since its installation in 1986, locals and tourists alike can frequently be seen posing for photos with their children snuggled up to “The Bull” or sitting on his lap.
The Davidson Building
Surveying the Ellensburg skyline, the eye is quickly drawn to the Davidson Building, a magnificent example of the city’s unique architecture. The colorful building sits in a prominent location on the northeast corner of North Pearl Street and West Fourth Avenue and has anchored Ellensburg’s downtown since its completion in 1889. At that time, Washington was next in line for statehood, and Ellensburg was vying for state capital against Yakima and Olympia. In order to become a capital, a city had to possess style, modern conveniences, and visual appeal, which is why local attorney John B. Davidson stepped in and began building the Davidson Building, investing $42,000 in the project. His vision of the Victorian-style building would emulate regality, with ornate decorations gracing its facade and a tower bringing together the corners of Pearl Street and Fourth Avenue. Unfortunately, tragedy struck when the Great Ellensburg Fire swept through the town on July 4, 1889, consuming multiple downtown blocks including the Davidson Building. Ellensburg was not about it give up on its dream of becoming the capital, however, and Davidson immediately began to rebuild, completing the building just a few months after the fire.
Over time, the building became a well-known Ellensburg landmark with its recognizable tower, and even now continues to be at the center of the town’s attention. Plan a future visit to Ellensburg to marvel at the building’s ornate and carefully crafted Victorian style, and explore the Davidson’s neighboring buildings on a self-guided walking tour through the streets of our historic downtown.
Rockhounds know that the Ellensburg area is the only place on earth you’ll find the Ellensburg Blue agate, the third rarest gemstone in the world. Millions of years ago, water flowed through lava beds in the Kittitas Valley, leaving behind the light blue agates. This layer of basalt lava, the Teanaway Basalt, can be found north of the city and is 47 million years old.
Also known simply as E-blue, the precious gem comes in a range of colors, from sky blue to a deep purplish color, though prized above all is a vibrant cornflower blue. According to local legend, Native American tribes valued these blue stones for their beauty, so much so that only tribal chiefs were allowed to wear them. For several decades, tourists from around the world came to Ellensburg to hunt the Ellensburg Blues, so by 1940 or so the most productive agate beds were depleted, making finds rare.
During a future visit, try your hand at rockhounding to take part in this rich Ellensburg tradition. Although Ellensburg Blues are quite elusive, you never know what you might find! Visit Red Top Mountain, considered one of the best areas for rockhounding, to search for agates, crystal, and geodes. If you don’t strike gold (or blue) on your own, you can visit the Kittitas County Historical Museum to view the stunning collection of Ellensburg Blues they have on display.
The Ellensburg Rodeo
An essential Ellensburg experience for any traveler, the Ellensburg Rodeo has earned its title as one of America’s Top 10 Professional Rodeos. Held every Labor Day Weekend, the rodeo has grown from a local competition among ranch hands to the professional event it is today, featuring over 600 contestants and prize money exceeding $400,000! The men and women who founded the Ellensburg Rodeo in 1923 were ranchers, farmers, Indians, and community-minded citizens working to preserve and celebrate a vanishing frontier way of life. From their efforts, Washington State’s world-famous Ellensburg Rodeo was born, and we celebrate our Western roots more than ever. The rodeo is now the pride of Ellensburg, bringing together the best riders, ropers, and wrestlers to compete in what many consider to be the best rodeo arena in the nation!
The Kittitas County Barn Quilt Trail
Ellensburg is known for its beautiful rolling fields and agricultural history, and you can enjoy the two together in the breathtaking scenes that can be found touring the area in search of Kittitas County’s famous barn quilts. These quilts can be spotted on barns all over Ellensburg’s countryside, making for a picturesque drive as admirers go in search of them all. Together, they create the Kittitas County Barn Quilt Trail, Washington State’s first barn quilt trail, which can be explored via a self-guided driving tour. The first barn quilt on the trail was on the Dominion Barn, which is currently being utilized as a garden shop at Dusty’s Nursery in Ellensburg. With its installation, Washington became the 34th state in the country to join the national barn quilt movement. Over the years, more than one hundred quilt blocks have been installed throughout the county as a way to honor the area’s agriculture industry and the families that run it. Download the map to locate and reference the known history of each barn and the significance of its quilt block. Visit as many as you can, when you are able to, to learn more on a scenic drive through the Ellensburg area!