Cashmere, Washington

by Foster Church on October 5, 2011

Cashmere, a little town on the Wenatchee River, is overshadowed by the faux Bavarian town of Leavenworth to the north, and by Wenatchee to the southi. But   with a population of only 3,075, it has a fine museum, a good barbecue joint and its own candy manufacturer.  The latter, curious to note, is probably more famous than the museum.  The town’s setting on the banks of a surging river in a fertile valley drew settlers for thousands of years, first Native Americans, and then Catholic missionaries. Originally the town was named Mission, or Old Mission, but the name was so common that it led to confusion, and in 1904 it was renamed Cashmere an Anglicization of the Vale of Kashmir in India. 

Wenatchee River, seen from Peshastin Pinnacles State Park near Cashmere

 

Sweets: Cashmere is the birthplace of Aplets and Cotlets, a jelly candy concocted with fruit concentrate, walnuts, pectin and a secret ingredient that is a secret no longer. Especially  if children are along, a visit to the factory is the first thing to do when arriving in town. Free candy is there for the taking, and brief tours offer a visit to a place where candy is everything and everywhere. Candy-greedy children love it. The confection was invented, or at least  adapted in 1920 by two Armenian immigrants, Armen Tertsagian and Mark Balaban. They had moved to Cashmere after several business failures in Seattle, but their new home in one of the premier fruit-growing regions of the Northwest, sparked their entrepreneurial talents. It occurred to them that they could use the plentiful fruit to make a version of locoum, a popular Middle Eastern candy. 

Aplets and Cotlets are sorted in the company's factory in Cashmere

 

A View: To experience the valley, drive a few miles west on U.S. 97, preferably in the early morning, to Peshastin Pinnacles State Park and climb the hill to the sandstone slabs and spires. Below, the river, supple and muscular, winds through the valley, watering the densely planted fruit orchards that spread across the valley floor and up into the forested hills. From town, the canyons that burrow into the Cascade foothills can also be explored. A few of them are Nahahum, Mission Creek and Brender. 

  Take a Break: As the sun begins its descent behind the Cascades, it’s probably a good time to have a drink at Club Crow on Cottage Avenue, identified by a Crow hanging upside down. The building was constructed in 1916, but a bar didn’t open until Prohibition was repealed in 1933  Inside, it’s cavernous space, with a bar, said to be the longest in the state of Washington.  Like any successful bar, it’s judged by its drinks, its music and the company it keeps. The last two categories seem to blend. The regulars can be seen mostly in the early evening. Drunkenness and boisterous talk aren’t in style here. Conversation is heard as a smoothly orchestrated, musical hum, punctuated by muffled laughter.  The place is well-known for its live blues nights. 

A quiet night at Club Crow

 

Don’t Miss This: Proceeding from cocktails to culture, requires a visit to the Cashmere Museum. The locals call it a community treasure, and in this case, they are right. Whereas most small town museums are based in cramped storefronts and drafty warehouses, the Cashmere Museum occupies a modern,13,000 square foot building, specially built for the purpose. The focus here is Native American artifacts. Its collection of Columbia Basin Native American artifacts ranges in age  from approximately 9,000 years to a few hundred and includes beads, knives, mortars for processing fish, spear points and virtually everything durable produced by early inhabitants. It was collected by a physician, Dr. Richard T. Congdon, who began serious collecting in 1910. Outside, a pioneer village has been erected, which includes 20 original structures brought in from the local area. 

The Cashmere Museum includes a collection of buildings and cabins from the 19th and early 20th centuries

 

Eat Here: Several options exist for dinner, but the best known is Country Boy’s Southern Style BBQ, just a few blocks from Cottage Avenue. It does have the feel of a southern establishment. For dinner, try a half slab of baby back ribs, and choose from beans, coleslaw, ribbon fries, potato salad or corn bread. 

Al fresco dining at Country Boy's Southern BBQ in Cashmere

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