Leavenworth was once on the verge of becoming a ghost town until it became an American “little Bavaria”. Before economic ruin took hold of it in the early twentieth century, the town was an important logging hub in Washington and served as headquarters to the Great North Railroad.
Despite its rich history of pioneer settlers however, the railroad relocated to Wenatchee in the 1920s and hit Leavenworth’s economy hard. In 1962, a town committee came up with a plan to save their home. That plan involved transforming Leavenworth into a mock Bavarian village and swapping denim overalls for a pair of lederhosen …
Lead image by OneJen, archive image via Alpen Rose Inn
The setting couldn’t have been better, with the stunning Bavarian-esque mountain backdrop and heavy snowfall in winter, ‘Project Alpine’ began orchestrating the Bavarianization of Leavenworth in the 1960s. The plan had been initiation by two local residents, Owen and Pauline Watson, who had been inspired by their visit to Solvang, a Danish colony founded in California back in 1911. Over the next ten years, building by building, the entire town centre would become a model of a Bavarian village under their guidance.
Screen stills by Meet me Here
The whole project was financed privately within Leavenworth, with some residents mortgaging everything they had to become a part of their little Bavaria. Festivals were soon introduced and as well as a society of Royal Bavarians, townspeople dedicated to greeting guests of Leavenworth and preserving the Bavarian theme. The transformation from a struggling town to premier tourist destination was complete. Today, Leavenworth hosts an annual Oktoberfest celebration and enjoys a buzzing Christmas period.
The award winning documentary-makers Lucid Inc of the Meet Me Here series went to capture this charming little American oddity…
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