By Sonnette R., Lopez Island Middle School Student
During the Great Depression, Clint Dobson, a businessman in LaCrosse, Washington, built several houses out of basalt stone because he didn’t have enough money for other materials. The stone houses were built between 1934 and 1936 from rocks out of the fields in Lacrosse. These buildings are very unique for this time period, and they attract many tourists and photographers.
The basalt stones in the Lacrosse fields were created by the repeated flooding from Lake Missoula over thousands of years. This shaped the area of Lacrosse, including nearby Palouse Falls.
According to Lacrosse local, Peggy Bryan, “the unique geological events of the Missoula floods combined with the unique construction of these depression-era basalt stone structures provide an important and historically significant preservation opportunity that is well worth pursuing.” Protecting this historical monument would provide “a great educational opportunity.”
The LaCrosse community’s goal is to have a Missoula Floods/Ice Age museum in the old gas station that was made out of stone. According to Bryan, this would “add value to our community, both economically and culturally.”
LaCrosse Community Pride is working with the WSU School of Design and Construction’s Rural Communities Design Initiative on this project. Community input was facilitated and conceptual designs have been developed for the incorporation of a visitor center in the museum. There are five other rock structures on the property that could provide many opportunities, including artist retreats, a farming museum, local gift shops, tasting rooms, and bed and breakfasts, among others.
Originally, the stone houses were used as rental units by local farmhands, workers, and railroad crews. Clint Dobson operated the service station and repair shop for many years until Hank Pile took over, operating the station and houses until the 1960s.
Today two houses, three cabins, and the service station are still standing. The buildings are important because they bring visitors to the area. Lacrosse Community Pride is focused on preventing these structures from being torn down.
To learn more about the LaCrosse Stone Houses, find them in the Washington State Insider app (available mid-June 2016). When you visit, you’ll earn points that will get you a discount at the Washington State History Museum in Tacoma.