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Monday, October 15, 2012

#1796 - The Hub, Concrete, WA - 5/26/2012

The Hub has a 30-foot, single-plank, mahogany backbar that arrived in town in 1912 and is the longest single-plank bar in the state of Washington. The bar was originally installed in another building, the Olympia bar. Most of the buildings in this part of Concrete date back to the 1920s, after two large fires had destroyed most the buildings along Main Street by 1921.  I do not have a date for how long a bar has been in this space, but according to Charles Dwelley's local history "So They Called The Town Concrete," it was renamed from "The Club" to "The Hub" due "to first state liquor sale regulations." Presuming that this refers to the introduction of prohibition in Washington state, the renaming happened at the beginning of 1916, and the place was opened by a previous bartender at the Olympia sometime between 1912 and 1916.

The town of Concrete, just off state route 20 in the upper Skagit valley, near where the Baker River merges into the Skagit, has been struggling in various ways for over forty years. The cement factory that once supplied half the cement needed for Grand Coulee Dam, shut down in 1968, and the timber industry dried up as well. The city counsel now tries to deal with public drunkeness that sometimes involves shooting on Main Street. The population is less than the number that once worked on the Baker damn alone, and The Hub is the only real bar in a town that once supported eleven. European Americans were gold prospecting in this area by 1858, and settlements began arising on either side of the Baker River in the 1870s. Peg-leg Everett, the first to discover the large limestone deposits, had a homestead on the east bank, and by 1905 the Washington Portland Cement Co. was operating there, and the community was named "Cement City." Meanwhile, Richard Challenger had named the area on the opposite bank "Minnehaha," though by 1890 it was known as "Baker," and a competing cement company, the Superior Portland Cement Co., was in operation on the west bank by 1908. In 1909, Baker and Cement City merged into "Concrete, Washington."

Concrete has definitely had its colorful, small town moments, such as when town residents discovered that the local librarian was a professional dominatrix, when the winner of the mayor's race had to defeat Mercury the dog (ibid), and when a short circuit at the cement factory during Orson Welles' famed "War of the World" broadcast led to some particularly excitable reactions. Similarly, The Hub itself presents a general semblance of (dive bar) normality -- the standard beers and liquors, the pulltabs and pool tables -- but with some old, idiosyncratic touches mixed in. For example, there is the taxidermy bobcat that looks like it's spent a few generations in bobcat hell, and there's the wooden child's coffin adorned with a giant wood housefly (WTF?).

Presiding over the large bar on the night we arrived was one small and occasionally confused young woman, who provided all food and all drinks by herself. While there were not a lot of people there when we arrived, this seemed impressive given the occasional rushes, the fairly rough clientele who sometimes dropped by, a ghost, and the city council's concern over public drunkeness that has culminated in gunshots on Main St. But it was great sitting at the grand old bar, once our knees got accustomed to the short distance between stool and bar, and its the sort of place that one hopes will always be there.


86 List from The Hub Tavern, Concrete, WA

45914 Main St, Concrete, WA 98237 - (360) 853-8741           
Est. ?
Web site: facebook
Reviews: jeepspubtaverns
Walking tour of Concrete

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