Onalaska's Carlisle Smokestack Under Consideration for State Heritage Listing

Onalaska Landmark: Meeting of State Advisory Council Set for May 13


The iconic smokestack at Carlisle Lake in Onalaska has been nominated to be listed on the Washington Heritage Register and its application will be considered by the Washington State Advisory Council on Historic Preservation.

The application will be reviewed at a meeting scheduled for 9 a.m. on Thursday, May 13, via Zoom video conferencing.

The 180-foot-tall structure is one of the last vestiges of the once-thriving Carlisle Lumber Company Mill, which Onalaska was built around in the early 20th century. The structure is believed to have been constructed around 1920 in the leadup to the height of the company’s logging boom.

“Having a property listed in the State Register is an honor. Listing of a property does not impose federal or state restrictive covenants or easements, nor will it result in a taking,” wrote Allyson Brooks, state historic preservation officer, in a letter sent to The Chronicle. “However, listing in the Washington Heritage Register does assure protective review of a property should a federal or state action have a potential adverse effect to the property’s historic value.”

Being listed is primarily an honorary designation, according to the state Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservations, but it might help owners in some circumstances secure grants or other funding for restoration or preservation projects.

At the time of its construction, the Carlisle Lake smokestack was state of the art for a rapidly-growing and developing logging community. It was constructed and assembled by Chicago-based Heine Chimney Company.

“By 1924, the Onalaska mill employed about 325 men and could turn out about 250 carloads of lumber per month,” read the site’s application materials. “Although the Carlisle-Pennell Lumber Co. had established and helped build the town, Onalaska was not a typical company owned town. Most of the merchants were independent operators and not owned by the lumber company.”

Carlisle Lumber hit its peak in 1929 — company inventory reportedly included more than 20 million board-feet of lumber, which was enough to stretch from Washington state to the Panama Canal — despite the company’s mill being burned down to the foundation just six years prior.

But further strife came in the 1930s with a backlog in taxes and major union disputes, and the mill ultimately announced its closure in 1942.

“During its heyday, the company provided opportunities for nearly 900 people. Its development was termed one of the wonders of the northwest and it was the sole expression of the business entrepreneurship of the Carlisle family. The community was diverse and brought large groups of Japanese, Swedish, Greek and Italian immigrants to Lewis County. In fact, the area east of the Presbyterian Church was a Japanese neighborhood with such streets as Nippon, Oriental and Tokyo avenues,” its application read.

Carlisle Lake is now used as a fishing lake and the 72-acre property around it is currently owned by recreation- and educational-nonprofit Onalaska Alliance.

In 2015, a mural was painted on the base of the smokestack in memory of three teenagers in Onalaska who died in a car crash. The smokestack is located at the end of Alexander Road in Onalaska.

Though the Carlisle smokestack is the only structure being considered at the May 13 meeting for listing on the Heritage Register, seven other structures will be considered for the National Register.

Those include the Col. Henry Landes House in Port Townsend, the Burke-Hill Apartments in Wenatchee, Woodstock Farm in Bellingham, University National Bank in Seattle, the Maryhill Stonehenge Memorial in Klickitat County, the Architecture of Donald J. Stewart in Washington and Oregon and the Northrup Primary School in Vancouver.