The Little White Church

Otherwise known as Elbe Evangelische Lutherische Kirche, the Little White Church sits next to the railroad tracks in the village of Elbe, Washington.

I had passed the kirche before. A couple weeks ago I decided to stop and photograph the bright white building in the morning light. But it wasn’t open then. This time, I vowed to stop if I saw that the church door was open. I approached Elbe and looked over to see that the church door was indeed open. I quickly pulled over and parked.

And, as luck would have it, a gentleman in red suspenders was doing some painting around the doorway. A real Norman Rockwell scene.

I stepped inside the wee church. Built in 1906, it’s a National Historic Place and one of the smallest churches in the country.

Its lovely wood pews can hold 46 people, though there is no organized congregation and no full-time pastor.

It’s a modest interior. No stained glass windows. The organ is the original Farrand-Votey, built in Detroit.

Services are held once a month, from March through November, and the church overseen by a nonprofit with a board of directors from area Lutheran churches.

The folks who originally settled in the area were immigrants from the Elbe River area near Hamburg, Germany. Locals built the church, which stands 46 feet high at the steeple. The bell is from a locomotive.

As I was ending my visit, I noticed a narrow rope hanging from the ceiling near the door, and a small handwritten note nearby that read “Ring the bell.”

What?? I can ring the bell?! I can ring a church bell! That would be something. So I asked the painter, just to make sure, and he encouraged me to do so. I gave a gentle pull and the bell gave a modest clang. That made my day.

The rope

It can make yours too. If you are driving to Mount Rainier National Park, toward the Nisqually entrance, you’ll go right through Elbe.

Mount Rainier’s Historic Paradise Inn

When people have birthdays, there’s usually singing. “Happy Birthday to you… happy birthday…“ You get the picture.

But when an inn has a birthday, does anyone sing?

The historic Paradise Inn at Mount Rainier National Park is celebrating its 100th year. Built in 1917, the inn is a classic, rustic, big-timber affair that the national parks are known for.

Back when men were men, and furniture was BIG, this inn set a precedent for other parks. Until then, visitors stayed in Spartan tent camps. The first director of the National Park Service, Steven Mather, wanted the new inn to be a model for other parks. Can you believe it cost only $90,000 to build? Of course, in 1917, that was a lot of moola.

You could say Paradise Inn rose from the very soil around Mount Rainier. Cedar trees damaged in a nearby fire in Silver Forest were salvaged and used in the construction.

The large, heavy tables and chairs in the lobby were made from Silver Forest trees.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Back then, dead trees were not valued and left standing as they are today, largely as wildlife habitat.

If you visit the inn, you can see the original timbers and furnishings.

There is a tall clock that is framed in local wood, along with an upright piano also encased in wood.

With a view of Mount Rainier just steps away, the inn offers 121 simple guest rooms – no telephones, TV, or internet. There are rooms in the main lodge, with shared baths, and rooms with private bath in the Annex, which was added later to accommodate ever-growing crowds of visitors. The structure is getting some renovations and promises to be better than ever.