Trash talk: Yard artist Richart stands by the fruits of his labors.
If you’d like to see how one person’s trash can truly become someone else’s treasure, you need look no further than Centralia, Wash. Here, midway between Portland and Seattle off I-5, Richart (aka Richard Tracy), a former art teacher with an independent streak, has spent the last 20 years arranging Richart’s Ruins. This hodgepodge of plastic balls, old lightbulbs, hunks of Styrofoam, and other salvaged items has expanded into a one-of-a-kind installation that encircles his house at 203 M Street. And while Richart certainly has his detractors, they don’t appear to have dampened his creative spirit.
You’ll experience a different kind of spirit when Centralia embraces the holiday season. The downtown is a dream come true for shopaholics, especially those looking for eclectic gift ideas. Centralia’s three antique malls house more than 350 dealers. Collectors can easily spend a full day perusing used books, vintage furniture, and more recent curiosities such as ceramics made from the volcanic ash of nearby Mount St. Helens. (Shoppers in search of modern bargains from the likes of Van Heusen and Bass should trek to the Centralia Factory Outlets just north of town.)
RIDE THE RAILS
Take Amtrak from Portland to Centralia for a perfect day trip. The popular Cascades line between Eugene, Ore., and Vancouver, B.C., stops at the town’s 1912 depot. (360) 736-8653, (800) 872-7245, www.amtrak.com.
You’ll find a somewhat larger antique—a 1916 Baldwin steam locomotive—to the south at the Chehalis-Centralia Railroad, which offers scenic rides and dinner trips in the summer.
When your stomach starts to rumble, quiet it down with a sandwich or salad from Berry Fields Cafe or a huge milk shake ($3.25) at Papa Ray’s Family Cafe. These old-fashioned ice cream treats come in vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry, but the black raspberry steals the show.
And finally, there’s McMenamins Olympic Club Hotel & Theater. This restored 1908 inn, with its 27 guest rooms, once played host to ramblers, painted women, and even gentleman train robber Roy Gardner, who was captured on the premises in 1921 after an intensive manhunt. Today, you can enjoy a glass of wine while watching a movie. Or check out the brewpub, trimmed in mahogany and brass and showcasing ornate stained glass lighting and the original 1908 billiard tables. The Oly’s a real gem with its own share of Centralia artistry.
Photography by Lara Swimmer
This article was first published in November 2006. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.
Area code is 360 unless noted. Pick up AAA's Oregon & Washington map and TourBook. For additional information, contact the Lewis County Convention & Visitors Bureau at 330-7598 or (800) 525-3323 or visit www.tourlewiscounty.com.
TO DO AND SEE
Chehalis-Centralia Railroad Sylvenus St. off Hwy. 6, 748-9593, www.steamtrainride.com.
Berry Fields Cafe 201 S. Pearl St., 736-1183. Papa Ray's Family Cafe 719 W. Main St., 736-1188.