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History of hops is Fall City legacy

Clint Whitaker and Ruth Pickering share samples of hops and vines at the Fall City Hop Shed. For more Fall City Days coverage, see page 7.  - Seth Truscott / Snoqualmie Valley Record
Clint Whitaker and Ruth Pickering share samples of hops and vines at the Fall City Hop Shed. For more Fall City Days coverage, see page 7.
— image credit: Seth Truscott / Snoqualmie Valley Record

For most people, the word ‘hops’ conjures ideas of beer brewing and a frosty glass of suds.

But for Snoqualmie Valley residents, the hop plant, which is used in the making of beer, should also bring to mind a historic connection. That’s because the Valley was once the world’s main site for the growing of hops.

A lingering sign of that legacy is the Fall City Hop Shed at Fall City Park. The shed is opened once a year to visitors during Fall City Days, thanks to volunteers from the Fall City Historical Society.

Volunteers Clint Whitaker and Ruth Pickering were on hand Saturday, June 20, to give passersby the facts on the shed, which was built in 1888 by pioneer George Rutherford at a landing on the Snoqualmie River, a short distance upstream from Fall City.

After the market for hops crashed, the shed, used to dry the hop buds, was sold and later moved to its current location in the park.

Few people get a chance to explore the structure, Pickering said.

“People have really enjoyed having a chance to see the inside,” she said.

Whitaker held a basket of dried hops, giving people a chance to see and smell the shed’s produce.

“They still grow wild around here,” he said.

Hops were one of the first big industries in King County, and Fall City was the shipping point. Riverboats would load up with the buds, then go to Seattle, where their cargo would be loaded on cargo ships and sent to Europe.

The shed had stoves on the ground floor, and the hops would the dried on a floor above. The drying process took about 24 hours.

At its height, the hops industry employed thousands of people in the Valley. American Indian tribes would send workers from miles away during the harvest.

But by 1900 the fall in price for hops and an insect invasion brought an end to the industry. Now the shed is one of the few reminders of that legacy. Deteriorating badly, it was restored a few years ago.

“It’s the only building remnant of hop growing, at least in King County if not in western Washington,” Pickering said. “Even if it’s not in its original form, it’s still precious.”

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