Yakima has served as a popular travel destination for over a century. I was recently reminded of this when I met with Dr. Scott Lee, who generously shared an album filled with an amazing collection of matchbook covers from old businesses in Yakima and elsewhere.
The album, acquired by Scott’s now-adult son as part of a school project, was saved by the Lees for decades. As a local history lover, looking through the album with Scott was like traveling back in time. I could spend years writing about the businesses in the matchbook cover album, although sharing their histories accurately would require writing a book. Instead, to allow readers to travel back through time, I decided to share a bit about a few of them here.
Among the many wonderful matchbook covers were two for the Hotel Commercial. Once located on the south side of East Yakima Avenue, between Third and Fourth streets, the hotel consisted of three buildings. While in operation, it was one of the city’s more popular lodging locations, housing travelers from all over the country.
At the time of the matchbooks’ printing, Mr. John G. “Peter Coyle” Von Herberg was the hotel’s managing director. As a Seattle resident, Von Herberg was a capitalist who partnered with Mr. Claude Jensen. The two owned several theaters in Western Washington as well as the Broadway Market, Von’s Café and theaters in Yakima.
The hotel continued to operate after Von Herberg’s death at age 71 in December 1947, although eventually the hotel ceased operations. Today the three buildings still stand and serve as apartments.
The Donnelly Hotel also had a matchbook cover in the Lees’ album. Once referred to as the Minnesota building, the hotel was on the east side of South Second Street, between East Yakima and Chestnut avenues.
Mr. and Mrs. Stephen P. Burke moved to Yakima in 1935. Two years after moving to the city, they became co-owners of the Donnelly Hotel. Sadly, that year Mr. Burke was in a tragic accident that left him confined to a wheelchair. To aid with his physical therapy, the Burkes had a swimming pool constructed in the basement of the Donnelly Hotel building. Later, they donated the pool to the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis.
During their time as co-owners, the hotel had a coffee shop, private dining rooms and a ballroom. Two decades after acquiring the hotel, they had it renovated and changed its name to the Chieftain. On May 18, 1958, the Burkes threw a party to celebrate the changes. The couple would own and manage the hotel until 1964, when it was sold. Many may remember the hotel for its totem pole in the front.
In the 1970s, the building caught fire and was later demolished. Today the site serves as a parking lot.
Of course, hotels aren’t the only businesses that cater to travelers. Several matchbook covers were of automotive sales and repair businesses. One was for Wikstrom Motors Inc., once located on South Third Street and managed by “Happy” Parkhurst.
Prior to his employment at Wikstrom Motors, Happy was a serviceman for another popular auto dealer, the Wenner-Halsey-Wenner Inc. Automobile Dealership. Although no longer in business, Wikstrom Motors is remembered by several people today.
Another service station, Herber’s Service Station, once situated at 11th Avenue and Division, was also advertised on matchbook covers. Not only did they offer service for cars, they also had a store that sold mixers, alcohol, cigarettes and fishing tackle.
Owned by Frank Herber, a mechanic and grocery owner, Frank would become a business partner with Mr. Robert Epperson. By 1929, the two co-owned the Eleventh Avenue Garage and Eleventh Avenue Grocery at the same corner. The Eppersons were no strangers to business — they would later run another business at the same location.
Included within the album of matchbook covers were three other businesses managed or owned by the Eppersons.
The Oasis, at 11th Avenue and Division, the former site of Herber’s Service Station, was managed by James “Jim” Epperson around 1932. The Oasis evidently was popular for their “wee-maid soft ice cream” and “thick milkshakes.” By 1935, James was also operating The Glee Club at 402½ S. 11th Ave.
Another family member, Jack Epperson, was the proprietor of a bar called the Shady Corners. Located nearby at the intersection of North Sixth Avenue and Fruitvale Boulevard, the Shady Corners is still remembered by some people today.
Another popular bar and nightclub in Yakima in the 1930s offering entertainment and food for travelers and locals alike was Bock’s Cafe. Once located at 24 S. Second St., the cafe was owned by Louis and Frank Bock. Looking at their matchbook cover reminds one of the 1930s. Apparently, the cafe was open 24 hours a day and provided a floor show every night.
There are several other popular Yakima restaurant matchbook covers in the Lees’ album. Of those, Brown’s Cafe, originally on Front Street, moved to 6 E. Yakima Ave. in approximately 1930. Owned by Mr. Thomas Lynn Brown, the cafe never closed its doors and offered quality food. Today, the site of Brown’s Cafe is a parking lot and drive-thru bank.
Another popular restaurant, the N.Y. Coney Island Cafe, opened at 13 E. Yakima Ave. in about 1933. The cafe operated for decades on the avenue, frequently advertising as the place where “everybody meets and eats.” Over the years, many have shared stories of enjoying their Coney Island hot dogs. Today the building that housed the cafe is the site of a parking lot.
It’s been a true joy looking through the Lees’ matchbook cover album. Preserved by the Lees, the matchbook covers join rare photos as some of the only remaining evidence of popular long-lost businesses in Yakima. Local history lovers like myself owe the Lees a huge amount of gratitude for saving the album and its historical contents.
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