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VERDICT IS IN

Evidence clearly shows Yellowstone Trail once wound through Sunnyside

Jerri Honeyford wants to preserve a section of Rohman Street in Sunnyside. The street was part of America’s first transcontinental roadway, the Yellowstone Trail.

Photo by Tim Graff.
Jerri Honeyford wants to preserve a section of Rohman Street in Sunnyside. The street was part of America’s first transcontinental roadway, the Yellowstone Trail.

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This stamp, dated July 7, 1921, signifies the date a section of the Yellowstone Trail, now Rohman Street in Sunnyside, was completed.

Each day the workers along the Yellowstone Trail left evidence of their progress along the historic roadway.

That’s according to Perry Hatchett, who was involved in the project to preserve a piece of the historic transcontinental roadway along Grandview Pavement Road.

He said the companies that worked on the Yellowstone Trail left a stamp with the name of the construction firm and the date that section had been completed.

In recent weeks, Jerri Honeyford, wife of Sen. Jim Honeyford, brought to the community’s attention that Rohman Street in Sunnyside was part of the Yellowstone Trail.

She is an advocate for preserving Washington state history, having been instrumental in getting the state to recognize historic barns.

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When Grandview Pavement Road was resurfaced, community members wishing to preserve the history of the Yellowstone Trail worked to have this marker put in place. The pavers set in the ground below the marker are sections of concrete with the name of the construction company that completed the project.

There have been questions regarding Rohman Street’s origins since Honeyford’s claim was made.

Some in the community thought the street was part of the Old Inland Empire Highway. However, maps confirm that highway intersected with the Yellowstone Trail at North Avenue.

“It (Old Inland Empire Highway) was a straight road leading to Outlook,” said Honeyford.

The Yellowstone Trail, according to old travel directories, snaked north of Outlook connecting the cities of Sunnyside and Granger. Motorists would travel what is now Van Belle Road.

The evidence that Rohman Street was part of the historic Yellowstone Trail roadway, said Hatchett, is in the stamps that can be found on one side of the roadway (typically the north or east side, depending on the direction of travel).

As Rohman Street curves from east to north, there are two days’ worth of road work that were completed. There are stamps in the roadway from the Yakima Paving Company, dated July 6 and July 7, 1921.

Hatchett said the concrete is consistent with the materials used in the construction of the Yellowstone Trail, as is the width of the roadway.

Honeyford said another consistency, besides maps and travel directions, is the way the sections were laid. She said one section was laid at a time.

“I’m no expert on highways…I just want to preserve history,” said Honeyford, who has conducted even more research on the history of the Yellowstone Trail.

She explained the roadway is significant to Washington state history, as well as the history of the nation. It was the first transcontinental roadway constructed for automobiles.

There were a number of road races that took place, using the trail. In 1915, the Yellowstone Trail Association organized a relay race from Chicago to Seattle, spanning 2,611 miles. The event was organized to demonstrate the open route. It took less than 100 hours for the winner of the relay to reach Seattle.

In the Yakima Valley, much of the credit for the Yellowstone Trail being constructed here goes to Asahel Curtis, renowned photographer. He owned orchards along what is now Grandview Pavement Road and was the national vice president of the Yellowstone Trail Association. He helped secure support for the southern route of the roadway, providing motorists a way of traveling through the Yakima Valley.

The fate of Rohman Street is yet unknown. Some who live in that area want the roadway closed to traffic due to safety concerns.

“The road is definitely going to be closed,” said Sunnyside City Manager Don Day.

He said city staff is still in the research phase, looking into the history of the roadway and no decision has been made regarding its preservation.

Day said staff has discovered the Rohman Street is not included on the National Registry of Historic Places. The city, however, is in the process of contacting officials with the state’s historical registry.

Honeyford said she is interested in preserving a piece of history. The preservation effort could look something like the marker on Grandview Pavement Road, ensuring Sunnyside’s piece of history is not lost, she said.

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