Although Covid may have dashed your dreams of a cruise or some other bucket-list trip you had planned, you can still travel. In less than an hour, you can be in Connell.
The Observer highly recommends a walking tour of this tiny town of about 5,600.
In a telephone conversation Connell City Administrator Maria Pena told the Observer, “We are proud of Connell and particularly the art that you will find on our streets and trails.” She recommended the map from the town’s website.
So, grab your map and take highway 395 to northern Franklin County.
You can stop at Country Mercantile about midway. The Mercantile has produce, both fresh and preserved, as well as a public restroom.
Exit at State Route 260, turn right at Columbia Ave., Connell’s main street. Start your tour at Franklin St. and N. Columbia Ave.
In addition to the art, Columbia Ave. has a mix of historic, brick buildings constructed after a fire destroyed most of the town in 1905 and newer, mid-century buildings.
Four of Tom Otterness’s six bronze and cast concrete sculptures, “Wild Life” sit along the two blocks between Franklin St. and Borah St. As you walk, you will also see murals depicting local history painted by Pat Boyer.
One of Connell’s largest employers, the Washington Department of Corrections Coyote Ridge Corrections Center working with the State Arts Commission funded the statutes. Local businesses contributed to the Boyer murals.
Coyote Ridge, north of Connell, houses 2100 inmates and employs many of the local residents.
For lunch, both the Pizza Station at 238 N. Columbia Ave. and Papa Ray’s across the street at 245 N. Columbia have carry-out.
Husband Bob and I enjoyed a delicious hamburger and fries from Papa Ray’s at the table with the Otterness train sculpture next to Connell City Hall and Police Department. According to Pena, “The table and sculpture sit just outside my office window.”
Pena encouraged visitors to have lunch at any of the tables with the sculptures.
Walk about five blocks south on Columbia Ave. to see the other two Otterness sculptures between Elm St. and Gum St.
On the way to the sculptures, take a short side trip up W. Adams St. to see the 1904 Presbyterian Church which now houses the Connell Heritage Museum. Unfortunately, the museum is currently closed.
Pena pointed out that along Highway 395, the city has installed a one-mile walking path that connects Gum Street and Clark Street. Tall steel flowers by Jean Whitesavage and Nick Lyle sit along the path. Coyote Ridge and the State Arts Commission also funded these.
Connell’s impressive public school complex fills several blocks on W. Clark.
Connell grew from sheep and cattle country to a railroad town after the golden spike joined the western branch of the Northern Pacific Railroad with the eastern branch at Gold Creek, Montana in 1883. Former President Ulysses S. Grant and other luminaries traveled to Montana to celebrate the achievement.
Wells provided the town with water but growth has always strained the supply. Dry land wheat has been the most important product through most of Connell’s history.