Location: 48.3635303,-119.5818937 Lookout Type: Former firewatch platform Site Established: 1930(?) Date Visited: 10/8/17
You’re probably thinking, “Wait? A post office counts as a still standing fire lookout?” While this location isn’t without some healthy debate, historical photos from the 1930s show that the old Okanogan Post Office building, currently the Rawson’s Department Store, did indeed at one time house a fire lookout on its roof, which for some folks, makes it an official still standing structure!
There’s been some debate as to whether the old Okanogan Post Office building should be listed as an “official” Washington State standing lookout location. Historical panoramic Osborne photos exist from 1930s that suggest some kind of lookout was likely present, even if only for training purposes. The structure inventory book at the Okanogan Supervisor’s Office shows an inventory of 28 lookouts on the Chelan (Okanogan) National Forest between 1921 and 1957. One of them reads “Okanogan Post Office Building had a lookout… 1930”.
In 2014, The Okanogan Historical Society offered additional information, stating that the lookout was atop the First National Bank building, now part of the Rawson’s Department Store. The original U.S. Forest Service headquarters (Supervisor’s Office) was in the Schaller building, replaced by the North Cascade National Bank building, then moved to the 2nd floor of the First National Bank building.
Visiting this site is best done if you’re in the area visiting other lookouts. Murals of renowned 19th century photographer Frank Matsura are mounted to the sides of historic buildings in town, which makes for a great self guided Okanogan Historical Walk. The Okanogan County Historical Museum isn’t far away either, located at 1410 2nd Ave N. They’re generally open M-F from 9am-12pm and are a wealth of local historical information.
Drive to 212 2nd Avenue South in downtown Okanogan. The building is located on the southwest corner of 2nd Ave & Queen Street, the current location of the Rawson’s Department Store.