The Columbia River became the main artery of the Oregon Trail System during the 19th century. River barging was infinitely easier and more comfortable than wagon travel. However, there were portages around falls and rapids in the river that required off-loading of the wagons and traveling over land to the next downstream barge landing. The long portages around Celilo Falls and the narrows near The Dalles were heavily used and included rest stops or road houses with food and lodging in the lush green river valleys draining north from Mt Hood and south from Mt. Adams. Freight wagons could only travel around 20 miles per day, and required a stop for the drivers with food, lodging, and, more importantly, ice blocks to keep perishables from spoiling.
As a result, each road house usually had a brick building, like the one you see in the center of our property. These housed a constant stream of ice blocks harvested from the ice caves on Mt. Adams, which were packed in saw dust to keep from melting for weeks on end. Many of the goods being shipped including lumber, grains, beef, and fruit went on to feed the gold rush in Alaska, and the ever-growing appetites for burgeoning cities in California. From its ending point downstream on the Columbia River, goods continued on their way to Portland and Astoria.
In 1876 Mattheus and Christian Wilkens homesteaded where the manager’s house of the Husum Riverside Bed & Breakfast now sits. On March 8, 1880 he opened a post office in his home which he called Wilkensheim. Several German families followed the Wilkens, including Martin Thompson and later that year a town was formed called Husum after Husum, Germany on the North Sea where Mr. Thompson was from. Later, he founded the Husum Power Company which provided electricity to White Salmon and surrounding communities.
The B&B property served as a stop on the way to Trout Lake, Gilmer and Glenwood. The “Ice House” which still stands, was built in 1881 to serve travelers and wagon trains. The Yakima Republic Newspaper had this to say about Husum. “Husum is a house. It is perched on one side of a precipitous canyon about 500 feet wide. The canyon is in one of the most out-of-the-way parts of the world, and Husum is the exact center of it. A dozen or 20 families eke out an existence in the canyon within as many miles of Husum. Yet the man who lives in the house that is called Husum has made it the best advertised city in three states. You can’t pick up a Portland, Seattle, Tacoma, Spokane or Boise paper which hasn’t one or more circumstantial accounts of the mad whirl that is called life in Husum.”
In 1902 a hotel was build where the residence now stands called “The Half Way House -The Falls Hotel”. In 1905, George W. Carter, Proprietor advertised the hotel in The Hood River Glacier as “The most beautiful spot on the White Salmon River. New house, 20 fine, large rooms, newly furnished. Large feed barn and livery in connection.” Mr. Carter was 31 years old at this time. In 1910 this 2 ½ story hotel was moved a hundred yards south and is now the Wet Planet Rafting Company.
Now, you can enjoy a piece of past and appreciate the river when you stay at the Husum Riverside Bed & Breakfast and Icehouse Café. The ice house has been recently renovated into the reception area and lounge for guests, which opens into our patio café and gardens. We hope you enjoy this bit of history as you sip your locally crafted wine or beer and enjoy our fabulous cuisine.