Imagine – 100 years ago. At this site, workers would have been loading bags of powdered cement onto railroad cars for shipment. Locally produced Portland cement was the new material that would build roads, hydroelectric dams, and many other modern industrial era projects throughout Washington State and the West Coast.
These silos (constructed in the 1940’s) are all that is left of a 40-acre industrial plant that was started here in 1906. The Superior Portland Cement Company grew until it was the largest cement producer on the Pacific Coast, taking over its nearby competitor, the Washington Portland Cement Company, in 1919. A profitable business that provided employment for hundreds of people, it also produced tons of dust which covered the area for miles around. High operating costs and inability to meet air quality standards eventually led to closure in 1969. Plant equipment was dismantled between 1970 and 1972. The site was leveled, transferred to the Town of Concrete in 1994 for recreational use, and is now known as Silo Park.
The Great Northern Railroad reached this site in 1901, and continued east to the town of Rockport. It carried freight and passengers into the Upper Skagit, and returned with wood products and cement to market all over the rapidly expanding West Coast. In the 1990’s, the rail line was removed and became the Cascade Trail linking Concrete with Sedro-Woolley.
“Welcome to Concrete”. This landmark sign is a recent addition. It was painted on the silos as part of the backdrop for a Warner Brothers movie called “This Boy’s Life”. The movie was based on a boyhood memoir by author Tobias Wolff, who lived in the Upper Skagit and attended school in Concrete in the 1950’s. The 1992 filming was done in town, locals were hired as extras, and they appeared in the movie along with Hollywood stars Robert DeNiro, Ellen Barkin, and a young Leonardo DiCaprio.
Explore the Town of Concrete’s fascinating history on a 1.5 mile byway that returns to Highway 20. Follow the route up Superior Avenue, then turn right (east) onto Main Street and watch for six additional sites with historic information signs. Detailed Walking Tour brochures are available at the Chamber of Commerce (45770 Main Street, near site 3).