It’s hard not to be intrigued by a town called “Concrete.” Simple yet strong, the name perfectly encompasses everything this hard-working community has come to be known for.
Recognized as the “gateway to the North Cascades,” this small town in Northwest Washington is known for its rich industrial history, beautiful scenery, old concrete buildings, and even a haunting or two.
The town of Concrete exists thanks to the many diligent workers who ran Washington’s first Portland cement plant in the early 1900s. To pay homage to these workers, and many others like them, we decided to name one of our aluminum wallets Concrete Gray and share the story of this town.
So, whether you’re interested in trade history, unique architecture, or outdoor activities, this place has a little something for everyone. Keep scrolling to learn more about the charming, cement-filled town of Concrete, Washington.
Where is Concrete Washington?
Concrete, Washington, is located in the Northwest region of Washington state, right near the entrance to the famous North Cascades National Park.
Nestled almost perfectly in between Seattle and Vancouver, this small Pacific Northwest town in Skagit County is surrounded by nearby mountains, beautiful forests, and stunning waterfalls.
Mount Sauk overlooks the town, offering plenty of hiking opportunities. Nearby lakes and rivers, including Baker Lake and Lake Shannon, are popular spots for fishing, rafting, kayaking, and canoeing.
Whether you’re passing through on your way to the national park or just want to take a peek at this unique community, it’s definitely worth the stop.
Why is Concrete, Washington Called Concrete?
Concrete, Washington, got its name in exactly the way you might expect. But it took some time to get there.
In 1871, when early settlers were first making their home near the Baker River, they called their small, rural community “Minnehaha,” a Dakota word that means “waterfall.”
Nearly two decades later, a man named Magnus Miller platted a townsite in the area. A post office was established, and the residents began calling the settlement “Baker” instead, according to the Concrete Chamber of Commerce.
Meanwhile, down on the east bank of the Baker River, another settlement was being built around a plant called the “Washington Portland Cement Company” – the first facility to produce Portland cement in the state. Because the community was literally built around the plant in 1905, they called themselves “Cement City.”
In 1908, the Superior Portland Cement Company plant was established in Baker, and the two communities decided it would be in everyone’s best interest to merge the towns. In 1909, after much debate, the residents decided to name the new town “Concrete” after the industry that drew them all together.
Superior Cement bought out the Washington Portland Cement Company in 1918, and the two facilities employed 160–200 workers at their peak, producing around 5,200 barrels of cement a day, according to the Seattle Daily Journal of Commerce.
Business was strong at both plants, which were later under the operation of Lone Star Cement, for years, until modern technology made the coal-powered facilities obsolete. Concrete production was officially halted in 1967, though to this day the manufacturing and construction industries are the most common employer in the region.
About the Town of Concrete Washington
Even without knowing the history of Concrete, Washington, the name would make perfect sense to the average passersby.
Even though the town has long since stopped producing cement, concrete evidence of the town’s history still exists (see what we did there?) in the form of some unique architecture.
In Concrete’s early days, multiple fires blazed through the region, burning down many of the original wooden buildings along Main Street. Tired of the constant rebuilding, in 1921 the town decided to use the resources available to them and construct all new commercial buildings out of nonflammable concrete, which they naturally had an abundance of.
Many of these cement buildings are still standing around town, including the local liquor store and bank. Plenty of other historical buildings still stand as well, the most famous of which is the old Superior Portland Cement Site, known today as Silo Park.
The old cement facility has now been repurposed as a local community park, featuring the message “welcome to Concrete” painted across its massive silos. It has a picnic area, playground, skate park, and splash park, offering a great space for local families and tourists to enjoy.
The ruins of the Washington Portland Cement Company also still stand today. Now known as the Devil's Tower, this Concrete, Washington landmark, which sits on the east bank of Lake Shannon, is a popular attraction for ghost hunters and thrill seekers. The tower is technically closed to the public for safety reasons, as a few explorers have been seriously injured while checking out this reportedly haunted site.
Another popular tourist destination is the Henry Thompson Bridge. Built between 1916-1918, this landmark was named for the Skagit County Commissioner who helped push its construction. When it was built, the Henry Thompson Bridge was the longest single-span cement bridge in the world.
The Lower Baker Dam Visitor Center and Day-Use Park is another major landmark in Concrete. First built in 1925, and raised by another 293 feet in 1927, the dam was the highest hydroelectric dam in the world in its day. It now features a visitor center, a day-use park, and a boat ramp leading to Lake Shannon.
Though not made of cement, the Concrete Theatre is another well-known attraction in the town. The building was constructed back in 1923 and is the oldest theater in the county. The same owners also run the Act One Ice Cream Parlor out of the historic building right next door.
Finally, Concrete’s town hall, which was built in 1908 and was used as the town’s first schoolhouse, is another interesting stop in the area. Over the years, it has also served as the town’s library and senior center.
In addition to its historic buildings, Concrete, Washington, is known for the endless outdoor recreation activities nearby. The town is close to Rasar State Park, Rockport State Park, several lakes, the Mountain Loop Scenic Byway, many hiking trails in the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, and, of course, North Cascades National Park and North Cascades Highway.
Concrete really is a nature-lover's paradise, and no matter what you enjoy seeing on your travels, this town is worth the stop.
Concrete Washington Facts
- The Concrete, Washington population has always been small – and still is today. Only around 800 residents lived in the town as of 2020, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
- Even the Concrete High School is uniquely constructed – though not in the way you might think. The central portion of the school was built over South Superior Avenue in order to make the best use of space, creating a sort of tunnel.
- Concrete was featured in Tobias Wolff’s memoir, “This Boy’s Life,” which was later turned into a 1993 movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert De Niro, and Ellen Barkin. Some of the film’s scenes were filmed in Concrete, which is where Wolff spent many of his teenage years.
- You can buy a locally-designed Concrete Washington flag depicting Silo Park in front of a snow-capped Sauk Mountain. The flag was designed by Becky Azure, who won the town’s local design contest.
One of the more obscure destinations in the U.S., Concrete, Washington, is known for its history of cement production, concrete structures, haunted sites, and stunning scenery and wildlife.
Located just outside of North Cascades National Park, this unique cement town is certainly worth a visit for anyone interested in industrial history and a quaint, small-town experience.If you’re interested in carrying a minimalist wallet that’s made in the USA on your travels, check out our entire collection at GeoGrit.com. Be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, and follow our blog to keep up on all our latest content.