LEAVENWORTH — If Ted Price had his way, Leavenworth might have become an American Indian theme town. His partner, Bob Rogers, had a different idea.
Price and Rogers were principal creators of Leavenworth’s Bavarian facelift in the 1960s. The two World War II veterans purchased an old cafe at Coles Corner in 1960 and started remodeling it into a likeness of the mountain inns Rogers had seen in Bavaria years after fighting in the Battle of the Bulge.
Price, a longtime collector of American Indian artifacts, initially wanted to remodel the cafe in an Indian theme, but Rogers won out.
The Squirrel Tree Restaurant with a motel added later became a popular tourist stop in the 1960s. But it was just the first remodeling venture for the two men. It wasn’t long before they began buying vacant buildings in Leavenworth, which was then a former logging, mining and railroad boomtown in desperate need of a new charge of energy.
Price, now 84 and living in Vancouver, spoke to the Leavenworth Rotary on Friday. Although his story is widely known and well-documented in “Miracle Town,” the book he wrote and published in 1997, Rotary club members were eager to meet the man and hear stories about the transformation of the town whose history has become a worldwide model for other theme towns.
“Ted is an icon,” said Rotary member and fourth-generation area resident Byron Newell in his introduction. “He is the creative and inspirational genius behind Leavenworth’s transformation. I know of no other person who has wielded as much influence in Leavenworth’s enormous step from a weary village to a sparkling gem.”
Price is slightly more humble about his efforts. Price said Rogers, also 84, views their 25 years in Leavenworth as an experience akin to his war years: history that he cares not to review. “When he’s through with something, he’s through,” Price said. Rogers did not make the trip from Vancouver for Friday’s talk.
In contrast, Leavenworth is a topic Price said he never tires of talking about.
In his speech Friday, he was quick to point out that the town’s transformation was the result of many residents working together. The town formed committees in the early 1960s in an attempt to find a way to revitalize its flagging economy. But it was Price and Rogers who started hammering in the idea of a Bavarian theme town as early as 1964. There was great resistance to the ideas of a couple of outsiders, however, Price said. When others started warming up to the idea, Price and Rogers brought in architects from Seattle and Solvang, Calif., a very successful Danish-themed town they had visited previously. Builder and designer Heinz Ulbricht was brought in to steer the project.
“We wanted to go for authenticity. We knew the project had to be done right,” Price said.
They also purchased several buildings in downtown Leavenworth so they could lead the transformation by example. Both Price and Rogers had good jobs. Price was a pharmacist and drug company sales representative. Rogers was a government food and drug inspector.
Price and Rogers were involved in many aspects of the town’s transition and the development of its Waterfront Park. Feeling their work was done and not well-appreciated, Price and Rogers left Leavenworth in 1986. They live in Vancouver and spend winters in Palm Springs, Calif.