Latitude / Longitude:
1,634 ft (498 m)
Pacific (PST) (UTC-8)
Lester was a small town near Stampede Pass, just south of Snoqualmie Pass in King County, founded in 1892 by the Northern Pacific Railway (now the BNSF Railway). Lester is located along what is currently National Forest Development Road 54, on land owned by Tacoma Water, a division of Tacoma Public Utilities. It is one of the few ghost towns in the U.S. state of Washington.
Lester was founded in 1891 as the logging camp of “Deans”, named after the owner of Dean’s Lumber Company. In 1886, the Northern Pacific Railway constructed a large depot, roundhouse, coal dock and other steam locomotive support facilities for the Stampede Pass railway; Lester was at the foot of the railroad’s maximum grade. The town was also renamed “Lester” in honor of Northern Pacific telegraph operator Lester Hansaker.
Although most remaining freestanding buildings were demolished in 2017, numerous foundations from the settlement remain.
While a series of forest fires in 1902 devastated the local logging industry, Lester continued to thrive as a company town for Northern Pacific. In the 1920s, the town’s population peaked at approximately 1,000, and most of the modern structures in Lester were built during the decade. During the 1940s and 1950s, the town transitioned away from railroading and towards logging, with new camps established at Lester by Soundview Pulp Company, later acquired by Scott Paper Company. The town’s “last resident”, Gertrude Murphy, died in September 2002 at the age of 99. For public safety and watershed security, the remaining large group of buildings in Lester (consisting of the guard house, gas and oil shack, and warehouse) were demolished by Tacoma Water in 2017. Other smaller relics of the settlement still exist.