Fremont, Washington. Fremont, Nebraska. Two cities with the same name. What do they have in common beyond their name? Absolutely nothing. One sits on the Nebraska plains, a city of about 22,000 with a conservative-looking downtown that could be a scene out of a 1960s movie. The second is the “Center of the Universe.”
Fremont, Washington, is actually named after the Nebraska city. The Washington community of about 11,000 was founded by two former Nebraskans – Luther H. Griffith and Edward Blewett. Fremont was annexed by Seattle in 1891.
As for being the “Center of the Universe,” Fremont has been considered that since 1991 when local “scientists” determined that the universe was centered in the city’s business district. Plans called to launch a rocket into space from the city. That rocket now stands over a business’ doorway, ready for launch.
Staying with the theme, nearby buildings play along using spaceships and planets as accents. I liked the fun attitude people in the area have with the concept.
Fremont’s eclectic attitude extends beyond space travel. It offers visitors a look into unique art.
As you venture into downtown, Vladimir Lenin greets you. Or a statue of the infamous Soviet leader. The statue, which once stood above the people in the former Czechoslovakia, was brought to the Seattle area following the collapse of the Soviet Union and other eastern European authoritarian countries in the late 1980s.
The statue was bought in 1993 by a teacher from Issaquah, Washington, and shipped to the United States. The 16-feet tall was eventually located in Fremont, where it has stood since 1995.
Fremont visitors need to be wary of what lies under bridges, or at least one bridge. The Fremont Troll was the result of a community art project in 1989. It took about seven weeks to create the troll from rebar, wire and ferroconcrete. The troll looks like it’s made from sand. There is sand surrounding the base of the troll. The troll is popular with tourists, as people venture across Lake Union.
Fremont is home to a sculpture -Late for the Interurban – honoring a longtime local clown television series. JP Patches was portrayed by Chris Wedes. Bob Newman was the second actor and portrayed several other characters on the once twice-daily show. The show premiered in 1958 and ran until 1981. As the years passed, the show’s episodes were reduced, eventually airing on weekends at the end. The statue features JP Patches and his girlfriend Gertrude (portrayed by Newman).
Another statue recognizes local people waiting for the Interurban. The transportation railway ran through Fremont from 1910 until 1939. The statue – Waiting for the Interurban – is often decorated by people. During my visit, it was decorated with a birthday banner.
Beyond Fremont’s eccentricities, the city has other attractions that may appeal to sight and taste. From chocolates to a nature walk, the city is a fun visit.
Theo Chocolate opened in 2006 and is a leader in using organic cocoa beans to create its chocolate treats. The company uses a “Fair Trade” process to import cocoa beans. They refuse to work African plantations that use slaves to harvest cocoa beans. They require people be paid for the work. It restricts the resources for the company, but the owners and leadership know the beans come from plantations they’re willing to work with. The Central American farmers they work with are also better compensated.
Theo offers public tours of the plant and the process. If you enjoy sampling chocolate, you’ll like the tour. Visitors are offered a variety of chocolate samples, ranging from 80 percent dark chocolate to the sweeter tasting milk chocolate. During the tour, you may be able to grab a couple more samples.
Theo has a store next to the plant, and it just happens to be where the tour ends, which was good for me, since I needed to pick up some treats for family. The store has so many options. Oh, boy!
About a block from Theo is the Burke Gilman Trail. The trail offers biking and walking along the lake. The lake has some beautiful views of nature. Flowers, trees and water fowl brought a smile to my face.
The trail allows visitors a chance to visit prehistoric times. Two hedges – in the shape of Apatosaurus dinosaurs – each stretch about 66 feet. The hedges were once located at Seattle’s Pacific Center and ended up in Fremont after the center sought to get rid of them.
I was impressed with all the rowers speeding along in the ship canal. I must have seen at least six sets of rowers. I’m sure it’s a fun and healthy workout, if you like being in the water.
A statue offering hopes for peace greets walkers along the trail. Kaivalya Torpy created the statue of Sri Chinmoy, entitled “Dreamer of World Peace.” Chinmoy was an Indian spiritual leader, who died in 2007. The statue was dedicated in 2010.
My visit to Fremont concluded with a walk around Gas Works Park. The former gasification plant was used to process coal for about 50 years beginning in 1906. The land was purchased by Seattle in 1962. The park opened to the public in 1975.
The park has remnants of the plant around the park. Some of the plant makes for interesting views. The park’s hill is popular with kite enthusiasts. The park has a sculpted sundial built at the hill’s summit. Gas Works Park is considered a popular site for viewing fireworks shows across the lake in Seattle.
Speaking of the lake, the views are spectacular. You never know what you might see – ferry boats, airplanes taking off, a police boat heading out on patrol of stand-up paddle boarders working out.
Fremont is an interesting area to spend time during a Seattle visit, especially since it IS the “Center of the Universe.” It’s easy to spend a full day there. You don’t realize how quickly time passes during your visit. As someone who has lived in Fremont, Nebraska, I can testify that the two cities have nada in common beyond their names.
For additional information on Fremont, Washington, please visit www.fremont.com.