On March 2, 1960, Grant County Superior Court allows the question of the formation of the Port of Hartline to appear on the ballot in the election scheduled for later that month. The Port of Quincy, also in Grant County, seeks to block formation of the new port in order to expand its own port district, but is ruled against. The Town of Hartline will vote to form the Port of Hartline overwhelmingly, 159 to 8. But the ensuing years will see relatively little Port activity. That will change in 2009 when the Port purchases the Hartline School, a historic building, and begins a new mission to preserve its legacy. Presently (2011), the Port of Hartline is one of six public ports in the state that is not a member of the Washington Public Ports Association.
Hartline and the Port of Quincy
Unlike many other towns that expanded rapidly after Grant County incorporated in 1909, Hartline was still a small town 50 years later. Lying in north Grant County, Hartline boasted a population of only a few hundred people in 1960. Lying to south, Quincy was poised to become a major economic center, forming its own port district in 1958 to help diversify the local economy.
Unlike other ports like Seattle and Tacoma that had countywide districts, the Port of Quincy only had jurisdiction around the towns of Quincy and George. Quincy sought to change that in late 1959 when port officials announced their intention to absorb most of north Grant County, including Hartline, by a measure on the 1960 November general election ballot.
Hartline reacted quickly to the threat of annexation. Shortly after Quincy announced its plans, Hartline decided to form its own port district in order protect the area from the Port of Quincy’s expansion -- any region already part of a port district cannot annexed. Their plan was to place the measure on the March special election ballot, eight months before Quincy was potentially going to expand. Fellow northern towns Wilson Creek, Grand Coulee, and Coulee City formed similar plans. Not wanting to have their port be dominated economically and politically by a larger town to the south, the northern communities sought to retain local control by forming their own ports.
Although Quincy initially tried to block their efforts through legal force, the Grant County Superior Court sided with the northern communities and all four ports were allowed on the March ballot. On March 8, Hartline citizens responded overwhelmingly, 159 to eight, in favor of forming the Port of Hartline, officially called Grant County Port District No. 5. The first three commissioners were Earl J. Heathman, John Timm, and Harry N. Boger.
Having been formed as a defensive measure against the threat of absorption, the Port of Hartline was inactive for some time after its creation. Over the years, the Port eventually acquired several small properties in the town of Hartline. Nearly 50 years after its formation, the Port took on an expanded role when it agreed, in September 2009, to purchase the historic Hartline School.
Completed in 1922, the Hartline School, according to its preservations society, is "one of the oldest and best preserved 'rural brick schoolhouses' in eastern Washington" (Hartline School Preservation Association website). The School was designed by Frederick E. Westcott (d. 1946) and by Howard L. Gifford, who designed the interior of the Timberline Lodge on Mt. Hood in Oregon.
The school had been in operation for nearly 90 continuous years when, in December 2008, the consolidated Coulee-Hartline School District decided to close it down. In April 2009 the school district offered the school building and adjacent property to the Port of Hartline. The Port worked with the Hartline School Preservation Association, the Hartline Betterment Organization, and local community members to make an agreement mutually beneficial for all parties. Finally, on September 8, 2009, the Port voted to purchase the Hartline School property.
The Hartline school was added to the Washington Heritage Register of Historic Places in November 2009 and National Register of Historic Places in January 2010. Today, the Port of Hartline, together with the Hartline School Preservation Association, has an established mission to "plan for the future of the historic Hartline School" and ensure that the School remains an integral part of the Hartline community (Hartline School Preservation Association website).