A Short Holden History Lesson

Hello again from Holden Village! 

During this month, we have been studying environmental policy here at Holden. We have had several interesting discussions so far, but perhaps the most interesting has been studying Holden itself. Our recent class sessions have been filled with conversations about the history of Holden, the environmental issues here, and the recent mine remediation project. Our brains are full of information and hopefully this short summary will help you understand what we have been experiencing and learning about over the past two weeks.

In 1893, James Henry Holden came to the Pacific Northwest as a prospector. He found copper in the area that is now Holden Village, which sparked the beginning of Holden's time as a mining community. The area was eventually sold to Howe Sound Mining Company, and production began in 1937. From the beginning of production until 1957, the mine was very successful, and 212 million pounds of copper was sold. The mine was closed in 1957 when the price of copper fell. 

Howe Sound ended up selling the village to the Lutheran Bible Institute for $1 in 1960 thanks to a man named Wes Prieb who imagined the village as a church camp or retreat center. The village was not in good condition at the time but was fixed up and eventually did become a retreat center, which remains its current use.

However, that is not where the story ends. As a result of the mining days, there were several environmental concerns about the area's water and soil quality, which contained hazardous substances. After many years of discussing a clean-up project, that became a reality in 2012 when the mine remediation project began. Rio Tinto (the mining company that Howe Sound became part of as a result of several mergers) spent four years in the village working on the project, which was completed in December of 2016. Discussing the mine remediation made us realize how complicated clean-up efforts can be. For Holden, the past four years have, in many ways, been a break from the culture and community that Holden is all about. It has been interesting to be here immediately after that period and hear about how the community is preparing for guests to be back in the village (almost no guests were here during remediation) and how people are working to revitalize the spirit of Holden.

We are so lucky to be in a place where we have the opportunity to study these issues firsthand. The conversations we have had with each other and with villagers have been incredibly helpful in working through these topics. 

A view of the mountains near Holden.