A Walking History of Richland’s Alphabet Houses

By in Richland WA Real Estate & Homes for Sale with 5 Comments

The city of Richland is full of history — maybe not like European capitols or even east coast US cities that are 250+ years old, but if you are looking for Manhattan Project history, Richland is YOUR town!

Our team had the pleasure of learning a ton about Richland’s history a couple weekends ago when we took part in a walking tour of Richland’s “alphabet houses.” These are the homes that the US government started building in 1943 to house the thousands of workers that were brought to the area to work on the Manhattan Project.

These homes needed to be built quickly, and as a result, the architect they hired to design the houses — Spokane’s Albin Pherson — had just a few days to decide if he wanted the job. He took it, and just a couple months later, the first home was being built … an “A” duplex. There’s no special meaning behind the lettering; each floor plan was named after a letter of the alphabet. As a result, they’re called “alphabet houses.”

The tour we went on took place as part of the Northwest Anthropological Conference, and our guides were Robert Franklin from WSU’s Hanford History Project and an associate of his; I believe her name was Stephanie. (If anyone can confirm, please let me know — I’d love to credit her by name!)

We were in a group of about 15-20 people who took the tour. We met near the Spudnut Shop and learned a lot about the history of the Uptown Shopping Center — how the government built it because the new residents needed things to do and places to shop. From there, we walked west for about two miles roundtrip and saw numerous types of alphabet houses up close, plus some commercial buildings that date back to the same era. It was fascinating! We learned a lot about Richland’s history and these unique homes. (Did you know that the reason so many homes on street corners were built at an angle was to protect privacy and to give the homeowners a larger, more attractive front yard? That’s one of the many interesting things we learned on the tour.)

Here are some photos to give you a sense of what the tour is like.

We’re excited to encounter our next alphabet home buyer or seller, now that we know so much more about the houses! If you get a chance to do this tour, we highly recommend it.

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About The Author
Cari McGee

My husband and I came to the Tri-Cities in 1994, and we thought it would be a temporary stop on our way to larger cities. He was a television sports anchor at the time, and we planned to go wherever the "next step up" took us. Twenty-plus years later, we're still here and we've loved every minute of it! We have two children now, and we've found the Tri-Cities area is a wonderful place to raise a family. It's a great place to do outdoorsy things -- I like to hike Badger Mountain or run along the river path. I also love reading ... by a cozy fire in the winter or a beautiful picture window in the summer (with the A/C on!). I've been a licensed Realtor since 2004. I earned my managing broker's license in 2016, which means I can run my own brokerage, or create a team of real estate agents and supervise them, which is exactly what I did when I formed the Cari McGee Real Estate Team in 2018! We have administrative and marketing personnel, as well as additional agents to serve you. I became a director of the Tri-Cities Association of Realtors Board of Directors in 2016, became Secretary/Treasurer of the organization, and was elected to Vice President in 2019. Want to talk about real estate? Click here to schedule a meeting with me!


  1. Alice Smith says:

    Our family lived in one of the ABC duplexes and brother and I attended an elementary school very close by.  We then moved to a home in North Richland next to John Ball Elementary school.  Dad was a superintendent and was one of reason we had a home.  They were adding 2 reactors at the time to Hanford.

    • Cari McGee says:

      Wow, Alice! Thanks for sharing your experience with the alphabet homes. Sometimes as I drive through Richland, I try to imagine it as it was back then. It’s not too hard in some areas where the houses haven’t changed much.

  2. Alice Smith says:

    We went to Lewis and Clark Elementary and then moved to a single house in North Richland. 
    I remember being in the Brownies.  That was a long time ago.  So some of the houses are still being lived in.  That is amazing.  Do you know what happen to the houses in North zrichland by John Ball School?

  3. Lisa Ramirez says:

    I grew up in a converted “A” house. It was converted to a single family home. The block we lived on still has the “A” duplexes. A few of my family members still live there and it has been the hub for our family over the many years since we moved there in 1974. I went to Spaulding school for kindergarten and Christ the King through 8th grade.

    • Cari says:

      Oh, wow!  I love to hear from people who grew up in the original floorpans, or the converted ones. How neat to have lived in a part of history!

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