Toppenish, Washington (detention facility)


Proposed "assembly center" site located in central Washington that was to hold Japanese Americans removed from the Yakima area. Though the Wartime Civil Control Administration (WCCA) began construction on the site, they abandoned plans for the camp when a variety of problems came up. Japanese American from Yakima and other areas south and east of greater Seattle/Tacoma ended up being sent to the Pinedale Assembly Center in central California.

The proposed site in Toppenish was part of the Golden Hop Yard, which included housing for migrant workers. The WCCA determined that the existing buildings could be adapted to house the approximately 1,200 Japanese Americans who lived in and around Yakima. Because the owners wanted the site to be available to house workers to pick the hops in the fall, it would only be available for around three months. Once construction began at the end of March 1942, several difficulties emerged, including latrines that would need to be replaced, insufficient fire fighting facilities in an area prone to fires, poor water pressure, and a lack of outdoor recreation space since the site was surrounded by hops fields. These issues, in combination with the short time frame that the site would be available, led to the WCCA abandoning the project despite having completed a new 500 person capacity mess hall and a twenty-six bed infirmary. Some of this infrastructure was taken out and moved to Puyallup and Tule Lake. Japanese Americans from the Yakima area ended up being moved nearly 1,000 miles south to the Pinedale Assembly Center in Fresno, California.

Authored by Brian Niiya, Densho

For More Information

Fiset, Louis. Camp Harmony: Seattle's Japanese Americans and the Puyallup Assembly Center. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2009.

Girdner, Audrie, and Anne Loftis. The Great Betrayal: The Evacuation of the Japanese-Americans during World War II. London: Macmillan, 1969.