James Jerome Hill, “The Empire Builder”
JJ Hills Fresh Grill is named for James Jerome Hill, the “Empire Builder” who first brought the railroad through Leavenworth. Arguably the most colorful of all transcontinental railroads was the Great Northern. Even today, more than 30 years after the merger with the Burlington Northern, the “Big G” is still a favorite of railroad fans the world over.
Many towns and cities owe their very existence to James J. Hill’s driving ambition to forge through the Cascade Mountains in order to complete his dream of a northern transcontinental railroad. Leavenworth is just such a town. Built solely around the Great Northern Railroad’s east side entrance to the Cascade Mountains, the town was platted in 1893 by a group of financiers headed by “Captain” Charles F. Leavenworth.
From the very beginning the heart of the town was the Great Northern Railroad with its depot and roundhouse. For years Leavenworth prospered due to railroad money in the form of construction workers forging the railroad through the Cascades. With the employees came their families and families needed schools and churches among the many other daily household goods. Because the railroad required timber for their success, and since there was an abundance of timber in the Northwest, it could now reach the unquenchable markets in the Midwest and East coast. A large lumber mill was built adjacent to the railroad for convenience in shipping.
Because of his larger-than-life character, James J. Hill’s place in Leavenworth history is truly owed to the legendary railroad tycoon. We thought it appropriate that one of the best Leavenworth restaurants carries his name. Come and see the many historic pictures and memorabilia regarding the Great Northern Railway, and enjoy the model train circling the dining room.