When Lineham moved back to Vancouver, he was surprised at what he found.
“I realized my hometown had totally changed,” he said. “I needed to reacquaint myself with my town.”
Lineham started going on the historical walking tours sponsored by the museum and hosted by Richardson, whose chatty, personal approach inspired him to think up his own walking project: exploring the whole length of Mill Plain and educating himself about both history and the current scene as he went.
Always a personal journal keeper, Lineham also wanted to try writing for others. “I wanted to share what I discovered,” he said.
Lineham accomplished his first crosstown walk in 2011. He strolled the boulevard in segments, starting on the west near the Port of Vancouver and eventually finishing at 192nd Avenue, near Shahala Middle School and Fisher Basin Park.
“Each section offered me insights about the community, its people, businesses, transportation systems, values, cultures, worship centers, and sometimes intriguing secrets, too,” he writes.
One decade later, Lineham repeated the journey for a second edition — noting landmarks and changes, meeting random people and pumping them for stories and observations about their neighborhoods. Earlier this month, he revisited the downtown segment with a longtime Columbian reporter — who happened to recall a former Mill Plain attraction not in Lineham’s book: the colorfully decorated and dolled-up Rainbow House, which was demolished in 1999 to make way for the Mill Plain Extension road project.
“Fascinating story,” Lineham emailed later. “Need to get this in for the next edition!”
Lineham’s book sprinkles personal history into the city’s history. His father, an electrician on the Spokane, Portland and Seattle Railway, worked at Vancouver’s westside rail yard.
“From my childhood home on 28th Street, some two miles away, I often heard the early morning melancholic moan of a train’s horn,” he writes.
As a city councilman in Ellensburg and as a budget analyst in Olympia, Lineham said, his main interest was infrastructure development. In his book, he appreciates how the recent Mill Plain Extension project both modernized and beautified the vital roadway to the Port of Vancouver.
But he also notes that tile-art alcoves intended to buffer the Hough neighborhood from increased truck traffic were quickly overrun by “vandals and litterbugs.” Those alcoves are still trashy, and people are living in tents nearby, he found during his recent walk with The Columbian.
Homelessness “is the hardest problem for municipalities to solve,” he said.
In his first edition, Lineham spies “the remains of some of the old brick enterprises” along Mill Plain, and notes the demise of downtown’s foundational Hidden Brick Company. In the 2022 update, he praises the development of many tidy apartment buildings along the downtown corridor, which seems “much improved aesthetically with its red brick motif and the promising tree canopy.”
But Lineham was reminded whose turf the road has really become, he writes, when he stepped into a crosswalk and a truck blared its horn.
Lineham’s first-edition walk brought him to the former Burgerville USA drive-in at the corner of C Street — “a cinderblock eyesore,” he writes, as well as a beloved and historic site for many.
But not for him. “I was a Fort Vancouver Trapper,” Lineham writes, “thus I mostly hung out at its rival, Dairy Queen, on 28th and Main Street.”
Ten years later, that emblematic Burgerville has been replaced by “a stately brick apartment complex, Prestige Plaza,” Lineham writes.
Mill Plain Boulevard “is not known for its beauty or aesthetics,” Lineham said. “It doesn’t have a lot of charm. But it sure has a whole lot of stories. There is a very rich culture here. We’ve got a little bit of everything.”