In the 1870s, La Center was a business center and head of navigation on the east fork of the Lewis River. In late summer, the regular schedules of the steamers Mascot and Walker, paddle-wheeling to Portland, were often interrupted by low water. Passengers and freight were transferred to scows, which were poled up the river or towed by horses along the bank. With the arrival of railroads and highways, La Center lost importance and lapsed into a small village serving the surrounding farming district. La Center was officially incorporated on August 27, 1909. Its population in 1940 was 192.
The city is home to two card rooms or casinos which allow gambling on card games and poker, but not slots. The two casinos are the Last Frontier and Palace.