Walla Walla, Washington

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Walla Walla
—  City  —
City of Walla Walla
Walla Walla business district with historic Marcus Whitman hotel visible to the left.
Nickname(s): The City So Nice, They Named It Twice
Location of Walla Walla, Washington
Coordinates: 46°3′54″N 118°19′49″W / 46.065°N 118.33028°W / 46.065; -118.33028Coordinates: 46°3′54″N 118°19′49″W / 46.065°N 118.33028°W / 46.065; -118.33028
CountryUnited States
CountyWalla Walla
 • Total12.84 sq mi (33.26 km2)
 • Land12.81 sq mi (33.18 km2)
 • Water0.03 sq mi (0.08 km2)
Elevation942 ft (287 m)
Population (2010)[2]
 • Total31,731
 • Estimate (2011[3])32,148
 • Density2,477.0/sq mi (956.4/km2)
Time zonePacific (PST) (UTC−8)
 • Summer (DST)PDT (UTC−7)
ZIP code99362
Area code509
FIPS code53-75775[4]
GNIS feature ID1512769[5]
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Walla Walla
—  City  —
City of Walla Walla
Walla Walla business district with historic Marcus Whitman hotel visible to the left.
Nickname(s): The City So Nice, They Named It Twice
Location of Walla Walla, Washington
Coordinates: 46°3′54″N 118°19′49″W / 46.065°N 118.33028°W / 46.065; -118.33028Coordinates: 46°3′54″N 118°19′49″W / 46.065°N 118.33028°W / 46.065; -118.33028
CountryUnited States
CountyWalla Walla
 • Total12.84 sq mi (33.26 km2)
 • Land12.81 sq mi (33.18 km2)
 • Water0.03 sq mi (0.08 km2)
Elevation942 ft (287 m)
Population (2010)[2]
 • Total31,731
 • Estimate (2011[3])32,148
 • Density2,477.0/sq mi (956.4/km2)
Time zonePacific (PST) (UTC−8)
 • Summer (DST)PDT (UTC−7)
ZIP code99362
Area code509
FIPS code53-75775[4]
GNIS feature ID1512769[5]

Walla Walla is the largest city in and the county seat of Walla Walla County, Washington, United States.[6] The population was 31,731 at the 2010 census. Walla Walla is in the southeastern region of Washington, approximately four hours by car from Portland, Oregon and Seattle, Washington and thirteen miles from the Oregon border.

Whitman College, Walla Walla Community College, and the Washington State Penitentiary are located in Walla Walla. Walla Walla University is located in nearby College Place, Washington. Baker Boyer Bank, the oldest bank in the state of Washington, was founded in Walla Walla in 1869.

Walla Walla is famous for its sweet onions. Many wineries are located in the area.

In July 2011, USA Today selected Walla Walla as the friendliest small town in the United States.[7]



The establishment of Fort Nez Perce in 1818 by the North West Company to trade with the Walla Walla people and other local Native American groups begins recorded history in this region. At the time, the term 'Nez Perce' was used more broadly than today, and included the Walla Walla in its scope in English usage.[8] Fort Nez Perce had its name shift to FOrt Walla Walla. It was located significantly west of the present city.

On September 1, 1836, Marcus Whitman arrived with his wife Narcissa Whitman.[9] Here they established the Whitman Mission in an unsuccessful attempt to convert the local Walla Walla tribe to Christianity. Following a disease epidemic, both were killed by the Cayuse who believed that the missionaries were poisoning the native peoples. Whitman College was established in their honor.

The original North West Company and later Hudson's Bay Company Fort Nez Percés fur trading outpost, became a major stopping point for migrants moving west to Oregon Country. The fort has been restored with many of the original buildings preserved . The current Fort Walla Walla contains these buildings, albeit in a different location from the original, as well as a museum about the early settlers' lives.

The origins of Walla Walla at its present site begin with the establishment of Fort Walla Walla by the United States Army here in 1856.[10] The Walla Walla River, where it adjoins the Columbia River, was the starting point for the Mullan Road, constructed between 1859 and 1860 by US Army Lieut. John Mullan, connecting the head of navigation on the Columbia at Walla Walla (i.e., the west coast of the U.S.) with the head of navigation on the Missouri-Mississippi (that is, the east and gulf coasts of the U.S.) at Fort Benton, Montana.

Walla Walla was incorporated on January 11, 1862.[11] As a result of a gold rush in Idaho, during this decade the city became the largest community in the territory of Washington, at one point slated to be the new state's capital. The former Governor's mansion stands in the southern part of the city. Following this period of rapid growth, agriculture became the city's primary industry.

Fort Walla Walla - 1874
Baker Boyer Bank building, built in 1911

Geography and climate

Walla Walla is located at 46°3′54″N 118°19′49″W / 46.065°N 118.33028°W / 46.065; -118.33028 (46.065094, −118.330167).[12]

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 12.84 square miles (33.26 km2), of which, 12.81 square miles (33.18 km2) is land and 0.03 square miles (0.08 km2) is water.[1]

Climate data for Walla Walla, Washington (Walla Walla Regional Airport), 1981-2010 normals
Record high °F (°C)70
Average high °F (°C)41.6
Average low °F (°C)30.6
Record low °F (°C)−18
Precipitation inches (mm)2.13
Snowfall inches (cm)3.1
Avg. precipitation days (≥ 0.01 in)13.010.512.310.
Avg. snowy days (≥ 0.1 in)
Mean monthly sunshine hours50.583.4173.8221.7288.5326.3384.5344.4268.8199.267.840.32,449.2
Source: NOAA [13][14]

source 2= weather.com[15]


Historical populations

2010 census

As of the census[2] of 2010, there were 31,731 people, 11,537 households, and 6,834 families residing in the city. The population density was 2,477.0 inhabitants per square mile (956.4 /km2). There were 12,514 housing units at an average density of 976.9 per square mile (377.2 /km2). The racial makeup of the city was 81.6% White, 2.7% African American, 1.3% Native American, 1.4% Asian, 0.3% Pacific Islander, 9.1% from other races, and 3.6% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 22.0% of the population.

There were 11,537 households out of which 30.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 42.6% were married couples living together, 12.0% had a female householder with no husband present, 4.7% had a male householder with no wife present, and 40.8% were non-families. 33.4% of all households were made up of individuals and 14.2% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.43 and the average family size was 3.10.

The median age in the city was 34.4 years. 22% of residents were under the age of 18; 14.5% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 26.2% were from 25 to 44; 23.1% were from 45 to 64; and 14% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 51.9% male and 48.1% female.

2000 census

As of the census[4] of 2000, there were 29,686 people, 10,596 households, and 6,527 families residing in the city. The population density was 2,744.9 people per square mile (1,059.3/km2). There were 11,400 housing units at an average density of 1,054.1 per square mile (406.8/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 83.79% White, 2.58% African American, 1.05% Native American, 1.24% Asian, 0.23% Pacific Islander, 8.26% from other races, and 2.85% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 17.42% of the population.

There were 10,596 households of which 30.6% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 46.4% were married couples living together, 11.0% had a female householder with no husband present, and 38.4% were non-families. 31.9% of all households were made up of individuals and 15.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.44 and the average family size was 3.08.

In the city the population was spread out with 21.8% under the age of 18, 14.2% from 18 to 24, 26.5% from 25 to 44, 17.5% from 45 to 64, and 20.1% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 34 years. For every 100 females there were 108.4 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 109.1 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $31,855, and the median income for a family was $40,856. Men had a median income of $31,753 versus $23,889 for women. The per capita income for the city was $15,792. About 13.1% of families and 18.0% of the population were below the poverty line, including 22.8% of those under the age of 18 and 10.5% of those aged 65 and older.

Economy and infrastructure


Though wheat is still a big crop, vineyards and wineries have become economically important over the last three decades. In summer 2006, there were over 100 wineries in the greater Walla Walla area. Following the wine boom, the town has developed several top-tier restaurants and hotels. The Marcus Whitman Hotel, one of Washington's finest 1920s hotels, was renovated with original fixtures and furnitures. It is the tallest building in the city, at thirteen storeys.

Walla Walla Farmers Market

The Walla Walla Sweet Onion is another crop with a rich tradition. Over a century ago on the Island of Corsica, off the west coast of Italy, a French soldier named Peter Pieri found an Italian sweet onion seed and brought it to the Walla Walla Valley. Impressed by the new onion's winter hardiness, Pieri, and the Italian immigrant farmers who comprised much of Walla Walla's gardening industry, harvested the seed. The sweet onion developed over several generations through the process of selecting onions from each year's crop, targeting sweetness, size and round shape. The Walla Walla Sweet Onion is designated under federal law as a protected agricultural crop. In 2007, the Walla Walla Sweet Onion became Washington's official state vegetable.[16]

Walla Walla Sweet Onions get their sweetness from low sulfur content, which is half that of an ordinary yellow onion. Walla Walla Sweets are 90 percent water.

The Walla Walla Sweet Onion Festival is held annually in July.

A farmers' market is held from May until October; located on the corner of 4th and Main.

Wine industry

Walla Walla has experienced an explosion in its wine industry over the last ten years. Several of the wineries have received top scores from wine publications such as Wine Spectator, The Wine Advocate and Wine and Spirits. L'Ecole 41, Woodward Canyon and Leonetti Cellar were the pioneers starting in the 1970s and 1980s. Although most of the early recognition went to the wines made from Merlot and Cabernet, Syrah is fast becoming a star varietal in this appellation.[17] Today there are over 100 wineries in the Walla Walla Valley and a host of shops catering to the wine industry.

Walla Walla Community College offers an associate's degree (AAAS) in winemaking and grape growing through its 10-year-old Center for Enology and Viticulture, which operates its own commercial winery, College Cellars.[18]

One challenge to growing grapes in Walla Walla Valley is the risk of a killing freeze during the winter. They average one every six or seven years and the penultimate one, in 2004, destroyed about 75% of the wine grape crop in the valley. The valley was again hit with a killing frost in November 2010, leading to a 28% decline in Cabernet Sauvignon production, a 20% decline in red grape production, and an overall decline in production of 11% (red and white varietals).[19]

The wineries generate over $100 million (US) to the valley annually.

Corrections industry

The largest prison in Washington is the Washington State Penitentiary (WSP) located in Walla Walla, at 1313 North 13th. Originally opened in 1887, it now houses about 2000 offenders. In addition, there are about 1000 staff members. In 2005, the financial benefit to the local economy was estimated to be about $55 million through salaries, medical services, utilities, and local purchases. Washington is a death penalty state, and occasional executions take place at the state pen; the last execution took place on September 10, 2010. Washington is also one of two states to still allow hanging as a choice when sentenced to death[20] (the other being Delaware), there has not been a hanging since May 1994 (the default method of execution was changed to lethal injection in 1996). The penitentiary is undergoing an extensive expansion project that will increase the prison population to 2,500 violent offenders and double the staff size.


Transportation to Walla Walla includes service by air through Walla Walla Regional Airport and highway access primarily from U.S. Route 12. Washington State Department of Transportation is now engaged in a long-term process of widening this road into a four-lane divided highway between Pasco and Walla Walla. The city is also served by Valley Transit and the Grape Line service to Pasco.

Great Places in America: Downtown Walla Walla

In 2012, the American Planning Association (APA) designated the downtown Walla Walla WA area a “Great Places in America: Neighborhood”. When evaluating the application from the City, the APA noted that what the community at large had achieved since 1980 was “nothing short of profound”. This national award recognized the successful ongoing planning efforts started by the Downtown Walla Walla Foundation (1984); formed by grassroots activists with support from residents, businesses, public officials and special interest groups to resuscitate downtown (APA).

This “great neighborhood” is bounded by Highway 12 to the north; Park Street to the east; Birch and Willow streets to the south; and 7th Avenue to the west. The charm of this neighborhood is the iconic architecture that ranges from Beaux- Arts to Art Moderne and nearly every style in-between since 1850. Among the neighborhood's iconic buildings are the Marcus Whitman Hotel (1906), the Interurban Depot Building (1909), the Baker Boyer Bank (1911), and the U.S. Post Office (1914) (APA).

A privately funded $35 million renovation of the Marcus Whitman Hotel in 2001 brought luxury rooms, a new conference center, and 30,000 square feet of office space to downtown Walla Walla. With more than $50 million in private and public funds, city officials embarked on rejuvenating 300 neighborhood buildings; implementing sustainable practices such as regularly planting of street trees for aesthetic value and cooling effect during summer; strengthening and expanding downtown neighborhood's pedestrian orientation and local public space network. Their success even shows in the Arbor Day Foundation designation of Walla Walla as a "Tree City" for the past 18 years. With this revitalized neighborhood, the City has experienced exponential growth of the region's newly established wine industry that now generates $100 million a year for the city and region (APA).


Walla Walla is home of the Walla Walla Sweets, a summer collegiate baseball team that plays in the West Coast League. The league comprises college players and prospects working towards a professional baseball career. Teams are located in British Columbia, Oregon and Washington. Home games are played at Borleske Stadium.

There also is a women's flat track roller derby league called the Walla Walla Sweets Rollergirls, their practices and games are played at the Walla Walla YMCA.

Walla Walla is also the location of a road cycling Stage Race that is held in April. The races are held in the city of Walla Walla and in the nearby town of Waitsburg.

Fine & Performing Arts

The Walla Walla Valley supports a number of fine and performing arts institutions including the Walla Walla Valley Bands, Walla Walla Symphony, Walla Walla Choral Society and The Little Theater. The area's three colleges—Whitman College, Walla Walla University and Walla Walla Community College as well as its largest public high school—Walla Walla High School—are well known for their outstanding theater and music performances.

The Walla Walla Valley Bands were formed in 1989 and currently boasts a Concert Band of more than 70, two Jazz Ensembles, Sax Quartet and Jazz Trio. The group provides the large group music ensembles for Walla Walla Community College and rehearses there weekly on Tuesday nights.

Sister cities

In 1972, Walla Walla established a sister city relationship with Sasayama, Japan.[21]


Proud residents of the town often brag about it as "the town so nice they named it twice."[22] Walla Walla is a Native American name that means "Place of Many Waters." The original name of the town was Steptoeville named after Colonel Edward Steptoe.[23] Walla Walla is rendered Valle-Valliensis in Latin, which can be coincidentally translated as Elk Valley.

Notable people

In popular culture


  1. ^ a b "US Gazetteer files 2010". United States Census Bureau. http://www.census.gov/geo/www/gazetteer/files/Gaz_places_national.txt. Retrieved 2012-12-19.
  2. ^ a b "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. http://factfinder2.census.gov/faces/nav/jsf/pages/index.xhtml. Retrieved 2012-12-19.
  3. ^ "Population Estimates". United States Census Bureau. http://www.census.gov/popest/data/cities/totals/2011/files/SUB-EST2011-IP.csv. Retrieved 2013-01-04.
  4. ^ a b "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. http://factfinder.census.gov. Retrieved 2008-01-31.
  5. ^ "US Board on Geographic Names". United States Geological Survey. 2007-10-25. http://geonames.usgs.gov. Retrieved 2008-01-31.
  6. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. http://www.naco.org/Counties/Pages/FindACounty.aspx. Retrieved 2011-06-07.
  7. ^ Bly, Laura. "USA Today". http://travel.usatoday.com/destinations/story/2011/07/The-five-best-small-towns-in-America/49573514/1.
  8. ^ Alvin M. Josephy, The Nez Perce Indians and the Opening of the Northwest, Abridged Edition (Lincoln: University of Nebaska Press, 1965), p. 51
  9. ^ "National Park Service: Whitman Mission". Nps.gov. 2012-11-19. http://www.nps.gov/whmi/historyculture/people.htm. Retrieved 2013-02-05.
  10. ^ Josephy, The Nez Perce, p. 367
  11. ^ "City of Walla Walla, Community Information". Ci.walla-walla.wa.us. http://www.ci.walla-walla.wa.us/index.asp?Type=B_LIST&SEC={E387D88A-E80E-4B29-83C1-2AF6DED68853}. Retrieved 2013-02-05.
  12. ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. 2011-02-12. http://www.census.gov/geo/www/gazetteer/gazette.html. Retrieved 2011-04-23.
  13. ^ "NowData - NOAA Online Weather Data". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. http://www.nws.noaa.gov/climate/xmacis.php?wfo=pdt. Retrieved 2012-02-17.
  14. ^ "NOAA". NOAA. ftp://dossier.ogp.noaa.gov/GCOS/WMO-Normals/RA-IV/US/GROUP4/72788.TXT.
  15. ^ "weather.com". http://www.weather.com/weather/wxclimatology/monthly/graph/USWA0476.
  16. ^ "The Spokesman-Review Apr 6, 2007". News.google.com. 2007-04-05. http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=mWlWAAAAIBAJ&sjid=SPMDAAAAIBAJ&dq=walla%20walla%20sweet%20onion%20official%20state&pg=5551%2C6103038. Retrieved 2013-02-05.
  17. ^ Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance website - http://wallawallawine.com/
  18. ^ College Cellars website - http://www.collegecellars.com
  19. ^ Sean Sullivan's Washington Wine Report - http://www.wawinereport.com/2012/02/cabernet-sauvignon-production-down-28.html
  20. ^ "Section 630.5, Procedures in Capital Murder". http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/rsa/html/lxii/630/630-5.htm. Retrieved 2006-04-27.
  21. ^ [1][dead link]
  22. ^ Beyette, Beverly (December 23, 2004). "Here's to you, Walla Walla". The Seattle Times. http://archives.seattletimes.nwsource.com/cgi-bin/texis.cgi/web/vortex/display?slug=nwwwallawalla23&date=20041223&query=town+nice+named+twice.
  23. ^ "Travel - Walla Walla, Washington Introduction : Overview". NWsource. http://www.nwsource.com/travel/scr/tf_detail.cfm?dt=3290. Retrieved 2013-02-05.
  24. ^ U.S. Department of State, http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/biog/81479.htm
  25. ^ http://www.gobuffsgo.com/sports/m-footbl/mtt/martin_charly00.html
  26. ^ "Ross Bagdasarian - Biography". IMDB. http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0046564/bio. Retrieved 2012-05-09.

Further reading

External links

Media related to Walla Walla, Washington at Wikimedia Commons