City of Walla Walla

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Walla Walla... Then & Now

Walla Walla is an Indian name meaning "many waters." In 1805, when Lewis and Clark traveled by the mouth of a small river flowing into the Columbia River, they met a group of Indians who told them their name for the small river was "Wallah Wallah." So Lewis and Clark called the Indian tribe by the same name as the river.

A few years later a fur trading post was set up at the mouth of a river and was called Fort Walla Walla. In 1836, the first settlement on the river was Whitman Mission, established by Marcus and Narcissa Whitman, missionaries from the state of New York.

About 1856, the U.S. Cavalry established a new Fort Walla Walla about 20 miles up the valley, where our city is now located, to enforce the Indian treaty and protect the settlers. Our city was originally called Steptoeville, named after the officer in charge of the fort. However, he lost a battle with the Indians, as well as his reputation, so the name of the town was changed to Walla Walla on November 7, 1859. For a few years it was the largest town west of Minneapolis and north of San Francisco. Now it is a small city of about 32,000 at an elevation of approximately 1000 ft.

Al Jolson, a famous entertainer, years ago visited here and allegedly said it was "the town so nice they named it twice."

The Walla Walla Valley is a place where scenic beauty, incredible wineries, enticing restaurants, cultural inspiration, outdoor adventures and small town friendliness come together to create an experience you'll want to share again and again.

A vibrant reflection of the past and the present, downtown Walla Walla is the place where you begin to discover what makes Walla Walla so special. A walk down tree-lined streets reveals an eclectic mix of vintage shops, boutiques, cafes, bookstores, tasting rooms, restaurants and more. And then there are the strategically placed pieces of public art and special events, like Feast Walla Walla, the seasonal Farmers Market and outdoor concerts. You see why our downtown has been recognized time and again as one of the best small town Main Streets in the country and the Friendliest Town in America!

Walla Walla has long been known as one of the most fertile agricultural areas in the nation, producing such crops as wheat, asparagus, strawberries and the famous Walla Walla Sweet Onions. However, it's as wine country that Walla Walla is most celebrated. With more than 100 wineries representing a wide range of varietals, it doesn't take long to see why.

Walla Walla Wine Country offers the rare opportunity to experience not only world-class wines but to meet the winemakers, vintners, and family members carrying on the wine tradition. No one is in a rush. Conversation is relaxed. Here, tasting wine becomes an entirely different and wonderful adventure.

We have many beautiful parks here, including Pioneer Park, which was a brilliant idea by the city's founding citizens to preserve 50 acres for all to enjoy. The initial design was by Walla Wallan John Langdon, in consultation with and a visit by Frederick Law Olmsted, known as the father of American landscape architecture, who also designed Central Park in New York City.

If you are interested in viewing vintage images of Walla Walla, please visit BYGONE WALLA WALLA, a collection of City and County images collected by Joe Drazan.


City of Walla Walla, 15 North 3rd Avenue, Walla Walla, WA 99362
Business Hours:  8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
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