Walla Walla, the Town So Nice They Named it Twice!

The Walla Walla ValleyI want to share some thoughts about Walla Walla. Deanne and I moved to Walla Walla in 1996. Before then, my visits to this town were infrequent. We lived and farmed North of Pasco in the Eltopia area and apparently, in our busy lives, we found few excuses to drive to Walla Walla. The notable exceptions were the nearly annual trips the grade schools would make to the Whitman mission and Fort Walla. Usually, though, my wife went with the kids.
All of that changed in 1996 when we decided to roll the dice and start a different farming adventure, one that would make us a lot of money (at least we thought!) We bought an interesting piece of virgin soil in the rocky hills West of Touchet, Washington and quickly initiated the laborious task of land preparation, drilling a well, establishing an irrigation system, and planting as many acres as possible into various varieties of apple and cherry trees. We starting building a new family home at the same time. Long story short, our financial situation deteriorated, we didn’t finish the home at that time, and were forced to look elsewhere to plant our family. We found a house in Walla Walla that we stayed in for six years. We officially became Walla Wallans!
We worshipped in Walla Walla, shopped in Walla Walla, and kids were schooled in Walla Walla, all while we farmed on the Tuscan hills west of Touchet. Each day would find me rising early in the morning and driving out to the farm to get there before 5:00 a.m. and coming home often after 6:00 or 7:00 p.m. I actually experienced a couple of accidents due to sleep deprivation. It should be no surprise that when the opportunity to move to the orchard presented itself we took our remaining family back to the farm. We moved into a trailer house we had placed there earlier.
As you can see, we had the chance to grow roots in the Walla Walla community and have mostly retained those roots. We still go towards Walla Walla frequently to attend church meetings, participate in weekly Rotary luncheons, do some shopping, and to maintain a relationship with local Walla Walla area businesses and clubs.
So, from my experience, what is unique about Walla Walla that causes all the buzz?

  1. Uniquely vibrant down town (main street): In fact in 2001, Walla Walla was awarded “Great American Main Street Award” for the transformation of its once dilapidated main street. It is a hub of activity in the evenings with local shops open for business on both sides of the street, with sidewalk awnings and street side tables making for a friendly and quaint place to visit with friends.
  2. Friendly community: In 2011, both Rand McNally and USA Today selected Walla Walla as the “Friendliest Town in the United States” and “Friendliest Small Town in America”.  That has been our experience completely.
  3. Unusually rich source for great dining. Rand McNally twice named Walla Walla as runner up in the “Best Food” category for the Best of the Road.
  4. Great hospitals and unusual high level of professional medical expertise.
  5. Two colleges and one university, all enjoying national acclaim–no small feat for a relatively small community: Whitman College, Walla Walla University (actually in adjacent College Place), and Walla Walla Community College.
  6. The presence of some outstanding businesses whose acumen and skills have created a niche reputation for the area, for instance: Outstanding vineyards and wineries like Leonetti, Woodward Canyon, L’Ecole, and many more far too numerous to mention by name; Walla Walla Foundry; the agricultural industry of the Walla Walla sweet onion; Key technology; Nelson Irrigation; Smith Chrome Plating; Cain & Cain speakers; just to mention a few of the companies whose products and services are known and sold around the globe.
  7. The presence of the second largest penal institution in Washington. For some, this may not be a source of great community pride but it is the main employer for the area and certainly one of the things that Walla Walla is known for in the state.
  8. Great schools: We are grateful to say that our kids got a outstanding well-rounded education in Walla Walla.
  9. Fine and performing arts: Walla Walla symphony, Shakespeare Walla Walla, Little Theatre of Walla Walla, Fort Walla Walla amphitheater, the annual Walla Walla Chamber Music Festival, Gesa Power Theatre
  10. Whitman College’s beautiful Cordiner Hall for cultural art performances.
  11. Many museums, and historical home and buildings:  There is a downtour tour of Walla Walla which will take you by many of these places.
  12. And of course, a unique name. “The town so nice, they named it twice!

Beginnings of Walla Walla

First settlers for the Walla Walla area were Marcus and Narcissa Whitman who came here as missionaries in 1836 to evangelize the Cayuse Indians. Continuous caravans of pioneers coming through on the Oregon trail exposed the native Americans to germs for which they were not naturally immune and they died in droves. In 1847, erroneously believing that Marcus Whitman was somehow poisoning them, in retaliation a group of them massacred both Marcus, his wife Narcissa, and 12 other settlers.

marcus-whitman1.jpg.407x229_0_137_29915 narcissa-whitman1.jpg.407x229_0_163_22729

Now, a few salient facts about Walla Walla:

Fort Walla Walla was established by US army …

Date of Walla Walla incorporation …

Lowest recorded temperature …

Average low temperature in winter season …

Highest recorded temperature …

Average high temperature in summer season …

Average annual precipitation …

Population of Walla Walla …

Population of nearby College Place …

Combined population of W2 & College Place …

1856

1862  (Originally slated to be the state capital.)

-24 degrees F

28.5 degrees F

114 degrees F

89.6 degrees F

20 inches

31,731  (2010 Census)

8,765   (2010 Census)

> 40,000

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